Parents: Play “What is it?” with your Kids

Parents-Play-What-Is-ItThere was quite a buzz a couple of years ago at the Nashville Antique and Garden Show. It had to do with creative thinking! I share it with you because these are the kinds of things you should be asking your kids.

There was a sign posted at the front of one of the booths: “What should we do with these two wooden columns?”

They were about 6 feet tall and rather weathered. It caused a lot of conversation, and I loved it! People stopped and stared; some even walked around the columns. Then the ideas were offered:

 “Cut them in half, and make a coffee table.”

“Put glass shelves in between and make a bookcase.”

“A giant could use them for barbells!” (This gets extra credit!)

“Chop them up for kindling for a fire!”

“Paint faces on them, and make totem poles.”


You parents should be doing things like this around your house. Challenge your kids to think ‘out of the box,’ and turn it into a fun game.

I always keep the question of “What is it?” in mind when I’m with kids. It is great when you are waiting at the table in a restaurant, driving long distances, or when you are just out for a walk.  Find something – anything – and pick it up; look at it from all sides; say out loud, “What is it?” and then you give the first answer.

Then hand it to the person next to you. Here’s an example:


You are out walking and pick up a stick. Say, “What is it?” Take time to look at it from all sides.

Then give your answer… (for example) “An arrow!” and pretend to shoot it with a bow.

Then hand it to your child for his turn and pass it around to all who are there. (Yes, adults can have fun with this, too.) There are no real wrong answers – just some that are more creative.

Someone may simply say, “It’s a stick!”  You can accept it but encourage broader thinking next time as you play. Soon everyone gets into it.

You take it and say, “A cane!”  and pretend you walk slowly and need the help of a walking stick.

Next time, your child might say, “A sword,” and swing it around like Darth Vader!

Continue back and forth for a few minutes and watch the creative ideas flow. It’s exciting! It’s fun! And it will give you a little insight into your child’s spatial imagination.

Try to always be aware of the things around you. Talk about them with your kids. And then, put them to a different use!

What usually happens with me now is that out of nowhere my grand kids will look at me with a twinkle and a smile as they pick up something and say, “What is it?”

It’s easy and it’s fun – and it doesn’t cost anything!! Enjoy your creative thinking and watch your kids’ eyes shine! Send me some stories about the creative ideas that popped up!


2 thoughts on “Parents: Play “What is it?” with your Kids

  1. Lisa Jacobson says:

    I love this parenting practice. I encourages creativity. Even more, it reminds me of my own childhood when my father would encourage me to identify cloud formations. He’s say, “What is it?” I’d have a great time shouting out “It’s a ‘poodle’ or it’s a ‘truck’, or it’s a ‘dragon’ in the sky! It fostered in me a sense of wonder and curiosity that still remains with me.


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