Remember the story Stone Soup? In this classic tale, hungry but clever travelers—with nothing but stones and water—convince reluctant villagers to contribute food toward a huge, communal pot of “stone soup.” There are countless versions of this classic tale of problem solving, creativity and collaboration told across the world.
In our Tinkergarten Anywhere trial lesson, we invite your explorer to transform stones, water and the natural treasures around them into their very own marvelous soup.
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Step 1: Watch the Tinkergarten Anywhere Stone Soup video lesson.
Hop into your My Tinkergarten trial dashboard to watch the Stone Soup video lesson. Not yet signed up? Click here to try this free Tinkergarten Anywhere lesson. Kids can watch how Meghan and other explorers make Stone Soup, then get inspired to make their own marvelous soup!
Step 2: Gather a few soup making tools.
Grab the following materials, then head outside to play:
Pot, bowl or bucket
Container of water (e.g. filled water bottle)
Stone or rock
Spoon or stick for stirring
Step 3: Give an invitation.
Ask kids, “How do you make stone soup? Should we try to make some?” Gently help kids recall that you need a pot, water and stones to get the soup started. Produce a pot or bucket and help kids fill their pails with water. Then, hand each kid a stone to “plop” in the pot. Once kids put their stones into the water, they’re ready to make stone soup.
Step 4: Shop for ingredients.
Remind kids that they will need to add other “foods” to make their soup “delicious.” To get them started, look around and find something from nature (e.g. a leaf, stick, pinch of dirt). Add it to the soup, announcing that it is an ingredient (e.g. carrots, potatoes, salt and pepper). Say something like, “Ooo...we could pretend the grass is carrots. What do you think? These will make our soup even tastier.” Welcome kids to "shop" in their outdoor space for more ingredients.
Step 5: Cook the soup.
Give plenty of time for kids to continuing to gather ingredients as well as adding, stirring, mashing, etc. Make time to sniff and pretend to taste the soup, oohing and ahhing, remarking about the color and aroma of the broth as any good chef would do.
Extend the Play!
If kids are really enjoying making Stone Soup, try some of these ideas to keep the play going:
Build a pretend fire: Work together to collect sticks and build a “fire” to cook your soup. Stoke the pretend fire, adding wood as needed. For more ideas, read our Pretend Fire DIY here.
Cook up more pretend food: Ask kids what other pretend foods they could make with water, dirt and the natural ingredients around them. You can give them buckets, pots, pie tins, or anything else you don’t mind getting dirty.
Wrap up with a feast: Set a “table” with sticks, leaves, and other “utensils.” Pretend to sip and savor the soup (without actually eating any, of course). Host a picnic for stuffed animal friends. When finished, dump out the remaining soup and remind kids that all of their ingredients will go back into the soil, which will help make more yummy ingredients for future soups!
Why is this activity great for kids?
As kids transform natural objects into a marvelous pretend soup, they activate their problem solving skills as well as their divergent thinking (one of the core components of creativity). Gathering ingredients, mashing, mixing and stirring activate multiple senses and various behavioral schema, the universal play patterns that support brain development. Best of all, activities like this give kids an easy starting place for imaginative play they can repeat and iterate on any time they are outside. With just a container and a bit of water, the possibilities are endless!
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By creativity, we mean the ability to both imagine original ideas or solutions to problems and actually do what needs to be done to make them happen. So, to help kids develop creativity, we parents need to nurture kids' imaginations and give them lots of chances to design, test, redesign and implement their ideas.
"Creativity is as important now in education as literacy, and we should treat it with the same status.”
Why, you ask? For one, it is through being creative that a person is able to get senses, sensibility and spirit working together. Simply put, without creativity, we don't think our kids will live a full life.
On a more practical level, it's also the means by which humans of all ages make an impact on the world and other people around them. A lot of heavy stuff is going to go down in our kids' lifetime, and their generation will need to imagine and implement solutions to big and very complicated problems. Although our kids are still far from public office or the boardroom, today's political and business leaders worldwide are already pointing to creativity as the most important leadership quality for the future.
Although years from the art studio or design lab, little kids can learn to think and act creatively if you give them time and the right practice.
What is Imagination?
Imagination is defined in many ways, but one we like is, "the act or power of forming a mental image of something not present to the senses or never before wholly perceived in reality." This is no small task to little kids, and yet young childhood is a time in which imagination is developed more than any other. How does imagination develop in childhood? Through an increasingly sophisticated life of make believe.
We all likely have a sense of what we mean by make believe or good old "pretend play." How do experts define it, though? To some, there are different types of make believe that vary in sophistication and make pretend play different than other types of play. For example, kids may use objects to represent something else (e.g. a block becomes a cell phone). Or, they may start to give an object certain properties (e.g. a doll is asleep or a tree is on fire!). Still yet, they may themselves take on the properties of someone or something else.
From there, pretend play evolves into acting out scenarios or stories, those getting increasingly intricate as imagination develops. As kids' pretend play grows more sophisticated, these stories come to involve not only the creative use of objects, but multiple perspectives (e.g. good and bad guys in the same story), and/or the playful manipulation of ideas and emotions (e.g. I am sad, but then become happy after I save the village from certain doom).
Why does it matter?
An ever growing body of research substantiates the many benefits of pretend play including the enhanced development of: language and communication skills; self-control and empathy; flexible and abstract thinking; and creativity. These are the skills that will help kids balance emotions, form healthy relationships, work effectively on teams, stay focused in school, be successful at various jobs and solve the problems of an increasingly complicated world. An individual's creativity in particular, both requires and is limited by her imagination.
What are Problem Solving Skills?
When we talk about problem solving, we mean the ability to solve a problem in which the solution is not obvious and in which the possible paths to solution are many. To solve such problems, kids will need two things. First, they’ll need the self confidence and comfort to both attempt to find and persist in finding a solution. The only way to develop this is to be given the chance to struggle with ambiguous situations or open-ended problems. We parents are all guilty, from time to time, of helping kids avoid struggle or swooping in to alleviate frustration when our kid encounters challenge. The goal is actually to do the opposite whenever possible. As long as the problem is not too difficult to understand or challenging to solve, even young kids can get comfortable with the feeling of not knowing the solution and fall in love with the joy of finding a solution to a problem.
Kids also need strategies to attack problems with which they are faced. If adults are able to work with kids to solve problems “as a team” but in such a way that the children feel and act “in charge” of the decisions, adults can actually teach foundation problem solving skills and strategies through modeling. For example, when you solve a problem together, kids get practice with key parts of the process like brainstorming, testing ideas, revision and solution. It’s also pretty easy to model how to use simple strategies like trial and error or breaking a problem down into smaller parts. Although children age 1 to 7 should not be expected to name, catalog or identify when to use a particular problem solving strategy, they are able to form habits and repeat approaches once those habits or approaches have become familiar. The more problems they solve, the better they know and can use these methods.
Why does it matter?
“The highest ranked skills for students entering the workforce were not facts and basic skills; they were applied skills that enable workers to use the knowledge and basic skills they have acquired” (Source: Are They Really Ready for Work? Conference Board 2006).
Although it seems a long way to go before our young children are hitting the job market, the ability to solve challenging, ambiguous problems has already been identified as a critical skill for success in the 21st Century. With advances in technology, finding information has never been easier. However, knowing how to interpret a problem and use available information to devise a solution still needs to be learned. And, we fear that the classrooms of today are neither designed nor incentivized to teach these skills effectively. In most schools, so much time is spent learning discrete skills, that applied skills like problem solving are wildly underemphasized. In a world that demands it, it is increasingly necessary that children learn and practice these skills outside of school.