Monthly Archives: September 2014


On fostering imagination

“Imagination is more important than knowledge. For knowledge is limited to all we now know and understand, while imagination embraces the entire world, and all there ever will be to know and understand.” – Albert Einstein


Children are born with imagination. Like hopping in the Delorean and whisking away to alternate worlds at light speed, kids can jump into a new world in their mind in no time at all. Unfortunately in today’s world that leans so very heavily on standardized test scores, we don’t have time in our day-to-day education to provide time for imaginative exploration anymore. Teachers and parents are talking about this imbalance, but frankly it’s difficult to create time and headspace to foster imagination and creativity when there is a daily struggle to just learn the curriculum, and fast.

Imagination is about more than playing Star Wars or princesses (but let’s face it, those are definitely fun, especially when you get to be the queen, and the kids are all cinderella, and you get to ask them to bring you cookies and whatnot while you lie on your throne). Children are the architects of our future world. In order to create a the brightest new world possible, we need creativity to work hand in hand with knowledge and skill mastery. Your child has the potential to make innovations that we can’t even fathom today, and parents and educators have the opportunity to help them do it.

The key to opening space for imagination is help kids switch their thinking from storing knowledge to creating new knowledge. Education today is often about learning facts and then spitting them back out. We sometimes trick ourselves into thinking that we’re helping kids create when in fact we’re just having them spin the same facts into new forms.

When I was a kid, running through the woods with my brothers, my light saber held high, you wouldn’t even know that I had never seen Star Wars. That’s the point – I didn’t need to see the films to be able to fill in the blanks myself. Bunch of space cadets, check. run around, fight each other with laser swords, check. The rest of the story, the villains, the heroes, the plot line, takes shape on its own.

When creating activities to advance imagination in adolescents, parents and teachers can ask themselves the following questions. If the answer to every question is yes, then parents and educators can be confident that it’s fostering imagination.

Is this activity . . .

  • intellectually challenging but doable?
  • concrete in it’s expectations?
  • ripe with real world applications?
  • engaging across subject areas?
  • interesting enough to create emotion?
  • encouraging of dialogue?
  • about creating knowledge?

And while it may seem a daunting task, parents and teachers will be richly rewarded with activities that help children exercise imagination. Kids come up with amazing and exciting ideas when they aren’t bound by bubble sheets.

Discover Your Child's Strengths


Five ways to spot a great educator

First off, let’s define educator.

An educator doesn’t necessarily mean a school teacher, though it can. In fact, many of the people who educate us have nothing to do with what goes on in a classroom. Parents, grandparents, older siblings, religious leaders, peers, businesspeople and coaches, just to name a few, are primary educators in the lives of students. Learning isn’t something that comes from a book, but rather something that comes from the vibrant experiences that we have in life.




Great educators:

  • Are funny!

Education isn’t dry – not good education anyway. Children, and adults for that matter, connect with education that’s exciting and enriching, and makes them happy.

  • Have active intellectual lives

Great educators believe in continuing to learn themselves. And while these people don’t necessarily have high SAT scores or perfect GPAs in college, they do continue improve their own learning all of the time. Powerful educators are passionate about intellectuals pursuits – be that art, poetry, science, math, whatever their interests are.

  • See your child for who they are

Your child is a unique individual. Great educators don’t see success as one thing, they don’t believe in the cookie cutter mold of happiness or accomplishment. These individuals encourage children to explore their interests, whatever those may be.

  • Create opportunities for learning

Learning doesn’t always take place at a desk, though it certainly can. Educators who are positive forces in the life of your child find ways to incorporate learning into everyday life. Whether that’s in the grocery store, at a baseball game, or walking through the neighborhood – learning can happen everywhere, because life isn’t limited.

  • Believe intelligence is achievable

This one is truly important. Good educators believe that intelligence is not inborn. They believe that, while there may be a genetic predisposition to it, that children can learn to be intelligent through exposure to academic content and critical thinking skills. And they believe that your child is capable to making leaps in intelligence through positive support.


Look around for the great educators in the life of your child. Seek out those individuals who possess these qualities, and encourage them to share their skills with your child.




Goal setting with kids


Image credit: Marc Dussault

Often times when we think about goal setting for kids, our mind conjures images of overbearing, intrusive parents who are attempting to push their children harder than is healthy. Driven families who are willing to do anything and sacrifice anything in the name of marking some trophy or title, some invitation or score. But goal setting for kids, even young kids, doesn’t have to be that way. In fact, goal setting for elementary and middle school students can help them to gain self confidence and purpose.

So how do you go about introducing goal setting to your child? First and foremost, we must keep in mind that this is a child centered activity. While some parents might have a goal of their child getting into an Ivy League school, that might not be where the interests of the child are. Think of the process like baking a cake – the parent is providing the shape of the pan, but the child is filling in the good stuff. Elementary and middle school aged children are coming into a beautiful stage of self realization, in which they are starting to form individualized opinions and interests, often far outside of the world that their parents have thus far created around them. Goal setting can help them to capture some of that awesome creative and explorative power.

Whatever age your child is, you can help them to create goals in relation to activities that they’re interested in. The first step is for them to choose an activity for which they want to set a goal. It can be school related like making the honor roll, or creative, like completing their own comic book. Sports are a great place to set goals. A child might set as a goal to test for their next belt in karate, or to master their routine in gymnastics.

To create success, help your child to set SMART goals:

  • Specific
  • Measurable
  • Achievable
  • Realistic
  • Time-sensitive

Here’s an example. Say your child’s goal is to complete that comic book. Here’s how you break it down to make sure that it’s a productive goal for them.

Articulate the goal: I will create my own 10-page color comic book by the end of the summer, with some help from my older brother for spelling.


June 1 – Concept worked out.

June 15 – Outline with rough pictures.

July 3 – Draft with sketches and text.

July 15 – Finished black and white draft, penciled text.

August 1 – Final text and Color done.

  • Specific – What is it? Exactly?
  • Measurable – How many pages? Color or black and white?
  • Achievable – Can your child write and draw? Will they need some help?
  • Realistic - Is the project a manageable size for their age and capabilities?
  • Time-sensitive – When should it be finished? What is a reasonable timeline for the milestones along the way?

The process here is the important piece. Teaching about goal setting as a child will help your child to learn how to set goals and reach them independently for their entire lives. Goal setting is truly a life skill, as important as learning how to tie their shoes or read a book.


Create Goals with Your Child


The 5 best/worst things about the first week of school

School is starting everywhere. And while there are some amazing things about summer, there is also something to be said for going back to school. Here are the five BORST (get it? Best AND Worst? right? heh..hehh…ok sorry) things about the first week of school. They’re the good and the bad, at the same time.

1.  New clothes – Kids have a love-hate relationship with clothes, especially when those early elementary children turn into fourth and fifth graders and on to middle school. Or maybe its that parents have a love-hate relationship with clothes, because “looks adorable” today is “holy crap you’ve already grown out of this” tomorrow. At one point, hand-me-downs may have sufficed, but then there’s suddenly this pressure to wear the perfect outfit on the first day in order to look perfect and set the year off perfect. (“duh, mom” *eye roll*).

2.  New teachers – All of those new teachers! There’s the opportunity to start over, to reset from any mistakes of the last year and get started with someone completely new. But there’s always the chance that a child’s teacher won’t be a fit, or that there will be a challenging transition period. The key is communication and patience. And wine.

3.  Early mornings – After a summer of sleeping in a little later, it’s hard to get into that early morning routine. However, humans thrive on routine; it gives us comfort and purpose. So while those early mornings in which we have to get up and go quickly can make us feel groggy and hectic, they also can be energizing and give parents and children a sense of accomplishment.

4.  Away from mom and dad – Kids miss their parents when they go to school! And vice versa. Older kids might not show their affection in the same ways as younger children when it’s time to get on the bus and be away all day, but it could be hard for them to be away from home as well. Even so, children start to build confidence from the freedom they get being away from mom and dad.

5.  Learning – Ok, so this one might seem like a purely positive one. I mean learning is a good thing right? But remember that along with learning comes a lot of pressure. School is a time of infinite possibilities, and recognizing the stresses that are associated with all of that knowledge will help parents and teachers to defray it.


The first week of school is both a blessing and a curse. Because it’s a time of transition, the changes are exciting but also daunting. One of the best things about this time of year is that it teaches kids the skills they need to cope with life’s inevitable transitions that they will experience throughout their lives.

Parents, enjoy this year’s learning adventure. Just remember, however you do it, you’re doing great. Onward!


Develop Your Child's Strengths