The Unusual Uses Game – Bay Area Discovery Museum

The Unusual Uses Game

Come up with lots of unusual ideas about how to use an everyday object. This activity pushes children to move beyond the very first ideas they think of to come up with more original ideas.

Materials Required

  • Paper
  • Something to write with


1. This activity can be done individually, with a partner, or with a small team. Adjust the rules as needed depending on how many people are playing.

2. Make a list of things people use or see every day, or pick one item from the list below:

  • Broom
  • Carrot
  • Yardstick
  • Gallon of milk
  • Beach ball

3. Make a list of as many possible uses for this object. Try to imagine uses that do work but that are also unusual or unique, rather than commonplace.

4. Spend approximately five minutes writing down ideas.

5. After five minutes have passed, circle the ideas that really do work and are especially unique. If any ideas don’t work very well, try to improve the idea to make it work better.

6. Share your list of unusual ideas with others. If playing with a group, see how many ideas were similar. Then count how many total different ideas were created between all the players.

Additional Tips

Try these add-on activities:

  • Pick another item from the list and create a new list of possible uses.
  • Pick an item from the room and create a new list of uses.
  • Choose one of the unusual uses and write and record a commercial to sell the object for this new use.

Links to Creativity

One of the more unique and valuable aspects of divergent thinking tasks is how simply participating in them helps improve creativity. Opportunities for participants to diverge and explore a broad range of possibilities are contrary to most standardized tests, which measure convergent thinking (i.e., coming up with a single right answer). This activity provides simple prompts that ask children to produce a lot of ideas, which can be measured on three traditional indices of creativity: fluency (number of ideas), flexibility (different categories of ideas), and originality (ideas that are unique). The more aware participants are of their divergent thinking, the more likely they will be to adopt strategies that increase their creativity.

Supporting research includes:

Nusbaum, E. C., & Silvia, P. J. (2011). Are intelligence and creativity really so different?: Fluid intelligence, executive processes, and strategy use in divergent thinking. Intelligence39(1), 36-45.

Runco, M. A., & Okuda, S. M. (1991). The instructional enhancement of the flexibility and originality scores of divergent thinking tests. Applied Cognitive Psychology5(5), 435-441.

Scott, G., Leritz, L. E., & Mumford, M. D. (2004). The effectiveness of creativity training: A quantitative review. Creativity Research Journal, 16(4), 361-388.


This activity was contributed by the Center for Childhood Creativity at the Bay Area Discovery Museum. For more information and resources see

The Unusual Uses Game

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