Brainstorm for Quantity, not Quality

Being Creative

The problem: We have to fight through the boring ideas to get to the exciting ones.How do you fight through the boring ideas?

Just come up with LOTS of ideas

Sooner or later you will get to the exciting ones.

Kids and Creativity

Do you ever feel that some kids are really creative?

They come up with Gucci ideas while yours are like smelly tennis shoes?

It is true that some kids are more creative. 

Just like some kids are better at math or basketball or blowing bubbles.

But anyone can learn to be creative.
Just follow these three steps:

  1. Brainstorm for quantity, not quality.
  2. Grade the ideas.
  3. Put the A ideas in order.

There Are No Silly Ideas

People are often afraid to tell others their ideas. They are afraid someone will laugh. It’s as if they have a black cloud instead of a mind. The black cloud makes them afraid to say anything.

To overcome that black cloud, brainstorm as many ideas as possible in a short time. No matter how silly, write down the idea. Do not waste time neatly writing down the ideas in detail.

What, after all, is “silly”? A little over a century ago, flying was called silly and stupid. They said that if people were meant to fly, then God would have given us wings.


Brainstorm for Quantity - Activity 1

Ms. Smith is taking a class of 20 fifth graders camping overnight. Two classroom aides and two parents are also going. The class is taking ATV recreational vehicles to get to the campsite.

Two days before leaving, Ms. Smith and the two chaperones brainstorm what could go wrong.

They brainstorm 50 possible problems, including –


  1. bee sting
  2. run out of gas
  3. flat tire
  4. kid falls off from a tree
  5. wet firewood
  6. no firewood
  7. someone forgot sleeping bag
  8. someone did not bring extra clothing
  9. bear eats all the food
  10. zombies invade the camp
  11. someone has an allergic reaction to a bug bite
  12. kids fight
  13. it gets cold
  14. someone catches a cold
  15. forgot bread
  16. forgot matches
  17. someone falls in a hole
  18. rain
  19. aliens arrive
  20. kids sneak out of camp
  21. someone has an allergic reaction to a bug bite
  22. someone forgot their permission slip
          • Does Ms. Smith’s list contain any silly ideas?
          • Which idea is least likely to happen?
          • Which ideas are most likely to happen?


Brainstorm for Quantity - Activity



What you will need:

Someone to monitor each group of about four children.  Borrow kids from upper-level classes or ask parents to sit in.

Several of the smelliest gym socks you can find. Put them in Ziploc bags.

A clock the students cannot see.  One with a stopwatch is best.  Cellphones almost always have them.

  1. Divide the class into teams of three or four with equal “creative power” on each team.
  2. One good way to do that is to have a “draft,” similar to that of football. Let us say you have a classroom of 16. Pick four highly creative kids. They do not need to be the smartest. Meet with them privately – do not do this in front of others – and have them choose team members. The student with the weakest creative and/or leadership skills chooses first. Student A chooses one student, then Student B, and so on.
  3. You will need: A monitor for each group. The monitor writes down the kids’ answers. The monitor – another teacher, an aide, a parent, a high school student – is to say nothing during the game.
  4. Classroom arrangement: Move the teams away from each other, either at their desks or on the floor, if that is an option. Remove the clock. You don’t want students to know the time.
  5. Explain the “rules” to the class:
    • Say: I am going to give you a situation. You and your teammates will tell your monitor what could go wrong. If anyone teases someone else for their ideas, then you get a smelly sock.  (You need several.)
    • Do not try to solve problems. You do not need to explain them in detail. Your monitor will write them down.
    • There will be a prize. (You, the teacher, can choose to name it or not.) To be eligible for the prize, your team must come up with at least 15 things that could go wrong.
    • The team with the most idea wins.
    • You will have three minutes.