I was walking on the beach last weekend with my family and we started seeing a few sand dollars here and there. Then suddenly, we noticed an area that had a bunch of sand dollars partially burrowed into the sand. I’ve walked that area of the beach many times, but never noticed the concentration of sand dollars. Unless you are really paying attention and know what you’re looking for, you won’t see them. But once we identified one colony, we began to see that there were colonies all over! Sand dollars live in the sandy shallows of the ocean, often in very dense colonies. They use their pores (which appear in a petal pattern,) to move and burrow into the sand to avoid predators. Monterey Bay Aquarium says as many as 625 can live in one square yard. When they are alive, they aren’t white. They are kind of a blackish purple – so not as visible.
I was struck by what a metaphor for life this experience was. One of my main goals for the Kids’ Boxes, is to get kids to begin noticing things around them that they haven’t paid attention to before. After all, showing up and paying attention are half the battle – right? Showing up and noticing things will help kids in their schooling, their careers and their personal relationships. And yet, so much in our world today distracts us from noticing things and being present. How many times have you driven home from work or the grocery store and later couldn’t remember the drive? Why is it so hard to remember what we had for dinner a couple of days ago? Have you ever been introduced to someone and 2 minutes later can’t remember their name, much less what color their eyes were?
This fits into what is often called mindfulness – slowing down and being fully present, but I’m also referring to looking at the world through an artist’s eyes. What colors do you see in the water? What colors do you see in the sky? If the sky is blue, what kind of a blue is it? Does it get darker or change color closer to the horizon?
One of our boxes is about atmospheric perspective. When you look out across a landscape and the mountains that are farther away appear lighter and grayer than those in front of them, that is atmospheric perspective. Our Try It Texture Box, helps kids learn about real felt texture and visual texture. It comes with texture plates to make oil pastel rubbings, but then encourages them to go outside and see what textures they can find. Have you ever noticed what kind of a texture most outdoor concrete has? Our Positive & Negative Space Box comes with a book that you read one direction and then turn it upside down and read it back the other way with the same illustrations, but they look totally different! It is simply mind blowing!
If you want your child (or yourself), to get better at noticing and paying attention, our art project boxes will definitely help build that skill. You can also make a habit of doing some “spot the differences” puzzles. These are photographs or drawings that are essentially alike with very minor differences. These puzzles can be found in the comic section of newspapers, online, and in puzzle books. One of our favorites is the card game, SET. SET is a challenging & fun game for everyone. It helps us increase our abilities to spot patterns, similarities and differences. The really fun thing about this game is that it seems to be a level playing field for all ages.
Creativity is really just connecting the dots in ways that others haven’t – seeing patterns & relationships between seemingly unrelated things. Steve Jobs said “Creativity is just connecting things.” Becoming more observant is a great goal for all of us, no matter how old. Especially if it leads to creativity and innovation and will enhance our personal relationships.
“To pay attention, this is our endless and proper work.”
— Mary Oliver