Here’s a quick and simple game for kids. Give them some aluminum foil – an equal amount for each kid. Tell them to design a boat, and then take the boats outside and float them in tubs of water. Start adding pennies to each boat, and see which boat can hold the most pennies before sinking.
The lesson which the kids will learn is that large, flat and wide boats float better with pennies in them than small, narrow and steep boats. I read about this game in my mom’s blog – she’s a gifted teacher for young kids and presents them with these challenges that are appropriate for young kids. I’d argue most older people would struggle with this challenge, too.
When I was substitute teaching as a gifted teacher back in college*, I executed a plan laid out by the teacher (who, coincidentally, was my mom): here’s an egg, here’s a lot of paper, let’s go to the second story and construct a device that will get the egg to the ground without breaking. It’s a tough challenge! But kids managed to do it every year.
You can give anyone a challenge. As a kid, it’s easy to rise to it – everything is new and you WANT, desperately, to overcome. You’re going to apply yourself and overcome it, because you’re excited to learn, to challenge, to overcome. I think most of lose that feeling over the years. A challenge becomes an irritant, not a possibility. You just want things to go away instead of wanting to beat them. I know I do from time to time.
But life is full of challenges, and to live life fully you have to attack those challenges with the assumption they are solvable. Otherwise, you’re just going to take the path of least resistance and end up disappointed and frustrated. Build a great aluminum boat, and watch it float.
*I was a substitute junior high teacher throughout college and a college instructor for 3 years – I fully intended to be a teacher, and I’ve taught hundreds of hours of classroom time. So I say I was “a teacher” although I was simply an itinerant member of the profession.