Thursday, January 12, 2012

Catalyst for Imaginations

According to, some synonyms for the word "catalyst" are:  MOTIVATION, SPARK PLUG, STIMULANT and WAVE MAKER.  There are three different definitions, but the one that stuck out at me the most was "A person whose talk, enthusiasum or energy causes others to be more friendly, enthusiastic and energetic"

Take the following photo for's a catalyst....I'm thinking it is sparking some amount of curiosity in you?  Keep will see that the picture makes complete sense!

How we talk, how we imagine, how we express our enthusiasm COMPLETELY affects a child's blooming imagination.  We have the ability to be catalysts of imaginations!  Whether we ourselves motivate imagination, or something we plop down for discovery, we can motivate valuable imaginations! 

As easily as we can be catalysts for imaginations, we can also be crushers of imagination. 

Quickly judging a situation before taking the time to understand what is going on can crush an imagination.

 Telling a child to "stop being so silly" can quickly crush an imagination.

Telling a child that blocks can only be played with in the block area can quickly crush an imagination. 

Be a catalyst, not a crusher.

 The sky is the limit as to what could stimulate a child's imagination!  Take a balloon.  It's colorful, it's round, it's fun to play can be a catalyst for imaginations!

Prior to Monday of this week, this is what I knew to be true about balloons:

1.  Balloons are a great way to learn spatial awareness
2.  Balloons are a great way to develope eye-hand coordination
3.  Balloons are a great way to practice sharing and consideration.
4.  Balloons are a great way to enrich vocabularies.
5.  Balloons are FUN!
6.  Children LOVE balloons!

I added this to my list AFTER Monday:
7.  Balloons are a great catalyst for imaginations!

Here's what happened:
I simply took a brand new bag of balloons out.  I instantly had an audience.  I took out one balloon and I put it on the floor.  I then asked the children to pretend they were the balloon, and to do what the balloon was doing.  They quickly flopped down on the floor.

I picked up the balloon and slowly blew it up....reminding them that they were pretending to be the as the balloon did they!

Before tying the balloon, I let it flied a crazy path all around the room before flopping itself back onto the floor.  The children quickly followed suit giggling all the way.

I repeated this for a few times before tying the balloon and bouncing it with my hand.  No reminder was needed that they were pretending to be the balloon.  The pretending was effortless for them as they bounced around the room just like the balloon was doing.

We continued this exact process through 2 more balloons before someone asked if I would POP the balloon.  After a good discussion about the fact that a balloon popping can startle us and make our hearts "beep" faster......we popped a balloon.  So then...since they were the balloon.....there were 12 balloons popping around the room. 

After several more balloons popping, we finally blew up a balloon, tied it and moved on to even MORE imaginative play!
A simple game of "keep the balloon from hitting the floor" was where we were going....but, we ended up in a place simply oozing with imagination!

We talked about how we would work together to keep the balloon from falling to the ground where it would certainly pop because the ground was HOT LAVA (here's where MY enthusiasm and energy was the catalyst to imagination...because of the way I said this, with extreme anticipation and mystery, Ty decided on something even better):  "NO!  Denita!  It's not hot lava!  It's a swamp with lots of hungry alligators!!!"   WHOA....everyone LOVED that idea. 

Hearts were pumping, motivated balloon savers went to work.  Together they kept that balloon from falling to it's demise for far longer then I had expected 

When the balloon finally landed in the swamp, I quickly grabbed it (those cat-like reflexes come in handy now and again), but not before a gator nipped my finger. (Again, MY imagination and enthusiasm was the catalyst, the motivation for even MORE imagination!) That's when Erik (3 yrs old) came to the rescue.  "Nita!  You should have mittens on like I do" (in case you aren't following the "imagination theme" here, he did NOT have mittens on..this was his imagination busy at work)

From my encounter with the gator, the question was posed...."WHY aren't the alligators biting our feet?"  Bergen was quick with an answer:  "BECAUSE!  We are wearing hot lava boots!!"  (of course...duh)  The kids were ALL over that idea!!

Then Cole added to Erik's mitten comment with "....and fire mittens!!"

This game continued with the heart pounding adrenaline that real alligators in the room would have caused.  At one point, a balloon got caught in the balloon hammock above (I have giant scarves scarves pinned to the ceiling where we store the balloons...see photo).

Balloon Hammocks
 "Oh NO!" I said, with as much fear as I could muster "QUICK...we must get it down before the pteradactyl gets it!!!"

I cannot even begin to tell you the level of their imaginations.  The conviction that they played this very simple balloon game with was astonishing!  I wish I would have stepped away from the excitment to have caught some of it on video!

I did manage to capture this picture.......a dragon, in the balloon hammock, carefully placed there.  Why?  To scare away the pteradactyl of course!  GENIOUS!!

Take a closer look at what you have.  Can it be a catalyst?
Take a closer look at what you say, and how you say it.   Are you a catalyst?  OR.....are you a crusher?

GO!  Motivate imaginations!  Stimulate, spark and make waves!!