how turning a problem into a game can foster creative problem-solving skills, a guest post by Candy James

Remember that scene in the original Mary Poppins film where Mary is confronted by Jane and Michael’s very unclean nursery? And Mary starts singing about spiked insulin levels and suddenly everything miraculously starts putting itself away?

“In every job that must be done, there is an element of fun. You find the fun and snap! The job’s a game.”

I’m telling you those Sherman brothers were on to something remarkable when they wrote that ditty earworm.

Years ago, when I was at a client’s house weeding a monstrously overgrown rose garden filled with deadly dragons and vicious vipers, I got that someone’s watching me feeling. So I did that sneaky thing gardeners do when they don’t want to be bothered . . . and turned the sprinkler system on. Perhaps because he was paying me $40 an hour to wet his new linen suit, or perhaps because he’d used salt instead of sugar in his tea, Rob thought it’d be fun to chat about how boring weeding his garden was and how could I possibly stand doing it for so long. I told him it was easy: I didn’t stand, I kneeled. Rob looked at the trees and mumbled something into his tea. Then he looked at me the way I sometimes look at my puppy when she’s eaten yet another inedible object and said, “But how do you do it? Doesn’t it drive you nuts?” I thought about giving him another shower but something in the way the compost reflected off his shoes in the crisp spring light told me I could let him in on my real secret: I wasn’t weeding. I never “weeded” (it bored me stiff). I was actually a giant, ripping up great swathes of land belonging to the meddling Rosians who had failed to pay their weekly tribute to me and my offspring. In short, I turned boring things into a game.