Overcoming Functional Fixedness in Open Playtime

Overcoming Functional Fixedness in Open Playtime

Obviously, taking your child to Open Playtime at Romp n’ Roll is a great way for her to blow off excess energy and entertain herself through healthy exercise instead of sitting in front of the TV set. What may not be so obvious is that it also is an excellent opportunity for her to develop a wonderfully flexible and adaptive mind.

A psychological impediment that keeps people from operating in a maximally effective fashion is something called “functional fixedness.” We have a tendency to view tools, materials, etc. as being useful only in their customary ways. Consequently, we miss opportunities to solve problems by using them in other ways.

A good example. A friend of mine was extremely frustrated by the fact that there was a hole in the wall of her bathroom above the sink and below the medicine cabinet. The space was too small to hang a picture over it, and if she plastered the hole she would have to paint the entire wall, which she was not inclined to do. Then one morning, as she was brushing her teeth, she noticed that the toothpaste was the exact same color as the wall. She squirted some into the hole, smoothed it over, and let it dry. Perfect match, problem solved.

During classes at Romp n’ Roll, there is no doubt that the kids are having a blast and learning a lot by using the equipment and implements according to the lesson plans. But it is incredibly exciting and satisfying to watch how they take the instruction and inspiration they received and then add their own imaginations to create new and different yet equally fun and educational activities for themselves in Open Playtime.

Dr. Mike

Michael K. Meyerhoff, Ed.D. (a.k.a. “Dr. Mike”) is a member of the management team at Romp n’ Roll. After receiving his bachelor’s degree in psychology from Columbia University, he earned his master’s and doctorate degrees in human development from the Harvard Graduate School of Education, where he also held a position as a researcher with the Harvard Preschool Project. He may be contacted via e-mail at drmike@romproll.com.