Classroom Activities to Get Kids Thinking Outside the Box

Whether you’re helping out in the classroom, or you have a group of your child’s classmates at your home, use this opportunity to encourage your youngsters to think outside the box with some new activities. You can encourage them to make new associations and solve problems, and help them find out just how much fun thinking can be with a little creativity and imagination.

Word Play

For group play at home or in school, the game “Connect” can promote listening and creative thinking. Start the game with a group of children sitting in a circle. Ask a child to volunteer the first word. Then, have the next child say a related word. Continue around the circle, allowing each child time to think. Challenge the youngsters occasionally to explain the association they’ve made. When the game is finished, go around the circle again and have each child say his word without pausing. Make sure to celebrate a successful completion of the word circle. When it’s just two children, or just you and your child, alter the game by going back and forth for three or four turns each and then repeating the words. In both versions, make sure to celebrate successful additions, even if they stray from the original word.

Explain It

This activity challenges kids to focus their words on specific objects. The game set-up requires the object or a picture of the object, and an adult playing the “I don’t know what this is" role. Objects can range from a flower to a tractor, to a cell phone, to anything in between. The children’s task is to describe the object’s appearance and function as if the adult has never seen the object before. Once the dialog starts, let the conversation wander and explore all possible connections. For instance, if a child says a tractor can be used to “go to the moon," help him make the connection between a tractor and a spaceship. Point out the commonalities, such as:

  • wings
  • rockets
  • a source for air

You can even help him draw a picture of a flying tractor.

Communal Drawing

With a simple dry erase or chalk board, you can play “Squiggles” to build a child’s creativity and encourage her to think outside of the box. This game starts with a simple wavy line drawn on the board. Then, issue a task, such as “Make the squiggle faster." Some kids may draw wheels on the squiggle; others may give it feet. Keep building the squiggle into a fleshed-out character with additional tasks. After each turn, discuss the reasoning and results, making sure to praise all efforts. Alternatively, the “Shape” game sparks creativity and expands a child’s understanding of circles, rectangles, squares and triangles. Using the dry-erase or chalk board, introduce the kids to these shapes and then discuss how they relate. For example, a child may connect a triangle to a pizza slice. If so, ask what happens when a whole bunch of slices are put together. The correct answer -- the formation of a circle -- can lead to the next shape discussed.


This game helps kids realize how creativity solves problems. To play, pose a scenario where an important machine, appliance or vehicle stops working and ask your child or group to figure out alternatives. For instance, what would happen if every refrigerator stopped working? Make a running list of answers and explore the ramifications of each. If a child answers the fridge question with, “Move to the North Pole," point out the validity of the answer while addressing some of the chilly side effects. Besides technology, other scenarios could involve the loss of sensory ability (What would change if people lost the ability to see colors?) or resources (How would people build houses with no nails? ).

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