My oldest son is 11, and, most weeks, his teacher sends home a brain teaser for the kids to try. This week she sent home the following:
How can you throw a ball as hard as you can and have it come back to you, even if it doesn’t hit anything, there is nothing attached to it, and no one else catches or throws it?
Do you know?
I posed the question to all 3 of my kids, the 11 year old, the 8 year old and the 6 year old. The 11 year old is in a gifted program and is used to getting tough questions. The 8 year old is used to being told she is smart and having to solve above-grade level problems. The 6 year old is Loki reincarnated, happy jokester, chaos maker, rule breaker.
As soon as I threw the question out, the big kids started throwing out answers like “You throw it so hard it goes around the world and comes back to you.” or “It’s a yo-yo” [someone forgot the factoid about having nothing attached] or “You’re in space”. Loki hopped around, listening to Big Brother and Big Sister’s answers before waving his arm wildly screaming, “I KNOW, I KNOW, I KNOW!”
Wanting to include Loki in the discussion without condescending or acting patronizing, I asked him to share his idea. Without stopping for breath or lowering his voice, he yelled out:
YOU THROW IT UP IN THE AIR AND IT COMES DOWN AND YOU CATCH IT!!! YOU THROW IT UP IN THE AIR AND IT COMES DOWN AND YOU CATCH IT!!! YOU THROW IT UP IN THE AIR AND IT COMES DOWN AND YOU CATCH IT!!! HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!!! YOU THROW IT UP IN THE AIR AND IT COMES DOWN AND YOU CATCH IT!!!
Surely no one in the history of puzzles has been more excited and impressed with himself for finding the answer. He didn’t even need me to say, “Wow, the six year old got the answer before the eight year old and the eleven year old. What’s going on?” Loki kept jumping and waving and yelling the answer over and over. That’s joy, people.
What can you learn from a 6-year old?
- Joy to the world. Would it have mattered to Loki if he had gotten the question wrong? Nope. He had so much fun just participating. He threw his whole body, mind and spirit into the game and let it all out. That’s the way to live your life.
- Open minded acceptance of the challenge: Loki didn’t worry about not being as smart or as old or as schooled as Big Brother or Big Sister. He took up the challenge on his own and went for it. He didn’t assume that it was a complex problem. He solved it at his level – and, in this instance, his level was the right level
- Don’t make the problem harder than it is. Try the simplest solution first. It might well be the best solution.
- (For me and other parents and caretakers): NEVER underestimate Loki.
So my suggestion for today is simple: Don’t act your age. Act like a 6 year old. See what happens. You might surprise yourself. Report back on the comments!
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