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Play-Doh, fidget spinners, and Lego® … these are all hallmarks of a fabulously productive creative problem-solving session!

Why?? If you want to formulate new ideas, think with your hands. Make something as you reflect.

The reality is that the computer is a sad tool for human ideation, one that pales in comparison to the infinite workspace of the real, three-dimensional world. To come up with more ideas, better ideas, and engage with thoughts more deeply, we need to work with our hands. 

Three-dimensional space is our problem-solving space, but in intellectual settings such as school, where kids are taught to count in their heads and not with their fingers, we’ve learned to associate it with cognitive weakness.

Physical acts are a way of working out our thoughts. Psychologists are now recognizing something that artists have intuitively always known that we think with our hands as much as our brains.

Sense and experience. Feel, touch, grip and grasp. “The hand is the window to the mind,” said German philosopher Immanuel Kant.

We take things that interest us into our hands to help us understand. Our sense of touch is so sophisticated that we even describe things we have grasped with our hands in the dark, in much greater detail than when we only see them. Every contact, each touch sparks a firework in the brain. When we grip, we grasp.

Plus, creating something beautiful with our own hands sparks joy. It has the ability to help turn the mind off and allows us to be fully immersed in the activity. Just realizing what we’ve created can be quite gratifying. It also tunes into our creativity which in turn with the mental break, increases productivity when at work.

Many writers claim that their best ideas come when they are not sitting down at the computer but creating and working with their hands.

When you write or draw, the action itself makes you think differently. In cognitive psychology we are trained to see the mind as a computer, but we’ve found that people don’t think that way in the real world. If you give them something to interact with, they think in a different way.

The mental break also provides rest and relief. Having the mind constantly turned on is not the best for us or our productivity.

So, the next time a child counts using their fingers, or you see people spread out information over their desk and walls, be reassured: they are not limited in their capacity to think well, nor are they handicapping their ability to do so. In fact, they are enhancing their ability to think.