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So Many Uses – an activity designed to spark creativity and design thinking




Number of Participants: Any

Setting (Indoor / Outdoor): Any

Estimate Execution Time: 30 mins

‘So Many Uses’ is an activity designed to spark creativity and design thinking. Children examine the form, shape and structure of objects to come up with non-traditional ways in which these objects can be used. Use this activity by itself to encourage creative thinking. Or use it as a warm up before a group activity to get the brain cells buzzing.

  1. Blank sheets of paper
  2. Pens / pencils
  3. Timer / Mobile phone
  4. Objects available around the household. Ideas for objects: watch, reading glasses, bottle, glass, mug, mobile phone, cushion, earphones, pen, keys, book, scarf, hair clip, chair, walking stick, flower-vase, chalk, ruler, school bag, alarm clock, football, pen stand, notebook, etc.
  1. Collect a number of movable articles /objects from around the classroom or home and put them in one place.
  2. Each player can play individually. However, if there are more than 5 players, divide them into teams.
  3. Give one object to every team. Also give a paper and pen to each team.
  4. The task of the teams is to brainstorm and write as many uses of the given object as possible in 3 minutes.
  5. Before starting the activity, the facilitator should give one example using any object so that children understand what is expected of the task (see example below).
  6. Start the 3 minute timer.
  7. After time is up, instruct the teams to stop writing. Ask every team to assign one person to read out the list of uses.
  8. On a turn, the team’s speaker shows the team’s object to others and then reads the list of uses. The facilitator can ask other teams to add any additional uses of the same object.
  9. The team gets no. of points equal to the number of unique (non-repetitive) uses the team came up with. The team with maximum points wins the round.
  10. Play more rounds by using new objects.
  1. Was it easy or difficult to think about non-conventional uses of a certain object?
  2. Can they think of situations when such out-of-box thinking as helped them in the past / or would help them in the future?
  1. A facilitator’s role is to conduct the activity – put together the material, give instructions, ensure fairness and no cheating, keep score, ask reflection questions and summarise the learning. Any extra tasks will be mentioned in other sections.
  2. Encourage the children to think out-of-box and widely. Try not to limit their thinking by asking them to justify a certain usage. You could ask clarification questions to know more about a certain use, without rejecting it.
  3. The facilitator does not have to take on the role of a teacher. Be careful that you don’t start preaching to the players from your own life experiences.
  4. Set up the activity like a game, to be fun. Do not make it stressful for the players such that they feel that they are being tested.
  1. When playing with younger children who cannot write yet, let the teams discuss among themselves and then report out loud all the uses discussed in one minute. No need to write down the uses.
  2. We encourage you to share with us the variations you try in the comments section below.
  1. Object: Mobile phone
    A mobile phone can be used as a paper weight, as a mirror, as a camera, to play games, as a style accessory, to pretend that you are busy, as a flashlight, etc.
  2. Object: Pen
    A pen can be used as a measuring stick, for creating music by blowing air through it, to draw a straight line, the pen refill can be used to tie up hair or as a bracelet, etc.


Written by Saurabh Agarwal

Education and Public Policy Expert
Harvard and IIT Alumni

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