Combine Concepts – Bay Area Discovery Museum

Combine Concepts

Find ways to combine things that may not seem to fit together. Choose two different items and draw how they might be combined. This activity challenges children to practice creative thinking.

Materials Required

  • Paper
  • Pencil, marker, crayon or pen


  1. Create a list of different objects and types of things. For types of things, think of different categories or groups. In the list below, there are examples of objects and types of things.
    Objects Type of…
    Piece of furniture Fruit
    A vehicle Fish
    A food flavoring Rock
    A computer Human dwelling
    A cooking stove Tool
    A lampshade Bicycle
  2. Next, pick two objects or one object and one type of thing and think about how silly it would be to combine them into one thing. For example, a piece of furniture that is also a type of fruit, or a lampshade that is also a type of book.
  3. Draw a picture of this new, combined object! What would a lampshade that is also a book look like?
  4. Don’t stop with just one. If you can think of more ways to combine these two things, go for it!
  5. Come up with as many weird combinations as possible. Then move down the list and pick two more things to combine.

Additional Tips

Try these add-on activities:

  • Create a new list of objects and types of things. The harder it seems to combine the two, the better!
  • Gather photos of each object or thing from magazines. Cut out the pictures to practice combining them. For example, place a picture of a chair next to a watermelon to help spark ideas. Maybe the chair is green on top and pink with black seeds underneath.

Links to Creativity

Sometimes creativity involves finding things that seem so different and figuring out how they are alike. It’s pretty easy to find similar things and point out what makes them different. Finding different things and explaining what makes them similar can be difficult, but oh so creative! Putting two things next to each other allows us to compare them easily, and when we try to draw them together as one thing, we spend even more time looking at the details of each. This enables us to create a richer and more creative combination of two seemingly different things. Psychologist James Hampton has used the kind of unusual and imaginary objects from this activity to study creativity. He has found that most people can come up with very creative ideas and that there are many different ways to draw each of the items.
Supporting research includes:
Rothenberg, A. (1971). The process of Janusian thinking in creativity. Archives of General Psychiatry, 24(3), 195205.

Scott, G. M., Lonergan, D. C., & Mumford, M. D. (2005). Conceptual combination: Alternative knowledge structures, alternative heuristics. Creativity Research Journal, 17(1), 79-98.


This activity was contributed by the Center for Childhood Creativity at the Bay Area Discovery Museum. ©2014 Bay Area Discovery Museum. It is adapted with permission from Keith Sawyer’s “Zig Zag: The Surprising Path to Greater Creativity.” Sawyer, K. (2013). San Francisco: Jossey-Bass. Some of the combine concepts pairs used here were originally developed by psychologist James Hampton. For more information and resources see and

Combine Concepts

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Scroll to Top