There's a warm Christmas Morning feeling that strikes children when an over-sized delivery makes its way to their doorstep. As excited as parents may be to have that beautiful stainless steel refrigerator completing the look of their kitchen, kids are more excited out the box that the $2000 fridge came in – and all it's playtime possibilities. What is it
about cardboard boxes that makes kids ditch their Playstations like yesterday's news?
of the Imagination Foundation
knows that the freedom to explore profoundly inspires children, and a cardboard box is the perfect canvas for this inspiration. This man behind the massive viral video, Caine's Arcade
is on a mission to instill the value of creativity and imagination in both our youth and society as a whole. He took a moment away from his work to speak with us about Caine's Arcade, his mission to encourage a new generation of creators, and how he was able to turn a movie into a movement.
How has Caine’s Arcade affected your own goals – personally, professionally?
It’s added to this whole nonprofit element that we've started. To see the impact that this one story could have and to see how many other kids like Caine out there, it’s really inspired me to do more things for kids like Caine around the world, to foster their creativity.
Tell us a bit about the mission of the Imagination Foundation.
The Imagination Foundation grew out of the response from the Caine’s Arcade
short film. So immediately after the film went viral, we started getting pictures of kids building things out of cardboard with messages from parents and educators, and wanted to try to create some programs that could foster the creativity and entrepreneurship of kids worldwide. Now that was the genesis of the imagination foundation: literally there was a viral film, and two days later this idea of taking this viral moment and turning it into a movement.
And so we started this foundation with the help of the Goldhirsh Foundation, who gave us grants to develop some programs. Our first was the Global Cardboard Challenge, which culminates in a Day of Play. And it really recreates the experience of Caine’s Arcade for kids, where they’re invited to build things using cardboard recycled materials and their imaginations. On the anniversary of the flash mob we did in the movie for Caine, we have a big day of play kind of like a flash mob for kids around the world, where communities come together, give kids high fives and really celebrate the creativity of kids in their community.
With so much time being spent with digital devices and game consoles, do you think we’re in danger of losing that idea of tactically creating and concepting?
I don’ know, I think the jury’s still out. Potentially. I mean I don’t want to be coming down hard on digital games. I think there’s great games out there that do
foster creativity in kids, but at the same time I think also having a balance of hands on, outside stuff and unplugging is also important.
Caine loves video games. There’s great games, Mindcraft, things out there that really are open-ended and engaging. But also the idea of creative play is important – Hands-on building, just playing. Not always being plugged into something, not always having structured time – I think it’s important for kids to have space and time to be bored and to be challenged to figure ways to entertain themselves.
What is your dream project?
I have different dream projects. Caine’s Arcade was a dream project that grew bigger than I had even imagined. For the Imagination Foundation, one dream project is to create a makers’ space for kids in LA in the Boyle Heights area. That’s a big dream projects that I slowly chip away at. Right now it’s keeping Imagination Foundation going and growing. We’re trying to make creativity a core social value. Long-term, that would be a dream.
As a society, what can we do better to foster creativity in our children?
I think the most important things that I've seen are giving kids space and asking what they want to do. Caine did something that he loves, which is an arcade, but all kids might not want to do that. Just asking kids what they’re passionate about, then giving them the space and support to discover that and build upon it — it’s pretty powerful.
I was just at an event in Colorado where the parents were talking about how much confidence their kids are gaining. Often the kids who make these things are shy or introverted and giving them something like this to share their games or work in teams has been really meaningful. The response has been phenomenal, seeing kids playing and their parents giving them the space to make a bit of a mess with their cardboard boxes. Thus far, we've had over 100,000 kids in 50 countries, and we hope to engage a million kids in creative play this year.
How is Caine doing these days? How has everything that has happened with the arcade, the video etc. affected his outlook, dreams and ambitions?
He’s good! He retired from running his arcade when he turned 11. I think he actually had too many customers and just wanted to start making bikes and pursing some other things he’s passionate about. I think he’s been taking some art classes. We’ve raised almost a $240,000 scholarship fund for him so he’ll be able to get tutoring and do some other things. And he’s been offered full-scholarships from colleges already. Just a regular kid still playing still following his passions and dreaming up the next big projects.
Parents and educators can find out more about the Cardboard Challenge at cardboardchallenge.com
. You can also connect with Nirvan Mullick
and the Imagination Foundation
on Twitter (@nirvan).