Keep the door open, for your inner child!

There is a child within me. A feisty, mischievous child. He visits me out of the blue. He doesn’t knock. He barges in as he knows he’s always welcome. I would (almost) never tell him: “Sorry buddy, I’m in the middle of something serious right now…” or “I don’t want anyone to know you exist…”

He helps me create activities for children at Imagin8ors. He loves to play with them when they are around. He brings that brilliance in me, a spontaneity, and a capacity to be amazed by anything and everything. To soak in the joy of learning.

Imagin8ors-Keep the door open for the child within you.

 

I consciously nurture that relationship with my inner child. Everyday. Even within the stressful environment of a start-up. Would you like to know the secret behind it? The Mantra lies in a single sentence: “Live this day as your first”.

Imagin8ors-Keep the door open for the child within you

“Live this day as your first!” Not as your last, but as your first! All the powers of a child come from this statement.  They are constantly exploring the world around them. Always looking for the fun part. For, those who have watched the movie Inside Out will know, Joy is the key to open all doors. Let your inner child take control once in a while!

The beauty of the formula is that, if this day is your first, you carry no burden from the past. You start over with a clean slate. All the walls that you – and others, including society – build around you vanish. You can jump in a puddle. You can laugh over nothing and walk upside down. You can sing aloud in the streets or stare at a tree wondering who lives inside the trunk.

I suggest you do this very simple exercise. During the day, stop walking, working or playing with your phone. Look around you, look at every detail you have never noticed before: the colours, the shapes, the light, the smell, the movements, the sounds, the people… Spend 5 minutes taking in the things your surroundings are made of.  Look at how beautiful or funny they are. Soon you’ll hear someone knocking at your door. Be nice, let that little one come in. Hear his or her explanations about all those things. Listen to all the stories that he or she tells you. Listen patiently rather than thinking “I don’t have time for these fables.” The more often you open the door, the easier it will be for your inner child to find his or her way in.

Everyone needs help in preserving the unique sense of wonderment that children have. And the right person for the job is in you!!!

Transforming into your every day Robot!

Mathieu Penot is one of the creative engines propelling the Imagin8ors team. He is constantly cooking up new activities for children that stretches the boundaries of their imagination, and helps them learn at deeper level. Always game for a joke, a challenge, downright silliness, a nap or a day dream, Mathieu is a super hit with children! Now you know why…

By Mathieu Penot

Battleships & The Captain’s Boys – How Board Games can be a great way to impart Life Lessons.

Like the music he creates there is a beautiful symphony in all that he does. Father, musician, writer, maker and a fantastic mind, he reminds you of all that is good and pure in life. A curious and adventurous child Ragavan Manian, from Team Imagin8ors, explores and seeks new things with an infectious enthusiasm and zest. 

 

My two little boys Karun (8 years) and Sunaad (5 years) play board games, whenever they are, well, bored! There are a host of games to choose from, with their interest area ranging from Myth and Mythology to Mickey Mouse! But the one game that has found a lot of favour recently is Battleships.

According to Wikipedia, the Battleships board game has World War I origins, starting out as a paper and pencil game.

Picture courtesy Creative Commons/Wikipedia

Picture courtesy Creative Commons/Wikipedia

To me and a host of adults out there who grew up on a steady diet of Herge’s famous  characters, a more apt reference would be the Tintin comic, Flight 714. If you haven’t read the pages where the sullen, stingy and scruple-free multi-billionaire Carreidas repeatedly flummoxes Capt. Haddock, then you’re missing something hilarious!

But even as I enjoyed the comic and was intrigued by Battleships, I never got a chance to actually play the game, and it faded from my memory – that is, until it made a grand appearance in our household in the guise of my son’s birthday gift. I was pleasantly surprised at how quickly both my little boys picked up this game. They are nearly three years apart, and in the early years, “three” represents a significant cognitive gap, separated by numerous cognitive milestones. Some examples:

Data source: www.understood.org

Their board games therefore tend to be divided into two neat piles. In line with his age and interests, the younger one prefers the motto of “have dice, will play”. He loves rolling the dice, driven by the sincere belief that he’s the “luckiest person in the family”. His cries of elation when he leads the board on the perennial family favourite “Snakes and Ladders”, or his shrieks of despair when he falls behind, have earned him the nickname of “Mr. Noisy” in our neighbourhood. The older one prefers intrigue (Scotland Yard, anyone?). He feels let down when “dumb luck” plays a significant part in a game, where he cannot ‘outsmart’ his opponent.

Like many great board games “Battleships” tends to straddle the space between luck and logic. Yes there is a good deal of chance in the game, but it also requires strategic thinking. Children delight in shouting out the words, “a miss!”, “a hit!” and “a sink!”. There is implicit confrontation in those words; however no actual violence is inflicted. The vessels on the board don’t even sink when they’re sunk – they just end up looking more dressed up! The power of their thought processes in affecting the opponent’s fleet is a revelation – almost like a spooky action-at-a-distance effect. Abstraction and Generalization – Computational Thinking concepts that even adults have difficulty wrapping their heads around, form part and parcel of this game. The moments of silence and strategic thinking add to its old-world charm.

Open Mic Imagin8ors

Above all, this game demands that the players be principled – a facet of the Collaboration, that we need in dollops in the global citizens of a brave new world, in a time when the planet is ridden by the damage done by the collective greed of the past generations. The temptation to gain strategic advantage surreptitiously (a.k.a. Through peeking!) was initially so strong in the children that, during the first few rounds I had to step in and act as the Captain of the boys, to enforce ground rules and stringent penalties against ‘cheating’. But eventually they understand that it is a lot more fun and engaging to follow the rules. A fair game of  Battleships seems to teach long-term lessons that stick in more ways than one.

Open Mic-imagin8ors

Carreidas in Flight 714 was driven by the desire to win the game of Battleships at all costs against his opponent, the poor, sincere Captain Haddock. This may have helped the former win the game, but in the end his guile was exposed and the Captain’s Boys won the day!

What board games rule your household? What life lessons have you been able to share through them? We would love to hear from you…

Sid the Curious Kid. A case of the “Terrific Threes!”

Sid the curious kid

Balaji is the Co-Founder of Imagin8ors and a parent of two boys, Sid (five and a half) and Ved (three months). Here he kicks off our blog sharing his personal journey with Imagin8ors, and talks about the need for parents to be active custodians of their child’s creative development.

As a parent, I am sure, you would have revelled in the wonder of the “Terrific Threes!” That exciting stage and age in a child’s development when they are propelled by a boundless energy to understand the world around them.

When every moment is a time for exploration. When you are bombarded with those incessant, tough-to-answer questions “Why?” “How?” “What?”

When they have no fear of making mistakes, of stumbling, of falling, of getting hands deep in dirt. When learning is all about play, a sense of wonder, just pure un-adulterated joy!

My journey with Imagin8ors has its origin in the ‘Terrific Threes” that our son Sid and I enjoyed together.

I marvelled at his fluid imagination, at his drive to create, and the zest with which he approached every new twist and turn.

I googled, talked to experts and parents, sought out answers to what I could do to fuel this spark.  To understand at a deeper level what he is really learning and to provide the right environment and experiences for him.

As I fell deeper into the rabbit hole, a few things became really clear:

1. Children are born creative geniuses and natural self-directed learners, but our education systems, in-spite of their best intentions, end up stifling creative development. There is a punchy TED talk (“Do Schools Kill Creativity?”) by Sir Ken Robinson, a world renowned education reformer that brings this to life with substance and wit. Our society chases standardised test outcomes over deeper, more meaningful learning. The bulk of teaching emphasises instruction and rote. Children are caught in an arms race of building more impressive resumes to filter through to the top universities. Free, creative, play time is weeded out systematically. There is much to change … and very little time to do it in.

2. The irony is that Imagination and Creativity are potentially the attributes most critical to our childrens’ success in a rapidly-changing, technology amplified world. Content knowledge has become a commodity. What you can do with what you know, already matters more than the knowledge per se. The increasing automation of jobs, puts additional pressure to apply the knowledge in original, novel ways.

3. Parents have a critical role to play in being the custodians of their child’s creativity. Schools are not structured to take charge of developing each child’s creative potential. Parents, the first teachers at an age when the child is at their most creative, are uniquely placed to assume this responsibility. Research shows that regular active engagement with the child like reading together, playing together, supporting their interests, encouraging them to question, etc. actually helps with deeper learning and creative development.

My childhood and their attendant dreams came back to me. I had always wanted to study English Literature, to be a journalist and a writer; but I ended up studying Computer Science and Business. I struggled to stay in touch with my creativity in spite of going to the best colleges and working for Fortune 100 companies. The conviction grew that I did not want this cycle to repeat with Sid, and if it could be helped, with children in general.

A compelling catalyst for me to take the plunge together with Sampath Pudhukottai, a fellow parent of young children and a dear friend from college days, to begin the journey that has today become Imagin8ors.

Along the way, we have been fortunate to get together a team of innovators, educators, technologists, makers, artists who passionately believe in the cause of nurturing the inherent creativity in each child.

Our team is not alone, we have been inspired by countless parents, like yourselves, who echo similar sentiments and are doing all in your power to help children enjoy learning, to stay creative, to find their passions.

We are kicking off this blog to serve as a space for all of us to connect and share knowledge, ideas, anecdotes, and support. We hope that this space can foster a dialogue, one that deserves to be amplified, and followed through to positively impact the most important resource the world has – our next generation; and to prepare them to be successful and happy in a world we cannot even fathom today.

And we hope to do this together with you, exactly like a “Terrific Three” year old would approach it. With optimism, zest, insatiable curiosity, mischief, fearlessness and joy!

Come! Let’s play! 🙂

TTCR (Think,Tinker,Create,Repeat)

Pablo Picasso famously said, “Every child is an artist, the problem is staying an artist when you grow up.”  Nowadays everything is handed to us neatly packaged, with little room for imagination or growth. Quite a contrast from when I was a kid, my first “real” toy was a cardboard box. Sounds weird, but according to my dad, my brother and I would play with that box for hours. Why, because it was the gateway to the moon, a castle for a princess, or a submarine for an oceanographer. The box had no limits, no constraints, the only thing that could bind that cardboard box to the laws of reality was our own mind, and I was too imaginative to do that.Joy of LearningLooking back, I realize how monumental my cardboard box days really were. As I intern with Imagin8ors I often find myself face to face with my five-year-old self. When I am thinking of activities that would be fun, creative, and educational for the kids, I have the privilege of abandoning what is rational and functional in hopes of creating something new and exciting.

However, there is a journey I make in order to successfully create these activities. From the moment an idea pops in my head to its final execution, I go through the cycle of mistakes, reforms and most painfully making numerous versions of the product. But I enjoy every step of this process, no matter how tedious it gets. When I get a new assignment there are multiple ideas and possibilities flying around in my head. I have to physically force myself to slow down and write all my ideas, no matter how ridiculous or outrageous they seem at that time. You never know what is ridiculous today can be fantastic tomorrowJoy of LearningThe next thing is to get the opinions, ideas, perspective and critiques of the people who sit around me in the office. It’s impossible for anyone to think of everything, everyone is different and they bring their own creativity and experiences to the table. Brainstorming with the team helps.  After I settle on an idea my next task is to find a way to visually represent it, in other words lots of sketches. This step is really important as drawing each and every part sets the grooves in my head in motion.Joy of LearningAfter the first two steps comes the fun part, tinkering. When I am building something new I have no idea what materials or adhesives will work, I have to learn by trial and error. I usually make multiple variations of the same ideas to test which one is more functional and realistic. After I have designed the initial prototype I tear it apart, both mentally and physically. One of my professors would always say, “If you are satisfied with something on your first try, you eliminate all possibility of that thing becoming great.” Joy of Learning-Imagin8orsAt this stage I look for feedback from all. A critical eye, enables me to achieve a better end result. However, I do believe there is a balance between positive and negative critiquing. You should try not to stifle a person’s confidence, optimism, or the idea itself when criticizing someone’s work. After the much-needed feedback I go back to the drawing board and repeat the whole process. Throughout my life I have never had a project I’ve redone and it has turned out worse than the initial creation.Joy of Learning -Imagin8orsWhile the process may seem formal and well organized it’s not. The area around my desk usually looks like it has been hit by a tornado. But that is the fun of tinkering and creating. You get your hands messy, you get to be your own boss, and what you do may completely defy any rational and well organized process. That’s the beauty of it, the joy of teaching children that there are no bad or stupid ideas. Everything has potential if you allow yourself time to play with the idea. There is an unparalleled delight in seeing something that you imagined transform into a tangible object. That is the joy I love seeing on a child’s face. Joy of Learning

Leah Ferguson,  this beautiful, talented Architecture student from Lehigh University,  is currently in Singapore on the Iacocca Internship. Along with her internship at Imagin8ors  she skillfully balances her love to cook, travel, draw, tinker, write and back home she is part of the Division 1 track team. This extremely dedicated Chicago girl has a sense of humour that makes the lunch table conversations at the office fun and lively.

Learnings from the Kitchen Garden

open mic picture

 

Rachna Singh, a Singapore based mother of two daughters who are like chalk and cheese. A collector, a writer, a gardener,a mother and a terrific friend; she is indeed a force of nature. Picking up each new thing in life with such enthusiasm and energy she is a constant source of  inspiration to everyone around her.

MAAAA….. I am bored.

Oh dear Lord!!!….she is bored. AGAIN!!!

And thus began the holidays for my five-year-old Eesha. A sack full of untapped energy, who needed to be positively and constructively challenged every waking hour. Ignoring her, I went about tending to my plants lovingly.

“Can I do that please?” Eesha asked and I indulged her. This set the Sumerian wheel of gardening on the roll. In went the whole jug of water in a single plant and water spilled all over the place. It was time for her first lesson – “water conservation”. How to use water, a  scarce natural resource, without wasting it.

When Eesha accidentally plucked out few healthy saplings along with the weeds, I told her about deforestation and imbalances in our ecological system. She absorbed all this new information not deterred by the big words thrown at her.

An organic fertilizer made of egg shells, vegetable and fruit peels was our next project .She learnt about being cost effective and recycling. I did make a passing reference to soil pollution and how our fertilizer was more eco-friendly. She was struck by the term “eco-friendly”. “Ma, I think I‘ll call my next doll eco-friendly. Now that made me smile.

In some mason jars we put layers of coloured pebbles and compost mixed soil and planted cacti plants with tiny red and yellow flowers. Forever the artist Eesha wrapped a dainty little green ribbon around the bottle. And our lovely glass garden terrarium was born.

As I was snipping away some mint leaves, for my tea, I was tempted to start an herb garden and I shared this with Eesha. Jubilant at the idea we painted and decorated the cans. We personalised it with ladyfinger imprint patterns. Basil, sage, thyme, rosemary, alfalfa sprouts, cherry tomatoes and oriental capsicum all found a little can of their own. In the process, Eesha learnt the names and spellings of different herbs and understood the difference between herbs, fruits and vegetables. I also helped her understand the nutritional benefits of eating different coloured fresh produce.

But would she have the patience to wait? I was in for an unexpected surprise. For the next two months, Eesha meticulously and lovingly looked after her plants. Few times, I also caught her spray bottle in hand talking sweet nothings to her baby plants.

In August, my baby’s birthday month our herb garden was in full bloom, and what a sight. In a moment of pure genius Eesha suggested a gardening themed birthday party. I sure was impressed. Off we went to the market to collect our supplies.

At her birthday party each kid was handed a clean empty can to decorate and plant herbs of their choice. Once they were done it was time to make their own vegetable pizzas. Oh the excitement of trimming fresh herbs and scattering it over their pizzas. We further topped it with colourful cherry tomatoes and capsicums. Everything from the kitchen garden. The kids polished off the pizzas in minutes.

Amazed I mused, an activity meant to keep my kid busy in her holidays had reaped such rewards. I saw a more patient, knowledgeable, responsible and happy kid running around in the house.

That night, she hugged me and said that this was her best birthday ever, I couldn’t help beaming and hugging her back. I knew she really meant it.

Have you done something recently with your child which has reaped unexpected rewards? Do tell.

 

Imagin8ors On-The-Go … The Joy of Learning at your doorstep!

It was indeed a light bulb moment when we thought of Imagin8ors On The Go. What an opportunity for us to bring the Joy of Learning to your very doorstep! To meet wonderful children and parents and together create an environment where we could children could tinker, have fun and learn hands-on. Where we could have a conversation with parents on on why this is important.

Joy of Learning-Toys Transform

In today’s fast changing, tech-driven world, it’s become even more critical to nurture imagination and creativity in our children, so that they could apply the knowledge they learn in original, novel ways that machines cannot replicate easily. We need to build a strong foundation of character traits like curiosity – always asking questions, seeking to understand etc.; critical thinking – to help them analyse and solve unstructured problems , courage – embracing failure as a necessary part of the creative process, and collaboration – sharing and learning from others. These are part of what is talked of as 21st Century  skills or capabilities.

With this in our hearts  Imagin8ors visited Costa Del Sol and Costa Rhu and we spent a happy day transforming old toys – a great way to put to practice the very same 21 century capabilities. The output from children and parents was simply amazing…  Fisher-Price should be taking notes.

Joy of Learning -Imagin8ors

Children landed at the event and set about sketching what they were planning to transform their toy into. Their imagination ran wild with no boundaries or rules to stifle them.

Joy of Learning -Imagin8ors

Parents and children collaborated together and it was heartening to see them equally involved as they sketched and planned for a toy of their own.

Joy of Learning -Imagin8ors

Once everyone had a plan on paper it was time for some action. Out came the screwdrivers and the dismantling began. We witnessed a lot of focus as the children went about systematically taking toys apart. Curious little beings showed so much delight to get a peek into how their toys worked.

Joy of Learning -Imagin8ors

Joy of Learning-Imagin8ors

Once the toy was taken apart they had all the ingredients to make magic. The raw material from the toy, additional stuff from our materials table and their creativity – when these three met sparks did fly!

Joy of Learning -Imagin8ors
The children spent the time discussing, tinkering and modifying their toys. They would also go around looking at others’ creations-in-the-making to get ideas and inspiration.

Joy of Learning -Imagin8ors

Parents rolled up their sleeves, got messy and helped their children through the transformation process.

Joy of Learning -Imagin8ors

In the end we had some very happy children who had actually built something guided by their fluid imagination. As the journey was made with their toys and parents, the euphoria at the end result was so much more.

Joy of Learning -Imagin8ors

It was a happy moment to see the parents and children rejoice, having created something new and unique to take home. When it is all about the journey the destination always comes as a pleasant surprise.

Joy of Learning-Toys Transform

What are your views on nurturing 21st Century Capabilities in children? Would you like us to come to your doorstep too? Join the conversation…

 

Get Nostalgic This Weekend

Weekend Wonders-imagin8ors

Images courtesy of the National Museum of Singapore, National Heritage Board

How about a spoonful of nostalgia this weekend? There is something for everyone – children, parents and

grandparents – at the third edition of Masak Masak at the National Museum. Get nostalgic

together as you explore six stunning installations which will remind you of the exciting

games of a bygone era. Discover engaging activities for the children put together by local

and international artists. Work with the artists to get a crash course in creating your own art

installation. For the art lovers, the students of School of the Arts and the National

University of Singapore Division of Industrial Design showcase some amazing artwork.

The games do not end here. How about designing your own board game? Or a bike? BIKES

4 FUN gives you an opportunity to build your own bike and ride it around the corner. The

event is on till 31 July 2016. So why wait till the last day? Head there now!

Weekend wonder-imagin8ors

Images courtesy of the National Museum of Singapore, National Heritage Board

Have radios intrigued you? How about a blast from the past this weekend? Head to the

National Museum with your children and learn a little more about radios as you explore their

“Celebrating Radio: Sounds from the Past” exhibit. Your child can be a radio DJ for the

day as he/she learns about the children radio shows of the past. The exhibit is for all maker

kids! Come and design a personalised vinyl record album cover or create a vintage radio

box. Take the 30-minute interactive tour with your child and learn a bit more about this

medium. Get a crash course in Singapore’s broadcasting history starting from 1930s in the

specially designed children’s activity area. The exhibit is on till 17 July 2016.

Images courtesy of the National Museum of Singapore, National Heritage Board

Images courtesy of the National Museum of Singapore, National Heritage Board

 

June Open House

Imagin8ors Events

It’s the first Saturday of the month and Team Imagin8ors welcomes you to their monthly Open House. A space to spark imagination for children (ages 3-10) and parents, to tinker with technology, and indulge in some free unstructured play. Meet like-minded parents, make new friends, and swap views on the fascinating learning needs for today’s children! The experience is absolutely free only registration required.

Imagin8ors Events

 

This month, we have three exciting experiences for you to explore:

  1. MicroWorld

Using USB Microscopes capable of 200x magnification, your child enters a whole new world of micro objects, such as plants and animal cells! After taking the pictures your child will learn how to prepare slides. The snapshots of microscopic objects and life forms, will be then incorporated into Scratch™ animation. Their fantastic interpretations of the MicroWorld will fuel their imagination. So come to have a closer look at the micro-organisms and use coding to spin out some great stories!!

 

Imagin8ors Events

  1. Conductive PlayDough

Never heard of PlayDough conducting electricity before? Come to the Imagin8ors Open House and you can see it happen! Join us, use our recipes to create your own conductive Playdough, in your favourite colour! Light it up with LED lights, and get as far as you imagination takes you!

 

Imagin8ors Events

  1. Build Your Own Arcade!

Do you like playing Arcade Games? It sure will be fun to have one of our own. Why don’t you create one with us? Design the rules, build it with our wide array of fun and colourful materials, and play!

Imagin8ors Events

This is a community event and we would like to spread the joy of learning, a maker mind-set, and an appreciation for technology to as many people as possible! Join us in this cause and invite your friend to join too. It will be fun!

When: Saturday, June 4, 2016

1030am – 1230pm

Where: The Meeting Point @ JTC Launchpad,

73 Ayer Rajah Crescent

Near One-North mrt

Register Now!!!

Explore Technology this weekend in Singapore

Kids having a hands on fun experience with technology.

Explore technology with your kids

Daya from team Imagin8ors  just had a mind-blowing experience with his daughters at the Future World, ArtScience Museum. The exhibit has 15  interactive all immersive experiences designed to spark your child’s imagination. After our chat I am all geared to step into this digital interactive space with my son. How about you?

MOSH Sentosa, is a brilliant amalgam of technology and creativity where kids can experience imagination come to life in an innovative manner. MOSH! has  five technological experiences divided into– Air: Paper Plane Adventure; Space: Fireworks Party; Sea: Doodle Aquarium; Land: Hide-and-Seek Table; and Fantasy: World of Wonder.  A perfect place to unleash your creative juices and let technology take it forward. So how about giving the usual stuff on the island a miss and trying out some digital media edutainment?

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