Nurturing out-of-the-box thinking in your child

(image source
(image source

Have you ever wondered WHAT is the driving force behind the highly dynamic and advancing technological era of the 21st century? HOW solutions to Africa’s chronic problems are being found? WHY living has become more convenient today than it was 50 years ago?

The answers to those questions are many and varied but the key driver behind all of them is:

“the ability to create and innovate”

Innovation distinguishes between a leader and a follower. Innovation employs an approach to thinking coined ‘lateral thinking’ by Dr. Edward de Bono, in 1967. Lateral thinking is the ability to think creatively, or “outside the box”, to use your inspiration and imagination to solve problems by looking at them from unexpected perspectives. It involves discarding the obvious, leaving behind traditional modes of thought, and throwing away preconceptions.

The crux of the matter however is:

Is the African child being nurtured to be innovative and creative so as to advance development in Africa and the world at large? Are the traditional schooling systems in Africa geared to produce thinkers who will solve problems in Africa?

If Africa ever hopes to become autonomous in addressing her own problems and advancing sustainable development her children NEED to become lateral thinkers. This article will hopefully provide a parent with ideas on how to nurture lateral thinking in their child.

An exercise to show why lateral thinking is needed

A bat and a ball cost $1.10. The bat costs R1 more than the ball. How much does the ball cost?

The first answer that comes to your mind is 10c, right? The distinctive mark of this puzzle is that it evokes an answer that is intuitive, appealing and wrong. How can it possibly be wrong, you might ask?

If the ball costs 10c, then the total cost would be $1.20, not $1.10, not so? (10c for the ball and $1.10 for the bat). The correct answer (after you’ve probably done a little more analyzing like I had to) is actually 5c.

The purpose of this puzzle is to observe your brain in autopilot and to notice how intuitive impressions can ‘block’ our minds from ‘seeing’ possible solutions to impending problems.

Lateral thinking helps one to break free of traditional thinking patterns and enables problems to be solved via an indirect or creative approach that is not always immediately obvious and often involves ideas that may not be attainable by employing step-by-step logic.


How Steve Jobs Innovative Edge redeemed Apple

When Steve Jobs returned to Apple after 12 years, the company needed a controversial $150 million investment from their archrival, Microsoft, to stay afloat. It was on its knees and on the verge of folding up. Rather than give up, Steve Jobs used ‘innovative ideas’ which fuelled a resounding comeback for Apple. Read the story here.

Innovation not only redeemed Apple back then but is still the main ingredient that gives Apple its competitive edge today.

‘I believe that Apple, and other companies, will continue to make progress and improve our technology.  If Apple stays smart, they’ll continue to be a leader.’ Says Malcolm Teas

Practical ways to develop lateral thinking in your child

Research has shown that children that are more right-brain oriented are normally the lateral thinkers, while the left-brain children are more of the logical thinkers. The right side of the brain deals with visual and creative (heuristic) thinking whilst the left side deals with verbal and logical (algorithmic) reasoning. You may be wondering whether left-brain children can be trained to think laterally and the answer is ‘they can’.

Edward de Bono, author of “Teach Your Child How to Think” says that we use vertical ways of thinking daily to do everyday things but it is the lateral thinking process that we use to generate ideas. Sadly, the mainstream education system in Africa and the world over does not nurture lateral thinking. The responsibility to deliberately nurture this thinking-approach in children therefore rests largely on a parent’s shoulders.

De Bono’s book provides effective ways to nurture lateral thinking and so do the following tips:

  1. Brainteasers, insight puzzles, drawings and riddles -which often come packaged in activity books –are helpful for developing lateral thinking in children. An example of lateral thinking exercises can be found here

  2. Providing children with practical opportunities that stimulate their creativity and problem solving abilities.
    • Niki Everitt, a Cape Town-based Montesssori educator says, ‘I remember watching a youngster mountain climbing with his dad down below holding the rope. The father wasn’t shouting instructions to his son on how and where he should place his hands and feet, but rather ‘there’ holding the rope should anything go wrong. The child chose his own route and method, according to his own ability, size and strength, and was really chuffed with himself when he had reached the top, knowing that he had made a good plan…Surely that young boy will be better equipped to make good decisions in life than a boy who is constantly being steered in one direction only?’
    • Another practical example could be to provide your child with cupcakes to decorate. Do not give them the exact amount of ingredients required to do so, just enough for them to be able to make a plan. The aim is that they should come up with their own ideas of decorating with the limited resources they have. DO NOT interfere with the process. Let them create on their own accord.
    • I had a defining moment with my 3-year-old son, along the same lines, a few weeks ago. He has been constructing 12-pc jigsaw puzzles under my supervision and I would often step-in to help him when I noticed that he was stuck. One this particular day though, I decided not to interfere or ‘guide’ which gave him room to navigate his own way and ‘unstick’ himself where he got stuck. I was amazed by the results. In a little over 30minutes, he had solved five 12-pc puzzles on his own! Lateral thinking certainly entails giving your child the latitude to explore and solve problems on his own.
  3. Asking your child open ended questions also gives them room to think laterally. Allowing your child to at times answer their own questions will fuel creative thinking
  4. There are also great apps for children to get brain-challenged and these include:
    • Pip and Posy Activities
    • Pettson’s Inventions
    • Questimate! Pro
    • Hairy Balls


Facebook Comments

We'd love to hear your thoughts on this article

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.