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Friday, June 10, 2011

5-Minute Courage Workout: Thinking Outside the Box

Compiled and written by Lisa and Jennifer:

The younger the mind, the more flexible the thinking.  Studies from social psychology and education show that younger children are not yet inhibited by more conventional, rational problem-solving.  We could all learn to think outside the box a little more.  Your child can help lead the way outside!

Here's a list of 5-Minute Courage Workouts by age range to improve intellectual flexibility.

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  • Toddler: you'll need to dig out some boxes from your basement or visit your local supermarket and ask for some.  Perhaps you even saved a giant box from a recent refrigerator or washing machine delivery?  Now, that would be great!  Place the box in the middle of the living room, stand back, and prepare to be amazed by how your toddler will explore what you think is "just a box."  Your challenge is to not assume what they make of the box and simply observe.  Get down on the ground yourself, crawl around and follow their lead around the box. See how the box transforms in your own eyes. 
  • Preschooler: find several boxes that can nest inside each other, like a set of Russian nesting dolls.  Large paper boxes, tissue or cereal boxes, and delicate velvet ring boxes.  Lay out all the boxes for your preschooler and say "What do you think these boxes are for?" Then, ask your child "How would you like to arrange these boxes?"  Be prepared to be surprised by the ways he/she may see the boxes in relationship to one another.  Encourage your child to think for him/herself.  If they want to have direction with this task, you could say "There is no right or wrong way to put these boxes together.  I am really curious to see what you create all on your own."  The way your child explores space and sees relationships between objects may cause you to look at spatial relationships in ways you haven't in years. 
  • Early elementary student: find a dozen random objects from throughout your house (look for variety) and put them in a box on the dining room table.  Ask your child to sort them without explaining or suggesting what the categories might be.  If your child really craves guidance, just say "Take your best guess about at least one way these objects can be related or similar."  Step back and resist the temptation to sort the objects for them.  See if you, too, can find more than one way to sort the objects into categories.  For example: color, shape, function, size, ownership.
  • Upper elementary student:  On your next drive or walk together, ask your child to imagine a world where there are no rules and that they didn't care what other people thought about what they (your child) did.  Now ask them what is the first thing they would do?  Share with your child what you would do if you didn't care what other people thought, and if you didn't box yourself into certain ways of thinking, feeling or behaving. 
  • High schooler or teen: It's time to rule the world.  Ask your teen what laws he or she would enact if put in charge of everything and everyone.  What kind of society would they like to create and what would it take to do that?  Dwell in possibility with them instead of immediately squashing idealistic proposals that you think would be difficult or unworkable or have dire unintended consequences.  Soon our teens will be our leaders; it's best to give them time for creative brainstorming now!


For every problem there is a solution; it might just take thinking about the problem in a way you may not yet have considered.  Or asking a different question about the problem. This courage workout can help you and your child experiment with new ways of tackling problems.  Maybe doing this workout will bring some humor and hope to problems that get us all stuck at times.  Review the Six Types of Courage to figure out which types your child needs to complete this workout.

Here are some additional 5-Minute Courage Workouts: Navigating the Neighborhood, Playing With Fire, A Fate Worse Than Death, Home Alone, Saying I'm Sorry, Talking DirtyIt's A Dog Eat Dog World

We'd love to hear about your results with one of these workouts, or share your own!

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