Creative Thinking Prompt: Engineering Gingerbread Houses


For some people, making gingerbread houses is a tradition. For others, it’s a fun party activity. Whatever your reason for constructing a gingerbread house this year, the house needs a solid foundation. Before you start building, think about these things as you begin to design.



Construction Materials


Visual Appeal


At Brown University, the students of the Society of Women Engineers (SWE) host an annual gingerbread building contest to see whose aesthetically appealing house can withstand an earthquake shake. Competitors are given graham crackers, icing, marshmallows, gumdrops, cereal, gummy sharks and more sweets. They have one hour to build a 6 x 6 x 6 hollow house.

Creative Thinking Prompt: Experiment with Building a Gingerbread Structure

After you’ve sketched a house design, try experimenting with different types of building materials. For the outside walls – graham crackers, wafers, rice crackers, multi-grain crackers, thin cookies. For the “adhesive” – marshmallows, marshmallow fluff, different types of frosting, royal icing, melted gummy bears. Which materials worked best?

Once you’ve constructed your building and added decorations, try shaking it to see if it would withstand a quake. Which structure/design worked best?

To learn more about SWE’s contest, view:

To inspire you, view some beautiful gingerbread buildings at:

One Family


“One Family

 How many things can One be? One isn’t just singular – it is made of many.


A family comes in all shapes and sizes. In the book, One Family celebrates families and their individuality.


Illustrator Blanca Gomez’s pictures show what else One can be as well as the different varieties that families come in.

This book promotes flexible thinking, individuality, and parts of a whole.

TITLE: One Family

AUTHOR: George Shannon


PUBLISHER: Farrar Straus Giroux Books for Young Readers, 2015


CREATIVE COMPONENTS: flexible thinking, individuality, and parts of a whole


1) Think of one as plural. What else is one? Make a list. Also, think globally. For example, one community and one country.

2) What number makes up your family? Once you have your number, list three other things that is that number. For example, if 12 is your family number, then… One is twelve. One dozen eggs. One bag of tennis balls. One family.


To learn more about author George Shannon, visit:

To learn more about illustrator Blanca Gomez, visit:

Creative Thinking Prompt: Snow Artist Simon Beck


Simon Beck Snow Art

12-2-16 Creative Thinking Prompt: Snow Artist Simon Beck

With an engineering background and a keen sense of direction, snowshoe-cladded Simon Beck treks through the snow creating awe-inspiring geometric art.

In this six minute video, watch Beck work and discover what inspires his designs.

Creative Thinking Prompt: Design a geometric image. First sketch it on paper, then draw it in fresh snow or in sand.

To learn more about Simon Beck, visit:

To view more of Simon Beck’s snow art, visit:

“All Year Round”


“All Year Round

 In All Year Round, author Susan Katz creates whimsical, rhyming poems that teach shapes, seasons, and the twelve months of the year – all rolled into one. Each month is paired with a shape. March is paired with an oval.


July and summer are paired with a rectangle.


Eiko Ojala’s 3-D illustrations make you want to jump into the book.

This book promotes concepts, making connections, nature and flexible thinking.

TITLE: All Year Round

AUTHOR: Susan Katz


PUBLISHER: Orchard Books, 2016


CREATIVE COMPONENTS: flexible thinking, nature, making connections


1) What’s your favorite shape? What is your favorite month of the year? Connect your shape and month – what do they share in common?

2) How many shapes can you think of? Brainstorm for at least ten minutes, making a list of all the shapes you can think up. Pick six shapes from your list and use them together to form an image.


To learn more about author Susan Katz, visit:

To learn more about illustrator Eiko Ojala, visit:

Creative Thinking Prompt: How Will You Fill Your Cornucopia?


Creative Thinking Prompt: How will you fill your cornucopia?

Cornucopias are common symbols of the Earth’s harvest and abundance. Shaped like a horn, it is filled to the brim with fruits and vegetables of the season. Originally from Greek mythology, the goat’s horn, which nourished Zeus, never went dry. Later Zeus put the goat’s image in the sky, now known as constellation Capricorn. This story is one of many that surrounds the cornucopia. “Cornu” means “horn” in Latin.

Play Roll A Cornucopia, a free game from 3 Dinosaurs. Then invent your own cornucopia game. What will you fill your cornucopia with?


To learn more about the cornucopia, visit:

Think Deeper: What else can a cornucopia be used for?

Frida and Bear Play the Shape Game


Frida and Bear Play the Shape Game”

Best friends Frida and Bear love to draw until one day Bear runs out of ideas. Frida draws a strange shape.


Bear draws the shape into a dog.


And the Shape Game begins. Bear hands Frida a twig. She draws wings around the twig to create a butterfly. The friends take turns drawing and inventing new pictures.

This story promotes imagination, flexible thinking, making connections, and creative expression.

TITLE: Frida and Bear Play the Shape Game

AUTHOR: Anthony Browne

ILLUSTRATOR: Hanne Bartholin

PUBLISHER: Candlewick Press, 2015


CREATIVE COMPONENTS: imagination, flexible thinking, making connections, creative expression


1) Draw an unusual shape. Have your partner transform it into something else. Take turns drawing.

2) Play the Shape Game from the book to create an entire new world.


To learn more about author Anthony Browne, visit:

Hanne Bartholin is a Danish illustrator and recipient of the Danish Ministry of Culture Illustration Prize.

Here’s a previous post about a drawing game called Squiggles.

Creative Thinking Prompt: Napkin Folding Art

Creative Thinking Prompt: Napkin Folding Art


What can you create with a napkin? Folding artist Joan Sallas recreates history through his napkin folding art. His sculptures feature griffins, snakes, turkeys, turtles, horses and much more. Each sculpture design is based on his research about the banqueting tables of Renaissance Europe. A true creative, he craves the discovery of creating new folds.

To view Joan Sallas napkin art, watch Joan Sallas: Folded Beauty Masterpieces in Linen at Waddesdon:

So as you set your dinner table, create some art and flair with napkin folding.

To learn more about Joan Sallas and his work, visit:

“Grandpa Gazillion’s Number Yard”


“Grandpa Gazillion’s Number Yard 

Numbers aren’t only for counting! Have a special problem? In Grandpa Gazillion’s Number Yard, Grandpa Gazillion has a number that can fix it. Select from numbers 1 – 20 in his yard. Laurie Keller writes and illustrates a creative counting story in rhyme.



This book promotes flexible thinking, imagination, humor, and creativity.

TITLE: Grandpa Gazillion’s Number Yard

AUTHOR: Laurie Keller

ILLUSTRATOR: Laurie Keller

PUBLISHER: Henry Holt and Company, 2005


CREATIVE COMPONENTS: flexible thinking, imagination, humor, creativity


1) Pick five numbers between twenty-one and thirty. What problem can each number solve? Look at the shapes, curves and lines of each number. Look at them from different perspectives – left, right, upside down. Invent five unusual uses for each chosen number.

2) Continue the Story. In your bedroom, find four objects that resemble numbers. Now replace each “number object” with a different number. Does it change the original object’s function?

3) Number Conga Square. Without lifting your pencil make a continuous line, writing as many numbers as you can inside a 2” x 2” square.


To learn more about author/illustrator Laurie Keller, visit:

Creative Thinking Prompt: Pushing Creative Bounds

Creative Thinking Prompt: Pushing Creative Bounds


©Christoph Niemann

Creative Christop Niemann pushes himself to become a better illustrator by stepping outside of his comfort zone. He picks a single object and looks at it, trying to envision how this object can become part of a larger image.

His book Sunday Sketching is a result of his internal drive to be creative.


To learn more about Christoph Niemann and his work, visit:

Creative Thinking Prompt: Create your own work of art, using a singular object and incorporating it into an image.

Here’s my work – Crocodile Key.


Think Deeper: Create a series of these artworks and use them to create a story.

“A Poke In The I: A Collection of Concrete Poems”

“A Poke In The I: A Collection of Concrete Poems

In A Poke In The I, Paul Janeczko selected thirty concrete poems. Concrete poems, sometimes called shape poems, are when the words or letters are arranged into the shape of the object that the poem is about, further enhancing the message the poem is imparting.


© A Seeing Poem by Robert Fromon

For me, concrete poems are poetry for my eyes.


© GIRAFFE by Maureen W. Amour

According to illustrator Chris Raschka, “Concrete poetry is the yoga of words.” In this book, his illustrations add further depth to each poet’s poem.


© MERGING TRAFFIC by Allen Jones

This poetry book promotes flexible thinking, imagination, wonder, and different perspectives.

TITLE: A Poke In The I

Selected by: Paul B. Janeczko

ILLUSTRATOR: Chris Raschka

PUBLISHER: Candlewick Press, 2001


CREATIVE COMPONENTS: flexible thinking, imagination, wonder, different perspectives


1) Write a concrete poem about concrete. Using the words or the letters to shape your poem. Get creative and use different fonts to help convey your poem. What message do you want your poem to express to readers?

To learn more about writing concrete poems, visit:

2) Choose a compound word to write a concrete poem about.


To learn more about poet Paul B. Janeczko, visit:

To learn more about illustrator Chris Raschka, visit: