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.

Managing Change With Kids

Joy of Learning-Imagin8ors Sometimes, I think change has been the one constant in our lives. By the time our younger fella was three, we’d moved across continents, homes and switched careers at least as many times. We were living out of suitcases. Family and friends floated in and out of the kids’ lives, depending on where we were. “Routine is important for kids”, people pointed out. I looked at two mopey little faces seeing their dad off, as he went away on yet another work trip and I worried. We had to get better at coping with change and fast. Put a date on it: We made count down calendars. As neither kid could read at the time, we made a poster that showed them what mum and dad were doing and how long they would be gone. I drew pictures of who would be around and of all the fun stuff they could do together. When it was time for me to move back home with them, I made another calendar- “In how many days is mum coming back? Isn’t that going to be fun?” Joy of Learning-Imagin8ors List everything: We had schedules of tasks for the nanny to supervise, lists of medicines and dosages that we updated as the kids grew, emergency numbers and, finally, instructions for grandparents to keep in mind as they kindly and generously took care of the kids. Breaking a big undertaking into bite-sized lists of tasks to accomplish,  made it less daunting. Acknowledge emotions: For our last big move, the kids were old enough to worry. Our four-year-old later confided in me, that at the time he had been convinced, his grandma would die if he moved away. “It’s been a year now and she is OK. So nothing bad happened when we left, right?” he asked. So we talked about feelings and that it’s okay to be anxious or sad or even angry. Take control: We prepared for our big move to Singapore with reconnaissance visits. The kids picked out stuff for the new house and more importantly, their room. On one such short visit, our older guy decided of his own volition to map out all the bridges on the Singapore river and walk across them. The younger one declared the evening we flew out, “Tonight is going to be Singapore night.” That became our mantra. Stretch yourself and commit: Raising kids takes a village and we needed to build one for ourselves each time we moved to a new place. It takes effort and time. We try to volunteer, give time and effort towards various causes and community events. It is rewarding to contribute and help others. It also helps forge genuine connections with like-minded people. So go ahead and participate in that neighborhood event, join that runners group, enroll your children in that Imagin8ors workshop or a football camp. Joy of Learning-Imagin8ors Face your anxieties: Along the way, we have made it a practice to talk to the kids in detail about upcoming changes- big or small and involve them as much as possible so that they feel in control. Mom/Dad have to travel for work- let’s look at the map and see where they are going. How many days till they return? Let’s learn the names and phone numbers to contact in case of emergencies. Let’s learn our address so that we always know how to get back home, if we are lost. Let’s have a family emergency plan. What time each day shall we facetime/skype? Best friend at school is relocating to another country- travails of being part of an expat community. Where are they moving to- what language do they speak in that country? Let’s learn a few words so we can use them with the friend. Do we have their email address so we can stay in touch? Let’s have play dates with new classmates. Start new traditions: We miss how grandma would feed us at mealtimes or tell stories at bedtime. Let us begin new traditions. Xmas tree! Bedtime music and reading! How about Friday night family cuddles? Movie nights and popcorn! Joy of Learning-Imagin8ors It has been a learning curve but seeing happy little faces tucked up in their beds safe at night, gives us a measure of peace. The munchkins now aged eight and six, make friends easily. They have happy memories and great friends from different countries. They are curious about the world and are confident in new settings. An on-going dialogue with our children and robust preparation helped us manage change. Learning from fellow expats and working parents has been invaluable. Have you had to handle big changes with your kids? Do you have any tips on how to help them cope? Kaumudi Goda is a mum, former attorney, current corp desk jockey, full time bookworm and pop-culture enthusiast. She has been a fan and supporter of Imagin8ors from inception. With her crew of three goofy boys (two munchkins and one overgrown football fanatic), KG has traveled extensively and lived in several places. She is happy to share her family’s hilarious adventures with the Imagin8ors community.  

Keep the door open, for your inner child!

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

Playeum’s Hideaways: Team Imagin8ors Discovers What Lies Within

Last week Nia and I found ourselves at Playeum. After weeks of hearing about the Hideaways- Creating With Nature” exhibit we finally had a chance to experience it first-hand. As we walked past the pink elephant figurine, we were greeted with peals of laughter from some very happy tots. We saw a few Playeum facilitators handling a big group of school children. “Ok children, I want you all to move four bums back!!!”  Well that kind of sums it up – Playeum speaks a kid’s language.
Open Mic-Imagin8ors

Hideaways -Creating With Nature

Getting just as excited as the young visitors we moved from section to section with our guide Vanessa. For each section the artist had a specific intention or thought in mind yet the whole exhibit flowed from one onto another. We moved around freely touching, experiencing, learning and getting to be one with nature. We saw many things that puzzled, intrigued and wowed us. Armed with questions and compliments we had a sit down with Jeremy Chu the Creative Director of the Hideaway exhibit.

Jeremy Chu: Creative Director Hideaways “Creating With Nature”

The setting felt so apt, as we sat under the trees discussing the various themes of nature, while Jeremy and Nia untied the knots from the drawstrings used by the kids to tie rattan. Jeremy shared that the location of Playeum played a big role in the “Creating With Nature” theme. Playeum in Gillman Barracks is surrounded by Hort Park, Southern Ridges and Labrador Park. Thus the inspiration, to develop some interesting and engaging narratives with children, around nature. The idea was to encourage them to cultivate a bond with the eco-system and get a better understanding of how their actions were impacting nature.
weekend wonders-imagin8ors

Sound Web by Richard Kearns

Interestingly, Playeum has a Children Consultancy Board that has a big role in decisions regarding the exhibits. Who better than kids to tell us what kids love and enjoy!!! After many sessions of brainstorming a call was made to a group of extremely talented artists, and the hideaway exhibit slowly took shape.
Open Mic-Imagin8ors

Welcome to my World – By The People’s Atelier

The exhibit demonstrates conceptual layering. There is a constant sensation of hidden truths and you are the explorer seeking the answers. This is a sensory journey with the constant message of recycling. For example the clay city built as a part of “Make Believe Hideaway” shall be the backdrop of a future stop motion animation workshop planned at Playeum.
Open Mic- Imagin8ors

Knock Knock Sensory Bug Hotel

The behaviour of insects to stack and weave has always intrigued us and the same can be explored in “Welcome To My World”. Like a moth that uses leaves and petals children can add to the structure and create a giant insect habitat. Beautiful flowers donated every week by Floral Magic  are used by children to build nests and decorate the structures.
Open Mic-Imagin8ors

Flowers donated by Floral Magic

“Knock Knock! Who Lives There” gives the children an opportunity to look at insect specimens through microscopic lenses. There is also a live feed of insects’ habitats set up on Playeum grounds playing on multiple screens. The entire set up is non-instructional where children are encouraged to translate the process into line drawings. Not just this children can drop small messages, questions or letters to the insects of their choice. As a part of the exhibit the artist does reply to the letters and queries put forth by the children. Making it as interactive as it can be.
Open Mic-Imagin8ors

Knock, Knock! Who lives there? – By Isabelle Desjeux

Jeremy shared a beautiful story about a child who had visited the exhibit. She wrote a letter and instead of just posting it she created a diorama out of it. She merged the pictures of the insects, sound instruments she created and the letter to give it all her own voice. It was a cross pollination inspired by the exhibit, just the kind they were looking for.
Open Mic -Imagin8ors

Creature Cave by Bartholomew Ting

As we bade goodbye to Jeremy and Vanessa and stepped out of this enchanted world, there was only one thing I knew for sure. I was going to return pretty soon!!!  

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.  

All the World’s a Stage

All the worlds a stage

All the worlds a stage

Sailakshmi Deepak a friend with whom conversation never ends. Librarian, Blogger, Supermom, Maker and Commentator she is a multi-talented aficionado. Living in Dubai she is constantly looking for new experiences at the same time continuing old traditions. Her life is full of beautiful narratives woven around her two fantastic kids. At 40, my thirst for knowledge has gone up multi-fold. I thought it was because of Google, and the fact that I had become a librarian with access to a barrage of non-fiction books. I was wrong; I realised it is because of my 10 and 7-year-old boys. There was an endless stream of questions coming my way, and the more I looked for answers the greedier for information they got. Well, if you can’t beat them, join them! So, I did. Our favourite topic being religion, mythology, beliefs, etc., I grabbed a book called ‘Religions of the world’ from the children’s section and it became our bedtime ‘storybook’. I think l learnt more than I was trying to teach, and we had the most enriching discussions. Over the next two months, as we finished the book, we had all the information about the different religions; and am happy to let them decide what they want to grow up believing in. Hinduism piqued their interest, probably because they can relate to it. They now wanted to delve deeper into Indian mythology. We started with the fairly simple Ramayana, and then moved on to the more complex but interesting Mahabharata. As I read to them, we enjoyed the way many stories were woven together to make this epic. We then moved to Gita for Children, which I did not particularly enjoy, but they were obsessed. With this phase done over another 6 months, I needed a break. I wanted laughter before we went to bed. I was picking up Roald Dahl and Dr Seuss, but they did not want any of that. They wanted to soak in the heavy stuff. This time I was lost. We did not know what was going to be our next. The following morning when I was at the library, the first person who walked in, returned Marcia Williams’ comic strip book of Shakespeare Plays. Now, that was a sign. It called out to me; I wanted to get into it and discover the Bard. So I took it home and within a week, my boys and I were hooked. We tasted, bit into, chewed and gobbled it; and in a fortnight I went back to the library and got another one from the series. We soaked ourselves into this one too. I was now bringing home several versions of ‘Shakespeare for children’ and having it for breakfast, lunch and dinner. When we could not read, we were playing quizzes, word games and 20 questions based on his works. It has been about 8 months, and we are still in love, maybe more than ever before. In April we attended the Literature Festival which celebrated the Bard’s 400th death anniversary. Who had to be there in the author line up, having sessions on Shakespeare and signing her books? Marcia Williams. With more books signed by her, our bookshelves are bursting, and we have gone back to our favourite Much Ado about Nothing, Romeo & Juliet and Comedy of Errors. What about you? What are you and your kids reading right now ????

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