‘I am going to follow the rules’ - said no kid ever.
We hated rules as kids. We loathed routines. We disliked coloring within the lines. We didn't want to play regular, old tag or four square. We wanted to design our own creations. Draw up our own plans. Make our own rules.
We were unruly.
When our team at Unruly Studios decided to design toys for STEM learning, we wanted to respect the unruly side of kids. We think this unruliness leads to creativity, confidence, and growth. In parenting and education, we often ask our children to find the single best solution to a problem. Kids who come up with unusual answers, question the rules, or insist on doing things their own way are often corrected or reprimanded. These responses can be problematic because they discourage children’s divergent thinking, or ability to generate new ideas.
Sarah Hayden, author of Creativity is for Everybody recounts an episode she observed between a mother and her toddler. “The little boy started kicking an acorn and said to his mother, ‘Ball!,’” she writes, “the mother quickly and matter-of-factly replied, ‘No, that is not a ball, that is an acorn.’” Instead of insisting that the boy was wrong, the mother could have taken this opportunity to engage in a divergent thinking exercise: “Yes that looks like a ball...what are all the other things this acorn might be?”
As parents and educators, we need to support and nurture children’s creativity by recognizing its importance and practicing creative thinking skills.These skills include both convergent and divergent thinking. While convergent thinking involves analyzing constraints and selecting the best solution, divergent thinking involves generating ideas and exploring possibilities.
In order to explore all possibilities, it is sometimes necessary to break the rules, and set our goals to teach kids to code. Ethan Zuckerman, director of M.I.T.’s Center for Civic Media states, “You make progress when people follow the rules and work their way through the processes, and then sometimes you make very radical progress by someone who essentially says, ‘Look, these processes don’t work anymore, and I need to have a radical shift in what I’m doing.’” His lab deems unruliness so essential to progress, in fact, they have created a brand new award for it. Its first recipients, Dr. Mona Hanna Attisha and Marc Edwards, broke the rules of the peer review process to publicize their research about Flint, Michigan’s water crisis. Their unruliness triggered interventions that stopped further exposure before the situation worsened.
In most educational settings for kids coding, children spend the majority of their time seated. And when crammed schedules of schools and parents make time for STEM learning, recess and play are often nixed in the process. We don’t think teaching kids to code means desks and chairs, as a rule. And we don’t believe kids who dislike desks and chairs can’t learn to code. So our team at Unruly Studios decided to combine STEM learning and coding for kids to develop Unruly Splats.
We knew there were more possibilities for children’s coding education. That is why we created Unruly Studios and our line of products: Unruly Splats. We make toys that celebrate stomping, jumping, dancing and active, creative play. Unruly Splats invite kids to break the rules, and make their own rules.
“There are no rules. That is how art is born, how breakthroughs happen. Go against the rules or ignore the rules. That is what invention is about.”