Foodie Dice and Other Exciting Combinations

foodiediceThe last few warm days have given me hope that summer may one day return to Michigan. When that glorious day finally arrives (can you tell it’s been a LONG winter?), many homes will be filled with seemingly ever-hungry children wondering to eat next.

This doesn’t necessarily sound like a creativity problem, but it can be. Even those of us blessed with the abundance to consistently feed our hungry families can run out of ideas for nutritious and interesting meals. Enter “Foodie Dice.” I read about this product and it made me chuckle, but then it also made me think of ways it can be adapted to spark creative thinking at home and at school.

Foodie Dice allow foodies (and other brave souls) to literally roll the dice to decide what’s for dinner. There are five primary dice, one each for protein, grain/carb, herb, bonus ingredient, and cooking method. There are four additional dice with seasonal vegetables. On a given night you might end up with

  1. Chicken
  2. Rice
  3. Dill
  4. Onions
  5. Peas
  6. and Sauté.

Then it would be your challenge to come up with a dinner using those ingredients, a bit like the Food Network show Chopped.

Foodie dice remind me of one of my favorite examples of using morphological synthesis, a creative thinking strategies that combines two variables using a grid. I had a graduate student from China, living in a house with other international students. Cooking with American ingredients was a challenge, but they loved one of them—biscuit mix. It was inexpensive and versatile—just the thing for graduate students on limited budgets. My student made a grid to invent many different ways to use biscuit mix, putting cooking method on one axis and “add in” on the other. She ended with combinations like “add chocolate chips and fry” or “add green onions and steam.” They weren’t all delicious, but many were—and her strategy certainly generated original dishes!

snackplateCombining foods in new ways can be fun and foodie dice are very clever, but perhaps the ingredients aren’t all favorites at your house. Imagine what you could do if your family personalized the dice—as my student personalized her combinations to her taste. I can easily envision snack or lunch dice, for example. A family might create two or three dice with healthy options that can be combined—maybe one with protein, one carbs and one with fruits or vegetables. They might roll a piece of cheese, bread and carrots, or a crackers, peanut butter and an apple. Of course few households will always have enough options to fill up three dice, so you can use the same thing on several sides of the dice. Or use just one die with six options and roll it several times. I wonder what would happen if you created smoothie dice, with things to be blended in a fruit/vegetable drink? There are lots of online patterns for creating your own dice, or just cover an old one with masking tape.

But, of course, food isn’t the only thing that can use random combinations. For school, consider how you could create (and use) storytelling dice, art project dice, invent-a-game dice, or create a math story problem dice. I’m sure you can come up with more ideas. However you use the strategy of random combinations, you are teaching a creativity strategy along with your activity—what a nice springtime bonus! If you create a new use for dice combinations, we’d love to hear about it.

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