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  • Nicky

Tips for co-creation with children

'Nicky, how can we make our initiative attractive for children? 🤔 I get that question regularly. Because I work a lot with children and young people, they think I will know the answer. I do not know the answer. Children do 👍🏼 So I ask them (yes really, it can be that simple). And so can you. But that works a little differently than with adults. So here are some tips ✅ for co-creation with children. Or actually co-creation in general, because what works well with children also works well with adults 🙃

Tip 1. Start your question with 'how' and then shut up 🤐

Yes really. We 'grown-ups' talk too much and listen too little. Listening seems to have been elevated to art when in essence it is very simple. In a conversation between child and adult, I too often see someone becoming uncomfortable with the silence. The silence is immediately filled with 'Oh yes, I understand' and then talk about it while the child was not yet finished talking. Be friends with silence. Let children tell their stories. All the way. From a to Z. And if you'd like to say something, start with, "Explain" or "Tell..." And if you'd like to ask something, start with, "How..." or "Why..." The biggest show-stoppers are yes-no questions or 100 questions at once. This tip also works well with adults 🤓

Tip 2. STOP using diminutives ❌

No, it's not cute. Do not do it. Not with anyone. So not even with children. "What are you sweet little 'children'" "Put your little 'finger' in the air" "Put on your small 'shoes'" "Just put your little 'booklet' on the table"


Diminutives show that you don't take the other person seriously. That you don't value the other. A wrong starting point for an equal conversation. Just speak in normal language, say it like it is, in not too many difficult words. Be genuinely curious about what you can learn from a child. Ask a serious question and be amazed at the valuable answer you will get. Oh, and adults also don't like it when they are addressed with diminutives🤓

Tip 3. Trust. cost. Time.🕒

Let go of the expectation that you will have a worldly answer within 10 minutes. So take a few steps back – literally and figuratively. Because icebreakers in the form of pats on the back, tummy tucks, or 'pats' on the head are really a bad idea for many different reasons. So don't do it ⛔️ If you want to work with children, they should feel comfortable with you. And that takes time. For to the child, you are a stranger, and they don't trust strangers just like that. A healthy restraint if you ask me 👍🏼

1. So I also call the first contact the 'mutual' observation. For example, I sit in the back of the class and do or say nothing else. Then the children can also watch me from a distance 👀 2. The next time I'll come during the break. Then I play with them. Tag, skipping rope, soccer, or something else. *Let them guide you* So don't take the lead and initiate another game. Apart from the fact that it reminds me of the sublime condition I used to have (read: in the past), this has a connecting effect. And the connection feels familiar 🙂

And only then – when a child is at ease – do we start a conversation: 3. Get on your knees so that you are on the same level in every way. When you stand, you force the child to look up at you. At the same level, that inequality disappears. This makes a child feel even more at ease and will tell more smoothly. Take it easy. Use space. Take your time. Trust it will be okay. Connect equality. All things that the average adult can also use.

Tip 4. Fun first 🎉 then educational🤓

'This is the most fun thing I've ever done! With an adult... 😇' That was the biggest compliment I could possibly get from a kid after a brainstorming session. When something is fun, you become curious to know more. Too often a valuable message is pushed into teaching materials only to be checked off. 'If it has been treated in class, then it should be fine' 🙄

I do not think so. In one ear and out the other. I prefer brainstorming outside. With artist Peter Guldemond who draws the ideas of children on-the-spot. The children join in. We play games. Take a break. Let them come up with their own ideas. Listen. Respond with enthusiasm. Ask. Let them talk. And thank them for their contribution. This applies again for 'grown-ups'. I have yet to meet the first adults who really deep down enjoy an endless, monotonous dialogue with too much dry text, too few images, and no interaction. That's the biggest myth there is 🙃

Tip 5. Nice idea, DO SOMETHING WITH IT 💪🏼

There's nothing more demotivating than coming out of a session excited, buzzing with new ideas, only to see none of them come to life. While the other has asked you for input 🤔 No, you are not obligated to carry out all of the other's ideas. But give feedback. Take the other person into consideration why yes/no ⚖️ If you DO work with the input of the other person, then someone immediately becomes an ambassador. They feel heard and valued. It was magical ✨ to see the reactions of children as they recognized their ideas in the stories, illustrations, and books. And that's how soil ambassadors for life were born 💫

All in all a fantastic experience for all parties involved 🙏🏼


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