Using Nursery Rhymes to Boost Your/Your Child’s Creative IQ

Cover of a 1904 adaptation of Humpty Dumpty by...

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Children are growing up quickly these days – some might argue too quickly. By the age of 9, many children will own their own mobile phones. To be successful in today’s rapidly changing, global economy, children need to rely on a new set of skills. The reality of life in the 21st century, particularly given the rapidly changing technology landscape and global economy, is that skills associated with creative problem solving are in great demand. As a parent, you have the unique ability to foster the creative thinking skills your child will need to be successful.

Creative thinking is about getting away from the obvious, the safe, and the expected to produce something that – to the child – is new. By encouraging your child to develop an arsenal of original and unique ideas to solve problems in numerous ways, you will help her realize her creative potential. A simple way to encourage these important ideation skills is to start by posing open-ended questions. In facilitating Creative Problem Solving workshops, I have found that nursery rhymes are fertile ground for ideation.

See below for a quick and simple 4-step process for using nursery rhymes to help boost your child’s Creative IQ. For this activity, you will need a favorite nursery rhyme, pads of 3” x 5” Post-It Notes and dark-colored markers.

Step 1: Recite a favorite nursery rhyme. One of my favorites is Humpty Dumpty:

Humpty Dumpty sat on a wall;
Humpty Dumpty had a great fall.
All the King’s horses
And all the King’s men
Couldn’t put Humpty together again!

Step 2: Ask your child one open-ended question—a question that cannot be answered with a simple yes or no. Some thought starters for open-ended questions for the Humpty Dumpty example might include:

  • What might be all the ways to keep Humpty Dumpty from falling off the wall?
  • In what ways might the King’s men put Humpty Dumpty back together again?
  • How might the King’s men reach Humpty Dumpty before he falls?
  • How might you prevent Humpty Dumpty’s shell from breaking?
  • How might you lessen the damage of Humpty Dumpty’s fall?

Step 3: Ask your child to come up with as many ideas for the problem as possible. Instruct your child to strive for at least 30 ideas to solve the problem. Using the markers, help capture each of your child’s ideas on an individual Post-It note. If your child is old enough to write, you can have her capture her own ideas. Be sure to use one Post-It Note per idea so that you can get a good sense for quantity. Writing each idea helps to validate your child’s creative thinking.

The last third of ideas will tend to be the most novel. This is primarily due to the goal of 30 ideas. Children will need to stretch their thinking and engage their imaginations in order to reach this attainable, but challenging goal. Some of the more intriguing ideas I have heard for the Humpty Dumpty activity have ranged from glazing Humpty’s shell to make it sturdier, to building a contraption to bounce Humpty back onto the wall.

Step 4: Display your child’s ideas on a spare wall and keep Post-Its handy. Your family and friends will enjoy contributing to the ideation wall. For any ideas that need elaboration, ask your child to provide additional details on the Post-Its. And, don’t stop with Humpty Dumpty – Jack and Jill, Baa Baa Black Sheep, and a multitude other nursery rhymes, provide ample fodder for creativity.

To get the most from this activity, you must accept each of your child’s ideas equally. Even though it’s difficult, try your best not to judge ideas. Praise the number of ideas; this will show acceptance without shutting down your child’s creative juices. Also, be sure to express positive non-verbal cues and body language. Showing your child that you are interested by leaning in and promoting participation by demonstrating active engagement will go a long way towards building your child’s confidence in her creative abilities.

An added benefit in helping your child to think creatively is that you will boost your own creative thinking skills as well. You just might be surprised at how high imaginations soar and how contagious creativity can be when you give them the opportunity!

One Response to Using Nursery Rhymes to Boost Your/Your Child’s Creative IQ

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