Leveraging your child’s natural ability for divergence.

The Oxford dictionary definition of ‘divergent’ means “tending to be different, or develop ‘different directions’.

When looking at optical illusions, we almost need to step back to work out what is going on, and because each of us have our own natural perspectives, naturally we would see different things.

On first look, what do you see in the images below? Lambs in the meadow being tended by a farmer or something more?

creative commons image
creative commons image

Four bars or three? Well that depends entirely on your perspective.

Source: seen on stewpig
Source: seen on stewpig

Getting stuck.

So we all have this natural ability to look at things differently so how often are our children getting to strengthen and practice this natural gift?

Not so long ago, I used to prepare teenagers for high stakes examinations. We would practice past examination papers and solve potential word problems and essay questions that could potentially appear on their final exam. Now, the kids became very familiar with the learning material, but what I discovered was that when the layout of the exam paper changed (as they did, from time to time) some of the students were thrown as the whole experience of sitting the paper suddenly became unfamiliar. Their panic button got hit, their anxieties rose and they just could not get their learning out onto the paper.

These kids, could not find a way  into their exam other than the way they were familiar with.

Leveraging a child’s  natural ability.

A useful strategy I have found when supporting young people for exams is to get them looking at optical illusions and having a talk about what we could each see. Working on brain teasers was another goody.

Offering multiple perspectives opens up the mind to what is possible and so when the mind is open we get to find our own pathway to figure things out. We also get to see relationships, make connections to parts of a problem that we also may not have considered. Talking about how to tackle problems also gave way to the opportunity of letting the students know that they did actually know the answers, so if they felt initially floored by a problem or situation they needed to remain calm (strategies to come in a later post) and have the self belief that they could draw on the thinking strategies taught to unpick the situation/ or problem so that they could solve it.

A few helpful strategies:

– Playing any game that involves strategy.

– completing brain teasers and puzzles.

– Giving children a real life challenge to solve i.e. Get them to organise their own birthday celebrations using a $100 float (if they are old enough).

– Support them to reflect on their thinking and strategies i.e. “So, you have been given a $100 for your party and you want to spend it all on the food. What will your friends be doing in terms of a fun activity at your party?”

Do you have other ways that you encourage your children to look at things differently?


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