Make Time for Play Time

Make Time for Play Time

How we can benefit from letting loose right now

March 2021

Remember a year ago, when we didn’t quite know what was coming but we sort of figured it would all be over soon?



Yeah…



This year has been crazy. It’s turned everything on its head, including the routines we’re used to as parents. Parenting is always an incredibly rewarding and challenging act, but during times like these, it’s nothing short of heroic. Trying to keep kids entertained and off their screens? Trying to home-school them while you’re on zoom calls? Trying to have a moment’s peace and quiet? It’s not easy.



That’s why we wanted to write a piece for all your rockstar parents. Today isn’t about tips and challenges for your kid’s playtime. (If you want those, we suggest you head here or here). No, today is parents day. Today we are going to talk about just how important it is for you to have the time to let loose, blow off steam, and be creative.

Three Reasons Why You Should Be Incorporating Play Into Your Day to Day Life

When we tell people we are a toy company, everyone assumes our products are designed just for children. Yes, we have created Clixo with children and their endless supply of creativity in mind, but no, Clixo isn’t just for kids



Clixo is for play, and play is something everyone should be doing. 



Why?



Well, first, off, it’s fun. But it’s also healthy for us. Especially in crazy times like these, play offers us a rare and valuable escape from the stresses of our daily routines. According to a study called “Play, Stress, and the Learning Brain,” play has no immediate survival purpose. It’s done for its own sake, and for the pleasure of the act. It also occurs when we are not under stress or rushing to get other things done.



How many things do you do on a daily basis that are solely for the joy of doing them? (Be honest).



If you’re anything like most of the parents we speak to, your number is probably a whopping zero. So this leads us to reason #1.

1. Letting Go of A Need for Achievement or Productivity Reminds Us of What Really Matters.

It’s a vicious cycle. We work hard, thinking we will someday get to the bottom of our to do list, but somehow it just keeps growing. There’s almost more to do, more to achieve, more goals to reach. We could always optimize our lives more. 



Especially during pandemic times, parents seem to be extra attached to executing control over the small realms in which they feel like they can control things. 



Listen–there’s nothing wrong with wanting to get things done and have an impact on the world. The problem is when we get so sucked into the adult mindset of “go go go, do do do” that we forget why we are doing anything in the first place. 



We forget that the starting motivation to get something done is usually rooted in a desire to get it out of the way, so that we can focus on what really matters.



Maybe we want to retire early so we can travel. Maybe we want to be able to work four days a week so we have more time with the kids. What this all boils down to is a desire to have the space in our life to relax, to have fun, to be ourselves, and to spend time with those we love. 



Play is all of these things. It’s about self-expression and self-exploration. It’s about laughter and curiosity. It’s about letting go of the goal, and being fully present in the journey. Making time for play nourishes us, and reminds us of our core values and motivations. It gives us an opportunity to refresh our minds and spirits, and to get in touch with the child in all of us. In fact, we’d take it a step further and say it’s one of those important activities that reminds us of just how much we have to learn from children. Playing makes us better parents, and better people.



So here’s a suggestion for all you parents out there who have (totally understandable) run out of ideas for entertaining your children during the pandemic. Why not set aside some play time for yourself?



We think you’ll be pretty amazed with what comes out of it. 

2. It Frees Us From Our Need of Control.

There’s probably never been a time in any of our living memory when we felt more helpless and less in control. 



Near the beginning of the pandemic, a lot of the mental health experts out there encouraged adults to keep informed, but limit engagement in the media, as it can only spike that anxiety, and to “focus on the things you can control.” That makes perfect sense: sure, we can’t predict when we will be able to get a vaccine or what will happen to the economy, but we can decide what we will have for lunch today, what board game we will play with the kids in the evening, or whether we want to take a bath or a shower. It may seem small, but these micro decisions are very important for our sense of well-being. 



However, a year in and our patience for being ‘content’ with micro-decisions has grown thin. That’s the second reason we wanted to reach out today and encourage all you adults to take play more seriously as a mental health benefit. Maybe the answer isn’t to keep fighting 24/7 for a tiny plot of control. Maybe the best thing we can do right now is engage as much as possible in activities that free us from our tyrannical need for control. 



Think of play as an antidote to all our adult habits that aren’t serving us right now. Let go of timelines and to do lists, and invest in your creativity and your sanity. Most importantly, don’t approach play as some huge new goal to ‘control’. That would be entirely missing the point. 



Playing as adults can be super simple. If you need a few ideas to get you started, we recommend reading this

3. Parents need Screen-Free Time Too.

Clixo Fascinator Head Piece Bonnet

We all know that screens have come to play too big a role in our lives. There has been special concern for the amount of time that screens take up in children’s lives, especially during COVID-19. All of that is true, but what about you? What about the fact that so many of you are now working all day on your computer, socializing through zoom, and ‘relaxing’ on social media and Netflix?



Adults need screen-free time, too. In a time when we aren’t allowed out much, it’s super important that we don’t get lazy with our free time, but instead lead by example, and get creative. Whether that’s making sure you are making time for reading, family dinners, adventures to the park, or playtime, everyone benefits from time that is spent connecting and rejuvenating rather than sinking into digital sinkholes. 



One of the particularly beneficial aspects of play is that it not only helps us unwind and get away from screens, but it helps us get into our bodies. Since most of us aren’t going to the gym, or out dancing, or even hugging friends, anything that helps us be more embodied is super critical for our health. 



Want to share your story? Reach out to us @my_clixo with what play means to you as an adult, and we may interview you for an upcoming series on making play a part of life for everyone, everywhere. 

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A Gift For the Ages

A Gift For the Ages

By Assaf

November 2020

Why Clixo is the perfect present this holiday season🎁.
– A #SmallBusinessSaturday special blog post –

We can all agree that 2020 has been an unusual year. It would be nice to believe that such unprecedented times won’t impact the holidays, but of course they will. Everything about 2020 — including Hanukkah, Christmas, and New Years — is radically different.



So, what should we do when the world changes shape?



We should change shape with it.



Unfortunately, there hasn’t been a whole lot of trickle-down innovation into the toy industry (or the marketing of toys) this year.



Today I want to write a short post, sharing three reasons why Clixo is a gift well-suited for such crazy times. …

Reason #1: the all-in-one minimalist gift.

In Rosseau’s Second Treatise, he makes the argument that our ability to adapt is what sets us apart as a species. We don’t passively navigate the world — we actively move through it, constantly making connections and micro adjustments to our behavior to better suit the environment. It is in our nature to metaphorically change shape.

And yet, so much of what we engage with as an extension of ourselves — from toys to tools to technologies — doesn’t accurately reflect that characteristic. We create things that are static, immovable, and single-purpose because they are easier. They’re easier to create, and they’re easier to make redundant, therefore perpetuating a cycle of consumerism.

Our lives and homes become cluttered with discarded, poorly made toys in our quest for creativity.

No sooner has a child received a toy than they have outgrown it. Why?

Because the toy doesn’t adapt. It doesn’t change shape as the child grows and explores new realms of their imagination. It also doesn’t adapt to different environments — whether it’s the back seat of a car, the waiting room at the dentist, or the grocery cart.



I built Clixo to be a natural, rather than artificial, tool for play.



Its shape was inspired by the human hand, with its infinite ways of bending, connecting, and holding. Everything about it, from the durability yet flexibility of the plastic to the strength of the magnets and the color combinations was created with an eye towards encouraging play any where, any time, for any one. Most importantly, it makes this kind of play easy, by requiring only a single stack of lightweight, easy-to-pack pieces.

Underlying these design principles is a social and moral philosophy: at Toyish, we don’t believe in consumerism for the sake of consumerism. We also don’t believe that toys have to clash with an otherwise ‘adult’ space.



Why not bring the design thinking that informs highly functional, beautiful, minimalist design into the toy world?



Why not create a single toy that integrates seamlessly with any space, making both parent and child happy?



Human creativity is a highly dynamic, flexible, and adaptable quality. Don’t buy into the marketing that claims your child needs 101 toys to ‘hone their creativity skills.’ It’s simply not true.

Reason #2: Creativity extends beyond the shapes.

As we buckle down through a second wave of COVID cases, parents and children alike are understandably pretty stir crazy. There’s only so many times you can redo a puzzle before all excitement wears off.



From the very beginning of Clixo (even before we knew a global pandemic was on the way), we’ve been committed to not only building a toy, but building a community of creativity. This plays out in a number of ways.



First off, we hold regular virtual playdates, in which I lead whoever wants to tune in over zoom through challenges with Clixo. These events provide a nice structure and break from the routine of lockdown, and allow community members to connect through play.

Clixo Toy Store

Second, if you are based in NYC, we encourage you to come check out our learning lab in Clinton Hill. An airy, COVID-safe space, it has been providing families with an outing that brings some much needed playfulness back into their days.



We are constantly coming up with new, innovative ways to engage, challenge, and continue lighting the spark of creativity in our community. If you buy Clixo, you aren’t buying a static, finished product. You are entering into a whole world of constantly evolving ideas and opportunities. You’re joining a community of creativity.

Reason #3: It’s sustainable.

This reason is short and sweet.



We know climate change is a problem. We know consumerism is a big part of that, and that the holiday season accounts for an enormous percentage of annual consumerism in the United States.



Clixo is a truly modern toy because it genuinely reflects our modern reality. Made from a proprietary blend of plastics that are durable and recyclable, and delivered in packaging made from recycled paper, Clixo’s design is inherently eco-friendly.

Even more important than the materials that go into Clixo’s material shape is the minimalist ethos behind Clixo, discussed above. Clixo isn’t made to be redundant, or to require infinite future purchases. Yes, we will continue to build out new shapes and accessories, but not because the original set doesn’t contain enough possibilities as is. We continue to evolve and grow the Clixo shapes based on feedback and creative ideas from members of our community, but it is never our intention to pressure (through marketing or design) our customers to buy more.

It may sound strange to hear a CEO disincentivizing his customers from buying more of his product, but it has truly never been our goal to flood people’s lives with an over-abundance of Clixo. That would just be replicating the thoughtless, unsustainable methods of the mainstream toy industry.



We built Clixo to offer infinite possibilities. We truly hope that the Clixo family makes their purchases with intentionality, and the confidence that a single Clixo set is more than enough to keep kids (and kids at heart) fully submerged in the magic of play.



Happy holidays, and happy playing!
Assaf

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Against the Current: Opening a COVID-safe, Creative Space

Against the Current: Opening a COVID-safe, Creative Space

By Assaf

November 2020

Finding creative possibilities in challenging times.

Finding ways to stay playful during COVID-19 isn’t easy. 



Eight months in and with winter months looming ahead, parents all over the place (and especially in cities like New York, with notoriously little space), are scrambling to find ways to keep their families safe and entertained. 



But where should they go? 



In challenging times, it is imperative that we be as creative as possible, seeking innovation in areas that we might not normally think are primed for innovation. 



Like, for instance, a toy store. 



Close your eyes and imagine a toy store. What do you see? Probably long aisles, stuffed to the gills with boxes. It’s dusty, cramped, and stressful. At best, it allows you to buy something that you can have fun with somewhere else. 



At Toyish, we figured it was probably time to present the world with a seriously-updated reimagining of what a toy store can–and should–offer during these stressful times. 



Welcome to our Clixo toy store and play lab in Clinton Hill, where design and creativity play together. 

Why we turned a retail space into a learning lab

Throughout the development of Clixo, fostering a constant dialogue with our community has been our number one priority. From the very beginning of R&D for Clixo to the current day, we have been talking with parents and kids, testing out ideas, and listening to feedback. Instead of running a focus group once every year or two, we have a constant, active focus group. 



This is indicative of a fundamentally different structure we operate under. We don’t design in a top-down vacuum. There isn’t a chasm between us as ‘creators’ and our community as ‘consumers.’ Instead, we see all of the Clixo family as active participants in a symbiotic design loop. Most importantly, we think that addressing kids from ‘above’ as designers who are trying to teach and effectively corral children into adulthood is a bad approach. Children naturally have wells of artistic talent–our job isn’t to shape it, but to give them the tools to shape in themselves, and to observe that process as a key part of our R&D. 



That’s why we decided to launch a hybrid design-play space in the Clinton Hill neighborhood of New York that is being hailed as “the perfect place for creative kids.”



What we love so much about this moniker is that it gets to the heart of what we are doing: our primary goal is to foster a safe, creative play space. 



Selling Clixo is secondary to that goal. 



In fact, you are hard pressed to find any packaged toys for sale upon entering the store. As an open and airy space that utilizes Clixo’s magnetic feature to vertically integrate the pieces, children are primarily invited to come be creators and showcase their creations. If a visitor decides to buy a Clixo product, that in and of itself is turned into a creative adventure– the packaged Clixo products are hidden in the hood of the car!

Everything about the creative journey throughout our space, from entry to exit, has been reimagined. In a time when there are strict limits on hours and accommodation of visitors, we’ve done things like design a magic doorbell, so that if children ring the bell at a time when they aren’t able to come in, the car in the shop lights up and makes noises, prompting joy and creativity in the child, even from the outside. 



Part of the reason we are so committed to prioritizing a safe and innovative play space over selling our product is–counter-intuitively–for selfish reasons. As I said above, Clixo isn’t a static product. We absolutely believe that it is through constantly learning from the broader Clixo family that we are able to iteratively create the best toy. For us, the best toy is one that can bring the most joy and creativity to the children of today, blessed with their unique capacities and faced with their unique challenges. 



We are interested in fostering and optimizing creativity long term, not in getting rich quick. That’s why we turned a retail space into a learning lab. 

What it means to open a space during a pandemic

First off, any space that is operating during a global pandemic needs to take on the social responsibility that comes with that. We are very proud and confident in the measures we are have taken, which include:



We are limiting people in the store to 1 family at a time to allow each family time to play in a safe environment.

  • One of our key product features is how easy it is to clean the products. We spray these with a 70% isopropyl solution that not only cleans but disinfects the pieces.
  • We have a strict masks-required policy, temperature checks, and have everyone sanitize their hands as they enter the store. We also have three sinks with soaps in the space that kids can use if needed.
  • There are two doors in the toy store and they are completely open to maximize air flow and minimize the viral load in the space. In the winter, the doors will be opened every 20-30 minutes to ensure that there’s enough aeration.
  • We have an advanced air filtration system in place for when the doors are closed.
  • We are continuing to monitor the COVID-19 situation in New York, which still boasts one of the lowest rates compared to other states, and review our policies on a daily basis to ensure that we are complying with the state’s rules and being as safe as we possibly can. 
  • Like everything we do, we thought long and hard about how we could safely provide what our community so desperately needs (a fun playspace) during such a challenging time. 



    While we feel an acute responsibility to be as safe about COVID-19 as possible, we also feel a legitimate responsibility to help support parents and children. Being stuck in the same apartment space day after day, month after month, is a profoundly stressful and limiting experience. 



    Because thinking about how play integrates with spaces is so integral to our design (Clixo is lightweight, stackable, doesn’t require a flat surface to build with, and integrates easily with diverse environments), failing to provide an innovative space to our community would have felt truly disingenuous to our mission. 

    I also think it is important to remember that for better or worse, even during a pandemic, the world spins madly on. Time is passing, and children need to learn and grow in one capacity or another. Helping to open up our community’s world even a little bit can go a long way. 



    Our design-play space opened on Monday, November 9, 2020, and we have been overwhelmed by the appreciation and gratitude we have received from parents. 



    Yael Magnes, a mother of two who lives in the neighborhood, wrote us to say, “We are so lucky to have such a lively toy store open in our neighborhood, especially during this time when a pandemic is changing the rules of the game. It’s not simply a toy store, it’s a creative space that teaches children and grownups alike to think out of the box, and be creative in any circumstance we are in.  And it’s a space that can create community – that is what upper middle class family’s need to learn to depend on – community. As for safety, Clixo’s measure make me feel it is as safe as can be at this point in time. For me it also feels like home…thank you for making me feel more at home!”



    We couldn’t agree more with Yael. Now more than ever is the time to prioritize community and creativity. So if you live in NYC and you’re looking for some safe playtime, swing by our learning lab! We’d love to have you. 



    Keep safe and playful!
    Assaf

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    When the world changes shape, Clixo changes with it.

    When the world changes shape,
    Clixo changes with it.

    By Clixo Team

    September 2020

    In this final piece of a three part blog series, Clixo founder Assaf discusses the importance of adaptability, and how Clixo can be a useful aid in the age of COVID-19.



    Raise your hand if you’ve built a slide down your stairs out of cardboard boxes, turned the entire apartment into a playroom, or decided the whole family should don formal attire for a Tuesday night dinner? Times are crazy. We work, socialize, and play differently now, and there’s no instruction manual–parents are just making it up as they go along. 



    In the first blog of this series, I talked about the role of constraints in creativity, and what COVID-19 has taught me about them. In the second blog, I talked about letting go of control, and how important that is for creative development. Now I want to turn to the third aspect I’ve reflected on during COVID: adaptability. 



    In many ways, adaptability has to do both with constraint and with letting go of control. If we are adaptable, we are able to shift easily into new environments and circumstances. We are flexible, not rigid. Sometimes we get to have some say over adaptability in our lives. Other times–like right now–we don’t have a choice. The world has changed, and we have to change with it. 

    One of the aspects of Clixo I am most proud of is this very characteristic: adaptability. Working in the toy industry for over twenty years, I have often been struck by how static and contextual toys are: sure, many of them are small or lightweight, but they don’t pack or travel easily, they are always underfoot, getting lost behind car seats, or require flat surfaces to play on. These toys can be very fun or very educational, given the right context, but they minimize potential creativity and enjoyment by being tethered to location or critical mass. 



    What we need, I thought, is a modern twist on the classic building block: something that can be taken on the go, is easy to store and pack, requires a minimal number of pieces for maximum possibilities, and is just as fun to play with in a car, on a plane, at home, or on a playground. 

    Clixo’s paper design and durable magnets makes it just such a toy. With even our largest pack weighing less than a pound, it stacks quickly and easily, integrates with objects around you, and is built for wear and tear. Best of all, with only seven shapes, you can already create millions of possibilities. 


    At a time when our regular methods of travel, play-dating, and home life have been disrupted, I truly hope that Clixo can offer even an ounce of relief to parents everywhere who are struggling to adapt to the times. Whether you bring Clixo to the beach, turn it into a soccer ball, wear it as a crown, or make a duck while taking a bath, Clixo is there for you.

    When the world changes shape, Clixo changes with it. 

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    COVID-19, parenting, and the illusion of control

    COVID-19, parenting, and the illusion of control

    By Clixo Team

    September 2020

    In the second part of this three-part series, Clixo founder Assaf shares his experience and insight on why trying to control play and creativity is foolish.



    How many of you feel in control these days? If you’re anything like me, you’ve spent your adult life paying lip service to a buddhism-esque mantra that we’re not really in control of things, but secretly you’ve thought you’re the exception to the rule. Bad things happen to other people. Plans come crashing down on those who don’t safeguard themselves well enough. But not you–you will emerge victorious and gracefully in control! 



    With the arrival of COVID-19, no one can lie to themselves anymore about just how little control we have–just how easily the world can turn on its head. It’s a terrifying and stark reminder that life very rarely colors between the lines. 



    In this series of blogs, I’ve been trying to make use of some of the reflection time I’ve had during COVID-19, and share my thoughts on how it relates to the realm of design, toys, and play. 

    One of the big ideas I keep returning to is how as adults we have this white-knuckled grip on life, especially when we deeply care about things (like our children). We don’t want them to just play–we want them to play the most, the best, have the most fun, make the most creative things, learn the most they possibly can. But the simple fact of the matter is that when we approach creativity and play with that perspective, we are completely missing the point. You can’t control creativity. You can’t control play. What makes them so essential to childhood (and, let’s be honest, to adulthood too), is the fact that they resist linear, predictable development. Play is at its best when it is unexpected, when it breaks down boundaries, when we let our imaginations and intuitions take over. 



    There’s an assignment I frequently give undergraduate students to try and get them back into this space of ‘uncontrolled’ creativity. By the age of 18, most people have already trained themselves to think there’s a right or wrong way to do things, and that the goal is to control yourself and the world around you as much as possible, so as to perform the ‘right’ way as much as you can. It’s a difficult habit to break. So I give my students an assignment they can’t google. An assignment that seems ridiculous, but which forces them to think in new ways. 

    “I want you to come up with a way to move a cloud from New York to London,” I tell them. This is usually followed by crickets, some anxious questions, and a fearful silence as the students exit the class. But by the following week, when everyone has presented their often humorous and always extremely creative ideas, we’ve broken through into a new space. 



    At Clixo, we’ve worked long and hard to develop a tool for creativity that puts all of the ‘control’ back in the hands of children. By control we don’t mean something rigid, but rather the opposite. We want kids who pick up Clixo to be immediately invited in, but not told there is a ‘right’ direction to go in. In fact, the goal–if there is a goal for Clixo–is for it to never reach a final form. As soon as something is created, we hope for it to be broken down and turned into something new.”

    It can be counter-intuitive in the current day and age to correlate endless process rather than outcome with value, but it is indeed the cornerstone of creativity and all the good that creative engagement brings with it. 



    So next time you set out to build a giraffe with your kid and they turn the head into a helicopter, we encourage you to congratulate, rather than try to rein them in. Let go of your illusions of control. It’ll do you–and your kids–a world of good. 



    [Check out Part 1 of this series here and part 3 over here]

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    How (some) limitations can be helpful

    How (some) limitations can be helpful

    By Clixo Team

    August 2020

    In this first part of a three-part series, Clixo’s founder Assaf shares some reflections on creativity and constraints during the time of COVID-19.



    Nearly six months into COVID-19, it’s safe to say many of us are a little stir crazy. 😅



    Seemingly overnight our worlds shrunk from, well, the world, to small, contained spaces, sometimes no bigger than single room apartments. The pain of this transition is particularly acute for parents, who have needed to suddenly fill in the gaps left by dozens of external structures that normally contribute to their childrens’ development, creativity, engagement, and sense of self. Summer camp? Cancelled. Play dates? Dubious. School? Remains to be seen. The disappearance of these integral parts of day to day life is more than just an issue of filling time. These activities are part of what help children grow, learn, and understand themselves, others, and the world. As parents, how can we possibly make up for all these critical aspects of development? Amidst all the unprecedented challenges and tragedy, are there any silver linings?

    When I think about COVID-19, I think about the extremity of constraint it places on our lives. Things we have taken for granted forever–whether it’s taking the subway, offering your arm to an elderly person crossing the street, or having friends over for dinner–are suddenly dangerous at best, and quite often socially irresponsible. The interesting thing about freedom is that we notice it most acutely in its absence. As if made of gas, we tend to expand out to fill as much space as freedom allows us without a second thought. It is only when it is taken away that we notice the edges. 




    But constraints aren’t entirely a bad thing. From a design perspective, constraints can actually be a critical part of encouraging freedom. Yes, that’s right–boundaries around freedom can actually strengthen freedom.”

    Think about the following examples – Your boss walks into your office (this is back when offices existed) and tells you that the company needs to come up with a creative idea. You ask a few follow up questions, trying to figure out the perimeters. Your boss shrugs and tells you to just come up with something. What do you do with all that freedom? Is it liberating, or actually oppressive?



    Another example. Your teacher asks you to write an essay on anything. Or you’re given a blank page and some crayons and told to draw whatever you like. Certainly, I think the vast majority of us would say there’s more pleasure to be found within total freedom than total control, but the ideal actually lays somewhere in between. 

    In the toy world, I have long been fascinated with discovering what the exact ‘right’ amount of constraint is. From a psychological perspective, humans tend to be most creative when we are given some kind of perimeters to work within, the right tools to explore that space, and then the freedom to be and do in that space as we will. Even seemingly totally unstructured things, like playing in a sandbox, actually have very specific constraints built in, when you think about it. First off, there’s a literal box around the sand. Then there are the tools (the shovels, buckets, etc.) that children have to play with. Finally there is the material consistency of sand: some things are made easily with sand, some things can’t be made.

    Now, am I saying the constraints COVID-19 has placed on us are a good thing that we should just be grateful for? Absolutely not. But it is also possible to take up creative possibilities in this time of constraint. A quick scroll through social media these days can reveal all sorts of fresh, innovative ideas parents have come up with for their kids during this time–ideas that never would have grown without the constraining factors that led to their genesis. 




    With Clixo, the idea of constraint being wedded to creativity is built into the design. It took us over a thousand iterations to come up with a toy that provides just enough structure to alleviate the fears around starting, but which helps kids immediately establish a sense of infinite creative potential and autonomy once they start clicking.” 

    Can you think of a constraint that initially irritated you, but ended up leading to a creative breakthrough? How can we work with constraints, rather than have them work against us? We’d love to hear your thoughts!



    [Part 2 of this series is here and part 3 is over here]

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