Do you know kids who:

  • say “I don’t know” a lot
  • copy the behaviors of other children
  • wait until another child offers an answer or idea and then agrees
  • appear a little reticent to play
  • rarely initiate
  • don’t suggest things to do or games to play in a highly engaging environment
  • have trouble sequencing simple steps to a project or physical activity
  • have difficulty remembering what they did last week or yesterday or this morning
  • cannot predict what will happen in a story as it’s being read

All of these behaviors exemplify children who have trouble with ideation; a concept that plays an enormous role in all aspects of life.  Two of my favorite definitions are:

1.  Ideation is the creative process of generating, developing, and communicating new ideas… Ideation is all stages of a thought cycle, from innovation, to development, to actualization. (From Wikipedia)

2.  the capacity for or the act of forming or entertaining ideas (from Merriam-Webster dictionary)

Ideational challenges make learning, social interactions, and physical activity problematic and negatively impact self-confidence and self-esteem.

Here are a few ideas we have tried with children in our groups with moderate to significant success:

  • Practice visualization.  Have the kids talk about and describe things that are familiar to them.  My co-worker, Sue Savoy, MS, CCC-SLP asked kids to describe Dunkin’ Donuts (If you are from New England, you can find a DD just about every 2 blocks!).  As the kids talked, they were able to “see” and describe more and more details such as the color of the sign, where the donuts are displayed, the color of the sprinkles on the donuts, and the people in line.
  • Follow the visualization exercise with a story without showing the pictures.  Have the kids describe the picture in their minds based on the words.  If the story is about a witch with stockings, what color are her stockings?  How old is the witch?  What does her hair look like?
  • Acting out stories is always fun.  Once a story is read, the kids can pick parts and picture where they will be acting out scenes and what they might use for props.  If they haven’t seen the actual pictures of the story, they will feel less like there is a “right” and “wrong” way and will be free to imagine and express themselves.
  • When kids are getting ready to transition from one room to another, take a moment to have them picture and describe the hall – what is in the hall?  Is anything on the walls or a rug on the floor?  What does the room they are going to look like?  Have the kids describe items and location of these items in the room with as much detail as possible.  Tell the kids where you expect them to go when they enter the room and have them visualize themselves going there and sitting down.  See Cognitive Connections and Sarah Ward, MS, CCC-SLP at for good information on executive function and visualization.
  • Before playing a familiar game, ask kids to close their eyes and imagine themselves playing the game.  What color is their piece?  With eyes closed, have them describe details of the game board.  The kids can then describe how to play the game – a nice sequencing activity.  While they are imagining themselves playing the game, talk about how they are cooperating with each other and having fun to reinforce the good sportsmanship.
  • Visualization for relaxation can also be helpful.  See for lots of ideas and resources to help kids practice visualization.
  • Before asking a child to remember what activity they did last week or what they want to do this week, have them close their eyes while providing them with leading cues.  “Let’s see, we were in the gym with the rainbow mat last week and there were big cushions in the room…” If they can visualize the environment, they may be able to “see” themselves there, giving them the context for the activity.
  • Practice “spin offs” of familiar games and activities.  Play tag and then have a child change one small thing about the game such as using a base or playing freeze tag or team tag.  When children with ideation challenges experience success in being original in this small way, their anxiety goes down and self-confidence soars.

A final personal thought:   we are inundated with visual images that are thrust upon us at every turn.  I know…we are all sick of hearing about the negative impact of TV, computers and other technological devices.  However, if we don’t provide our young children the physical, mental, and emotional space and opportunity to create their own images in their heads, how will they develop the capacity for “the creative process of generating, developing, and communicating new ideas”?

Jill Perry, MHA, MS, OTR/L

Photo by: ralmonline alm

If you like these ideas, be sure to check out the nearly 80 activity ideas for promoting social cognition in our Social Adventures Apps.  

0 replies

Leave a Reply

Want to join the discussion?
Feel free to contribute!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *