Divergent Thinking with Preschoolers

Divergent Thinking Activity

Divergent thinking: a thought process or method used to generate creative ideas by exploring many possible solutions.

Young kids do this naturally yet by the time they reach fourth grade creativity scores show a steep decline (source, source). So the question becomes: HOW do we harness children’s natural creative thinking abilities when they are young so that they can develop and strengthen into strong independent thinkers well into the middle school years and beyond?

The answer is both simple and complex.

Simple because like strengthening any muscle – physical or mental – the answer is practice, repetition, consistency and ultimately forming the habit. In this case the creative thinking habit.

Where this becomes more complex is the actual implementation of HOW to do this? One such way is to practice deliberate creative thinking skills.

How To Strengthen Creative Thinking Skills

Today, let’s start with one simple first step you can take in the direction of celebrating creative thinking in the children in your life or classroom through a divergent thinking exercise!

The key to establishing an environment for this type of creative thinking is to follow the following guidelines:

1) Welcome All Ideas

Establish an open environment where children are free to express their ideas.

2) No Wrong Answers

Whatever comes to mind goes!

3) Best To Not Judge Responses (Good or Bad)

This goes both ways – positively OR negatively. To establish a climate free of judgment we must not diminish or praise ideas presented. That goes for ideas of others and also ideas of our own.

I’ll be honest, I often find it hard not to smile the entire time new ideas are shared and it’s perfectly okay to celebrate the thinking –  it’s just best to refrain from passing judgment on any one idea.

4) No ONE Right Answer

The whole idea is to get away from the type of fixed mindset thinking that we are striving for one ‘right’ way of completing a task. Instead we are promoting possibility thinking!

5) Build On Other Ideas

We’re sometimes afraid to give a response that is similar to another but this is encouraged! Build on other ideas. Let your mind make associations, improve upon or modify what’s been stated.

6) Wild And Crazy Ideas Are Encouraged

This is all about having fun and pushing our thinking to come up with new and different solutions to challenges.

How To Set Up The Experience

If you have a group of children gather in a tight circle and start by holding up an object and asking ‘What is this?’ The answer may seem obvious ‘It’s a stick!’


‘Yes, it is a stick. But what else could it be? Let’s use our imaginations to think about what else this could be!’

Explain that this is a silent turn taking activity. The person holding the object has the chance to show (demonstrate) and share (through words if necessary) their idea for what the object can be.

Give children a moment to think about it, then demonstrate by showing ONE way you might use the stick (i.e. playing golf, vacuuming, as a cane, a kite etc.).

Remember to remind the group that there are no wrong answers. Encourage the children to look at the object in different ways. Share what comes to mind. Build on others’ ideas!

Young kids diverge quite easily. The key here is to celebrate novel thinking and establish a climate where new ideas are welcome.

Depending on the size of the group consider going around the circle more than one time. Often more original and unique ideas come later in the idea generation process.

Extend The Learning

Follow up the activity by reading Not a Stick, or Not a Box by Antoinette Portis for more fun ideas to stretch their thinking.

Further extend the learning by encouraging children to select one idea they liked and make it using a stick (or whatever was used)!

Do This Regularly Using Different Objects

Ideas For Found Objects In Nature That Can Be Used:
  • a stick
  • a leaf
  • an acorn
  • a pinecone
  • evergreen bristles
  • a rock
  • a log
Additional Object Ideas:
  • a hat
  • a mug
  • a box
  • a hula hoop
  • a book

Creative thinking skills need to be practiced, celebrated and rewarded. Keep track of the number of ideas generated. Do this regularly and let me know if you see the difference over time!

Please leave a comment below letting me know how many ideas you come up with!

Think Big [Book Review]

What do you do when your child says ‘I’m bored’? If you’re like me you might say: “Go outside” or “Play with your sister/brother” or “Play with your [insert latest toy]” or my favourite “Go make something”!

I’m a true believer that if you leave children to work through their feelings of boredom they come up with some really fun and inventive ways to spend their time. But sometimes they need some extra help getting there. To get from ‘bored’ to ‘engaged’ requires inspiration to strike. THINK BIG is simple book that does just that – it sparks the imagination.

With few words (only a couple words per page), this charming book inspires us to get creative in any number of ways: paint, dance, sing, cook, play music, perform, brainstorm, sew, knit, build…

Once fun creative ideas are suggested the following carefully chosen words empower the reader (or listener) to think on their own:

“No thought

Too great

You think

We’ll wait…


This book opens us to a world of possibility for finding joy through many art forms available to us and acknowledges the need for a “brave heart” to make it happen.

I highly recommended this easy read for children of all ages to inspire us all to THINK BIG.

Next time your faced with boredom in your home connect with your child through a story like this one and enjoy the thinking that unfolds.

Published by Scholastic Inc.

*This is the first of a series where I will review books that inspire creativity or highlight a creativity skill that you can share and encourage in your child.*

Please share this post and comment below. What books you’ve read lately that have inspired your creativity?


My Book of Ideas!

My Book of Ideas

My ‘Book of Ideas’!

With all of the submissions of the Book of Ideas coming through I felt inspired to make a book of my own!

I decided to let this book evolve organically and just start writing whatever came to mind – what I’m working through at the moment – and that happens to be researching creativity and working through my website development content!

My Book of Ideas - Mindmap

When I’m starring at a blank page I tend to freeze up a bit. So, I decided to just START!

My Book of Ideas - example


I invite you to join the project! All it takes is some paper or a notebook, writing materials and time to ask yourself:

“What inspires me?”

We hope you’ll also encourage the little people in your life to keep a Book of Ideas!
For more information and to see the celebration of idea books shared so far, visit our ‘Book of Ideas’ Project page!

Introducing… The ‘Book of Ideas’ Project!

The Book of Ideas Project

The ‘Book of Ideas’ Project gives kids an outlet for their ideas, encourages new thinking and establishes a meaningful creative practice for kids.

What exactly is a ‘Book of Ideas’?

A ‘Book of Ideas’ is a way for children to express their interests, curiosities and explorations of any topic of their choosing using whatever materials they would like.

So far we have seen Idea Books with story ideas for the goal of publication, song writing ideas for piano playing, a journal capturing trip events, drawing books, comic books and even a book on how to get ideas!

An Idea Book can be about anything! Science experiment documentation, song lyrics, outlines for a play, stories… etc.

There are no rules only 3 single guidelines:

  1. Write and/or draw your ideas.
  2. No idea is too crazy.
  3. Have fun!

In fact, it doesn’t even need to be a book! These boys decided to use large poser paper to write the backstory to their play using Post-It notes to hide secret messages!

Idea Book Example

What inspired The ‘Book of Ideas’ Project?

This project was inspired by a series of events that happened within a couple of days of one another while also researching the work of Internationally renowned expert in the area of Talent Development, Sally M. Reis.

First, a bit about the first even that inspired this project! About a week ago I saw this post on my Facebook feed…

The Book of Ideas inspiration

… with the following caption:

“What did you do at school today?”

“Well Mom, I decided to create a big book of my ideas. As I come up with new ideas, I am going to write about them and add them to my book”.

This seriously warmed my heart! I though about this that entire day… I wondered…

“What if all children got into the habit of recording their interests? Hmm…”

Then, the very next day another friend posted this link to Facebook: How to raise kids to be creative thinkers, with the following caption:

“Your job as a parent is not to say, ‘Tell me what you want to be when you grow up.’ Instead, be aware of what they gravitate to, and encourage them to do more of it. Pay attention to what sparks them.”

I watched the video and was further inspired by the notion of truly observing your child’s interests and supporting them. In her video and in the TED.com interview, Jane Andraka was asked to talk about why she encouraged her sons to keep “idea books”:

It was all Luke’s fault. He generated so many ideas that he was making himself anxious. Was he ever going to be able to accomplish these ideas? Was he even going to be able to remember all these ideas? And I said, “Here’s a dollar journal. Why don’t you just start writing.” He would sketch and then go, “But I don’t know how to do that.” And I’d say, “That’s fine. Get the idea down and then, as you learn more, you can reflect back.”

All the while, I have been researching the work of Sally Reis and reading her book (written with Joseph Renzulli and Andrea Thompson), called Light Up Your Child’s  Mind: Finding a Unique Pathway to Happiness and Success. A book about cultivating the unique talents and strengths of every child.

Light Up Your Child's Mind Book

Strategies for developing your child’s gifts and talents are provided in the book. One strategy that stood out to me was putting together ‘Progress Portfolios’: a simple system to record achievements, tangible proof that something is happening and progress is actually being made. They call this the Total Talent Portfolio, a living breathing collection that takes shape gradually. They also discuss an at-home adaption where the focus is on creative learning projects that the child has embarked on and is interested in continuing to investigate! The parent is referred to as the ‘guide-on-the-side’ to help support and assist their child in this discovery progress. It’s a beautiful thing, really.

Why keep a ‘Book of Ideas’?

A ‘Book of Ideas’ is:

  • an outlet for ideas
  • encouraged NEW thinking
  • establishes an idea system creativity practice


  • It’s fun!
  • It allows parents a glimpse into the minds of their children, including curiosities and interests. What are they passionate about? What sparks them?
  • It provides kids record keeping of their questions and ideas for further investigation.
  • It allows you to monitor your child’s progress and your child to monitor their own progress.

We hope you’ll join us by encouraging the little people in your life to keep a Book of Ideas! For more information and to see the celebration o idea books shared, visit our ‘Book of Ideas’ Project page!

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