Creative Problem Solving For Kids: SCAMPER

The SCAMPER technique provides a structured approach to spark innovative ideas and solve challenges in unique ways. In this article, we present an engaging activity for parents and children (ages 8-12) that revolves around the SCAMPER technique.  This is our 3rd article in the series that provides concrete techniques to help parents improve their child’s creativity (a critical skill now and in the future). Through this hands-on experience, children will learn to view problems from multiple angles, generate inventive solutions, and enhance their overall creative thinking.

Activity: SCAMPER Quest for Creative Marvels

Objective:

The objective of this activity is to guide children through the SCAMPER technique to creatively solve a problem. By applying different SCAMPER strategies, they will sharpen their problem-solving skills and cultivate their innate creativity.

Materials Needed:

  1. Paper or sketchbook
  2. Pencils, markers, or colored pencils
  3. List of problem scenarios (see examples below)
  4. SCAMPER guide (see below)

SCAMPER Guide

SCAMPER is actually made up of 7 different techniques.  Techniques can be used separately or together.  Below, you can drop down each technique to see an explanation and real-world example of the technique in use.

The “Substitute” technique from the SCAMPER framework involves replacing certain elements of a solution with something else. Here’s a real-world example of using the “Substitute” technique to solve a problem:

Problem: Enhancing Bicycle Safety for Night Riders

Scenario: Imagine you want to improve the safety of bicycle riders who travel at night. The current solutions include traditional bicycle lights and reflective clothing, but you’re looking for an innovative approach.

Using the “Substitute” Technique:

  1. Identify the Element to Substitute: In this case, let’s focus on the traditional bicycle lights.
  2. Consider Alternatives: Think about what you could substitute traditional lights with to enhance visibility and safety.
  3. Generate Ideas: Explore different alternatives that could replace traditional lights. For example, you might consider substituting lights with glow-in-the-dark paint, bioluminescent materials, or even LED light strips integrated into the bicycle frame.

Innovation: Glow-in-the-Dark Bicycle Frame

Solution: Instead of using traditional lights, you could substitute them with a glow-in-the-dark bicycle frame. The frame would absorb sunlight during the day and emit a gentle glow at night, creating a striking visual effect that enhances the rider’s visibility.

Benefits:

  • Improved visibility without relying on batteries or external light sources.
  • Unique and attention-grabbing appearance, promoting bicycle safety.
  • Reduced environmental impact compared to battery-operated lights.

By applying the “Substitute” technique, you’ve generated an innovative solution that replaces a traditional element (lights) with something new (glow-in-the-dark frame) to address the problem of bicycle safety for night riders. This approach demonstrates how creative thinking and substitution can lead to inventive and effective solutions.

The “Combine” technique from the SCAMPER framework involves merging or blending different elements to create something new. Here’s a real-world example of using the “Combine” technique to solve a problem:

Problem: Creating a Multifunctional Space-Saving Furniture Piece

Scenario: Imagine you want to design a piece of furniture that serves multiple functions and saves space in small apartments or rooms.

Using the “Combine” Technique:

  1. Identify the Elements to Combine: In this case, let’s consider combining a bed and a desk to create a multifunctional furniture piece.
  2. Explore Combination Possibilities: Think about how you can merge the functionalities of a bed and a desk to create a single, cohesive unit.
  3. Generate Ideas: Brainstorm various ways to combine the two elements. For instance, you might consider integrating a fold-out desk surface that can be easily stored beneath a lofted bed.

Innovation: Lofted Bed with Integrated Folding Desk

Solution: Design a lofted bed that incorporates a folding desk underneath. The bed frame supports a lofted sleeping area, and when the desk is not in use, it can be neatly folded and stowed away. The desk provides ample workspace for studying or working, while the lofted bed maximizes floor space.

Benefits:

  • Optimized use of space, making it ideal for small apartments or bedrooms.
  • Versatility for both sleep and work, catering to different needs.
  • Clean and organized appearance with the ability to hide the desk when not in use.

By applying the “Combine” technique, you’ve merged the functionalities of a bed and a desk to create a innovative furniture piece that saves space and serves multiple purposes. This approach showcases how blending different elements can lead to creative and practical solutions.

The “Adapt” technique from the SCAMPER framework involves modifying an existing solution to fit a new context or purpose. Here’s a real-world example of using the “Adapt” technique to solve a problem:

Problem: Reducing Plastic Waste from Single-Use Water Bottles

Scenario: Imagine you want to find a way to reduce plastic waste from single-use water bottles in public places, such as parks and events.

Using the “Adapt” Technique:

  1. Identify the Existing Solution to Adapt: In this case, let’s consider the traditional vending machines that dispense bottled drinks.
  2. Determine the New Context or Purpose: Think about how you can adapt vending machines to encourage the use of reusable water bottles.
  3. Generate Ideas: Brainstorm modifications to the vending machine to make it suitable for refilling reusable water bottles.

Innovation: Reusable Water Bottle Refill Vending Machines

Solution: Adapt traditional vending machines to become reusable water bottle refill stations. Modify the machines to include multiple nozzles that can refill various sizes of reusable water bottles. Users can simply place their bottle under the nozzle, select the water temperature, and refill their bottle with clean, filtered water.

Benefits:

  • Encourages the use of reusable water bottles, reducing plastic waste.
  • Provides a convenient and eco-friendly alternative to single-use bottled drinks.
  • Raises awareness about plastic waste reduction and promotes sustainable practices.

By applying the “Adapt” technique, you’ve transformed an existing solution (vending machines) to address a new problem (reducing plastic waste). This approach demonstrates how adapting and repurposing existing ideas can lead to innovative solutions that align with changing needs and priorities.

The “Modify” technique from the SCAMPER framework involves altering certain aspects of a solution to create something new. Here’s a real-world example of using the “Modify” technique to solve a problem:

Problem: Enhancing the Experience of Online Learning for Students

Scenario: Imagine you want to improve the online learning experience for students, making it more engaging and interactive.

Using the “Modify” Technique:

  1. Identify the Solution Element to Modify: Let’s consider modifying the traditional online course format.
  2. Determine the Aspects to Modify: Think about how you can modify different elements of online courses to make them more interactive and dynamic.
  3. Generate Ideas: Brainstorm ways to modify the online course format to enhance student engagement.

Innovation: Interactive Learning Modules with Gamification

Solution: Modify the traditional online course format by transforming it into interactive learning modules that incorporate gamification elements. Instead of passive reading, students engage with multimedia content, quizzes, and challenges that earn them points and rewards as they progress.

Modification Ideas:

  • Add interactive multimedia components, such as videos, animations, and simulations.
  • Embed quizzes and assessments within the content to gauge understanding.
  • Incorporate gamification elements like badges, leaderboards, and rewards for completing modules.

Benefits:

  • Increases student engagement and motivation to learn.
  • Provides immediate feedback and encourages active participation.
  • Creates a dynamic and immersive learning experience.

By applying the “Modify” technique, you’ve transformed the traditional online course format into an engaging and interactive learning experience with gamification elements. This approach showcases how making intentional modifications to existing solutions can lead to innovative and impactful results.

The “Put to Another Use” technique from the SCAMPER framework involves repurposing a solution for a different context or application. Here’s a real-world example of using the “Put to Another Use” technique to solve a problem:

Problem: Reducing Food Waste in Restaurants

Scenario: Imagine you want to find a solution to minimize food waste in restaurants, especially excess food that often goes unserved.

Using the “Put to Another Use” Technique:

  1. Identify the Existing Solution to Repurpose: Let’s consider repurposing food that would otherwise go to waste.
  2. Determine the New Context or Application: Think about how you can put unserved food to another use.
  3. Generate Ideas: Brainstorm innovative ways to utilize unserved restaurant food for a different purpose.

Innovation: Community Food Sharing App

Solution: Put unserved restaurant food to another use by creating a community food sharing app. Restaurants can list surplus food items on the app at the end of the day, and individuals in the community can browse and purchase these items at a reduced price. The app helps reduce food waste and provides affordable meals to community members.

Additional Ideas:

  • Collaborate with local charities or shelters to distribute surplus food.
  • Offer the option for users to donate purchased surplus food to those in need.

Benefits:

  • Reduces food waste and promotes sustainability in the restaurant industry.
  • Provides affordable food options for community members.
  • Fosters a sense of community by connecting restaurants and individuals through a shared goal.

By applying the “Put to Another Use” technique, you’ve repurposed unserved restaurant food to address a different problem (food affordability) through the creation of a community food sharing app. This approach exemplifies how thinking creatively about alternative applications can lead to impactful and innovative solutions.

The “Eliminate” technique from the SCAMPER framework involves removing certain elements of a solution to simplify or streamline it. Here’s a real-world example of using the “Eliminate” technique to solve a problem:

Problem: Reducing Plastic Waste from Packaging

Scenario: Imagine you want to find a solution to minimize plastic waste from product packaging, especially in the food industry.

Using the “Eliminate” Technique:

  1. Identify the Solution Element to Eliminate: Let’s consider eliminating plastic packaging for takeout meals.
  2. Determine the Aspects to Eliminate: Think about how you can eliminate plastic packaging while still ensuring food safety and convenience.
  3. Generate Ideas: Brainstorm alternative ways to package takeout meals without plastic.

Innovation: Edible Food Wraps

Solution: Eliminate plastic packaging for takeout meals by introducing edible food wraps made from natural, biodegradable materials. The wraps securely encase the food and can be consumed along with the meal, eliminating the need for disposable plastic containers.

Elimination Ideas:

  • Replace plastic containers with wraps made from materials like rice paper, seaweed, or plant-based plastics.
  • Use edible ink to print necessary information on the wraps, such as food type and allergen details.

Benefits:

  • Drastically reduces plastic waste from takeout meals.
  • Offers a unique and eco-friendly packaging solution.
  • Enhances the dining experience by incorporating edible components.

By applying the “Eliminate” technique, you’ve eliminated plastic packaging for takeout meals and introduced an innovative solution with edible food wraps. This approach demonstrates how simplifying a solution by removing elements (plastic packaging) can lead to environmentally friendly and creative alternatives.

The “Reverse” technique from the SCAMPER framework involves changing the order or sequence of elements in a solution. Here’s a real-world example of using the “Reverse” technique to solve a problem:

Problem: Promoting Healthy Eating Habits Among Children

Scenario: Imagine you want to find a solution to encourage children to make healthier food choices and enjoy nutritious meals.

Using the “Reverse” Technique:

  1. Identify the Solution Element to Reverse: Let’s consider reversing the traditional approach of presenting healthy food.
  2. Determine the Aspect to Reverse: Think about how you can reverse the way healthy food is introduced to children.
  3. Generate Ideas: Brainstorm ways to reverse the approach of promoting healthy eating habits.

Innovation: Interactive Cooking Adventures

Solution: Reverse the approach of promoting healthy eating by introducing interactive cooking adventures. Instead of presenting healthy food directly, create engaging experiences where children actively participate in cooking nutritious meals. This hands-on approach sparks curiosity and empowers them to make healthier choices.

Reverse Ideas:

  • Offer cooking classes or workshops for children to learn how to prepare healthy meals.
  • Develop interactive cooking apps or games that guide children through virtual cooking experiences.

Benefits:

  • Fosters a positive relationship with healthy food through interactive learning.
  • Empowers children to take charge of their nutrition by preparing their own meals.
  • Cultivates lifelong healthy eating habits in an engaging and enjoyable way.

By applying the “Reverse” technique, you’ve reversed the traditional approach of promoting healthy eating habits by focusing on interactive cooking adventures. This approach showcases how changing the sequence of elements in a solution can lead to innovative and effective ways to address challenges.

Instructions:

Step 1: Problem Quest Selection: Begin the SCAMPER Quest by offering children a range of intriguing problem scenarios. These challenges should encourage imaginative thinking and encompass various themes. Examples:

    • Design a transportation system for underwater travel
    • Invent a gadget that transforms homework into a fun game
    • Create a futuristic clothing line inspired by animals

Step 2: SCAMPER Strategy Exploration: Since each SCAMPER strategy can be its own complete strategy, choose 1 of the strategies to use to try solve the problem.  Go over the explanation and example of the chosen strategy with your child found above under the SCAMPER Guide. Encourage them to think about how they can apply this strategy to solve their selected problem. 

Step 3: SCAMPER Session: Have your child brainstorm and sketch ideas that align with the corresponding strategy they selected. Encourage them to be imaginative and open-minded, exploring diverse possibilities.

Step 4: Creative Concoctions: After completing the SCAMPER session, challenge them to select one or more ideas from their brainstorming and combine them to form an inventive solution. Encourage them to illustrate their concepts and annotate how the SCAMPER strategy influenced their creations.

Step 5:Alternative Solution: Have your child choose one of the other SCAMPER strategies and go through steps 2-4 again to see if they come up with a different solution.  You can repeat this step if you would like your child to continue trying the other SCAMPER strategies. 

Step 6:Solution Showcase: Have children present their innovative solutions to their peers or family members. During the presentation, they should explain the problem, their chosen SCAMPER strategies, and how they shaped their creative solution(s).

Step 7: Reflecting on Creativity: Conclude the activity with a reflection session. Encourage children to discuss how the SCAMPER technique inspired their problem-solving process. Ask them to share insights into how viewing problems through different SCAMPER lenses enhanced their creativity.

Through the SCAMPER Quest for Creative Marvels, children embark on an enriching journey of problem-solving and imaginative thinking. The SCAMPER technique empowers them to look at challenges from fresh perspectives, generating innovative solutions. This can inspire children to become dynamic problem solvers, equipped with a toolkit of strategies that unleash their creative potential.

Looking for More Ways to Help Your Child Prepare For The Future?

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Creative Problem Solving For Kids: Random Words

Creative Problem Solving For Kids: Copy Nature

Cultivating a Growth Mindset in Kids: A Parent’s Guide

Fostering Psychological Safety in Your Child to Improve Creativity

 

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About the author: Shawn D. Walk is the owner of Create2Discover, a business dedicated to helping students discover their ability to create and shape the world around them through creating things. He has been teaching technology, coding, and 21st century skills for nearly 15 years. He is a certified elementary teacher in PA and has a Masters Degree in Curriculum and Instruction. He is also a previous owner of an educational technology company that pioneered using Minecraft as an educational tool in the Pittsburgh region. His goal is to help kids learn the skills they need in today’s world, but also help them believe they can be the creators of new technology instead of simply consuming it.

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