The Creativity Crisis

Newsweek just published a must-read article, The Creativity Crisis, co-written by Po Bronson and Ashley Merryman (both well-known for their best seller, Nurture Shock). In the article, the authors make a great argument for infusing childhood experiences and school curricula with creative-thinking methodologies, stating that children who are stronger creative thinkers will fare better when faced with life’s problems and that “the correlation to lifetime creative accomplishment was more than three times stronger for childhood creativity than childhood IQ.”

They go on to state that creative thinking skills have been on the decline in school age kids since 1990, and that the numbers are making no real signs of popping back up. Despite the seemingly dire news, the authors share that a solution could lie in enriching children’s educations with creative-thinking activities, and that infusing current educational practices with project-based learning and creative problem-solving pedagogies will also help.

Related to this, they wrote a companion piece called Forget Brainstorming, with seven great tips on how to foster creativity.  It’s a useful list for both kids and adults.

Highlights from the Article

  • “A recent IBM poll of 1,500 CEOs identified creativity as the No. 1 ‘leadership competency’ of the future.”
  • “Claremont Graduate University’s Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi and University of Northern Iowa’s Gary G. Gute found highly creative adults tended to grow up in families embodying opposites. Parents encouraged uniqueness, yet provided stability. They were highly responsive to kids’ needs, yet challenged kids to develop skills. In the space between anxiety and boredom was where creativity flourished.”
  • “Preschoolers who spend more time in role-play (acting out characters) have higher measures of creativity.”

DIY Fairy Garden with Kids

Today I’m sharing a fun and simple way for a Fairy Garden DIY with Kids. 

So easy and magical! DIY Fairy Garden for Kids.

Fairy Garden DIY with Kids

After a loooooong day of visiting the doctor, driving 90 miles to San Francisco for an expedited passport, a trip to the garden store, and an active playdate with friends, we treated ourselves to a relaxing evening of Fairy Garden Planting. Because, ya know, that’s what some people do after a marathon day. We just got it started and our Fairy Garden will no doubt go through multiple iterations, but I think we’re off to a pretty good start and I wanted to share the results.

Choose Plants for the Fairy Garden

At the garden store, my daughter and I spent a lot of time discussing the need to choose small-scale plants, and we worked together to select moss and succulents to fill in our tub.

When we finally got home last night, the enthusiasm for setting the garden up had mounted to such a level that bedtime was delayed by almost an hour!

The Moss — sooooo pretty.  I love this stuff.

Getting Ready to Plant — It’s all about the knee pads.

A Magical View

Fairy Garden DIY

Completed DIY Fairy Garden

Fairy Gardens Build Imagination

Imaginative play holds an enormous place in the lives of toddlers and preschoolers, and it seemed like a great idea to bring dollhouse-style play outdoors. For today, we had fun designing and building the garden (a worthy goal in and of itself), and my long-term hope is that my daughter and her friends will find themselves immersed in the magical miniature garden for countless hours of play.

After we set the little garden up, it occurred to me that we could easily extend the garden into other areas of our yard, giving our fairies loads of places to hide and play.

The scale of this garden naturally lends itself to planters and tiny containers, and the Fairy Garden is also a fabulous route to go if you want to set up a gardening experience for your child and you’re short on outdoor space.

So easy and magical! Fairy Garden DIY with Kids

Fairy Garden DIY Resources

I’m not sure where I first got the idea to make a fairy garden, but I’ve since found a TON of creative people who’ve made and documented their magical wonderlands for all to enjoy.  Here are some of my favorites:

The Magic Onions: How to make a Fairy Garden:  Fabulous photos of an inspiring oak barrel garden.

Martha Stewart and Julie Andrews make an Indoor Fairyland (Text and 19 minute Video):  This is not a hands-on garden, but seeing Martha and Julie work side-by-side is a pretty rare treat.

Flickr Group: Miniature Backyard Fairy Gardens: Holy cow, there’s a Flickr group dedicated to this very concept.  Loads of ideas here.

Cerebral Dishwashing

At face value, dishwashing probably doesn’t scream out as a  creative thinking or problem solving activity, but for young children, washing dishes can be full of opportunities to play act, test new ideas, experiment, explore, and think creatively. Personally, I’m not too fond of washing dishes, a problem further compounded by the fact that we don’t have a dishwasher. However, in every problem lies an opportunity, and while I’m obliged to spend and hour a day at the sink (I actually timed this one day — it was a full hour!), I saw that I could bring my daughter into the experience to make the time fly by more quickly.  Also, at the ripe ol’ age of two, she’s fully invested in the world of play acting, and is enthusiastic about driving cars, putting her dolls to bed, baking cookies, and grocery shopping. In essence, kids begin learning by imitating their parents and caregivers, and this is one activity that not only appeals to her, but also helps her learn how the world around her operates.

While my two year old may not be the most efficient dish washer around, she enjoys playing with water, squeezing soap from the sponge, pouring water from one container into another, and fitting all of the pieces into our drying rack. She started out as my rinser, and quickly demanded her own sponge and apron. We have a few rules that she caught onto pretty quickly (instigated by a couple of broken glasses, of course), which are:

  1. She can only wash plastic and metal.  No glass or ceramic.
  2. No knives.
  3. Before something goes in the drying rack we check it for soap.

Some of the learning outcomes that I’ve noticed (and I’m sure there are more) follow:

  • Pouring liquid from one container to another teaches a child some of the characteristics of fluids. For example, what a fluid can do in its natural state, how it can fill and then flow over the edges of a container, and how gravity effects the fluid as it pours…all entry points into the world of physics.
  • Manipulating all of the pieces (i.e. sponge, dishes, utensils) with two hands encourages fine motor skills and problem-solving.  For example, my daughter recently figured out that she had to put the soapy sponge down somewhere so that she could properly rinse bubbles off of a cup.
  • As the drying rack fills up, the child is challenged to figure out how to fit all of the dishes in a place.
  • Playing with water can be soothing and joyful. When it’s not warm enough to jump in a sprinkler (or you just don’t feel like dealing with a fully wet child), kids can get their water fix indoors.


  • Apron (not necessary, but be prepared to a lot of water to spill all over the place. Naked works, too.)
  • Sponges. One for you and one for your child.  I like to cut my daughter’s sponge in half to make it more manageable for her tiny hands.
  • Step Stool. We have this one, and it seems to be the perfect height for our kitchen.  It comes unfinished, and to keep it from getting moldy with all of the water that would inevitably soak it, I painted the sides and covered the top with some lacquered Japanese paper. If you’re inclined to go this route, there’s a great tutorial here from Prudent Baby.

More Ideas

  • Fill the sink with a pool of water, and give your child a few dishes and spoons to wash with a little sponge.
  • Add some soap to the water for a different sensory experience.  It’s fun to find dishes that are hiding under soapy bubbles.
  • Let the water run so your child can learn about rinsing.
  • Offer your child a variety of containers such as bowls, spoons, cups, funnels, and measuring cups.
  • If you have a dishwasher, have your child help you fill it (and empty it, of course!).
  • Move this activity outdoors by filling up a big tub with water and soap.
  • Rather than wash dishes, wash plastic baby dolls.

Looking for more ideas related to this topic?  Check out Twenty tips for engaging young children in the kitchen.

Drawing on Doilies

Do you have any doilies in the back of a cabinet that could use a little marker and sticker beautification?

Why limit yourself to plain ol’ 8.5 x 11 paper when there are so many paper options out there?

We’ve been experimenting with drawing on teeny-tiny paper, gigantic rolls of paper, coffee filters, post-its, tape, and now doilies.

I love browsing dollar stores for fun odds and ends that can take on new lives in our art studio (it’s my achilles heel, if you were to ask my husband), and I spotted three different sizes of paper doilies that sang to me from across the aisles.

Did you know that doilies are known for their singing? Anyhoo, I picked them up, along with a gold sequin tiara for dress-up and kitchen tools that will make great sand toys.


  • Paper Doilies
  • Markers
  • Glue
  • Sequins, pom-poms, stickers, etc.
  • Any other mark-making tools you can dream up

The invitation: I laid out markers and sequins during my daughter’s nap, and when she woke up we made some energetic doily drawings.

The fun thing about doilies is that they pose all kinds of neat challenges to the artist:

  • The round shape offers a suggestion to create circular marks
  • Doilies are full of little bumps and holes that challenge the artist to go around them, over them, or simply deal with them!

What else could we do with our doilies?


A Program Designed to Encourage Kids to Think Outside the Box

I discovered a really great website that’s full of innovation-generating ideas for kids (but they would be SO much fun for adults, too):  Think!

As I read the mind-stretching “assignments,” I was reminded of Learning to Love You More and creative design challenges such as this one at the Tech Museum of Innovation in San Jose, CA.  The ideas are generally fun and simple, and encourage experimentation, problem-solving, curiosity, and exploration…all good skills for helping children develop their abilities to generate new ideas and think independently.

My daughter is mostly too young to be my test-subject, but having taught children ages 5-18, I can see the potential in these activities and look forward to trying these out in our future. Here are a couple examples from the site…

Cards and Straws

Build the largest structure you can and send its measurements in with your pictures. You may use — one box of paperclips, one bag of straws, and one deck of cards.

Good luck!

Paper and Pencil

The only things that you need for this challenge are a stop watch, paper, and pencil. In 60 seconds, write down all of the things that you can do with a brick and a blanket. If your list is less than 10 items long, give yourself another 60 seconds and add some more. Good luck! Share your lists — we’ll make one big list.