Carl Sagan once wrote, “Imagination will often carry us to worlds that never were, but without it we go nowhere.”
Nowadays, when you see children, they seem to be anchored to their computers, video game systems, iPods, iPads, and iPhones. Getting them to put these devices down is difficult if not downright impossible. And when they do put them down, they will wail about how bored they are, or start to have withdrawals. It becomes a major battle. And, their grades and creativity often suffer as a result of not being able to cut the virtual umbilical cord from their electronics devices.
If this describes your children, there are ways to at least try to spark their creativity. It’s difficult in this day and time, when so many people around the world are plugged in. As a parent, I feel that young children do not need such devices, but many parents do indulge their children and peer pressure becomes an issue. But there are things I do with my own children that helps them get creative readers and writers who actually use their imaginations. All too often you see parents who try to quell their children’s imaginations and hand them these gadgets and just leave them to their own devices.
If they insist upon not giving up their electronics at all, and if they have homework assignments to read certain books, see if there is a downloadable version of the book they are assigned available for them to read. Read a copy along with your child (either electronic or hard copy) and discuss points and ideas in the book. This will not only ensure that they are actually reading their Kindle edition of an assigned book, but it will help the two of you increase your communications skills as well.
Take them to the library. Allow them to pick out their own books, but pay attention to them at home. If they like a certain band, see if there are books about that band’s rise to stardom. If they are into Ironman or Transformers for example, see if there are graphic novels with Ironman to check out. If your children like to draw or paint, or use electronic drawing or painting programs, see if art books strike their fancy. I think you get the idea. It is OK if it’s a comic book. As long as they are reading something it’s still reading. Kids are more likely to want to read if they are reading a subject that deeply interests them.
Set an example. Get caught reading. Discuss what you are reading with your kids. I personally am a magazine junkie and like to sit and read them. I have magazines by my bed, I have magazines by my couch, etc. I have them in the bathroom too. I often catch my kids picking them up and looking at them too. To keep them from piling up and making a lot of clutter, I often remove personal identification from the labels then donate them to the school, the nursing home, or friends who might want the recipes out of them. I also take them to the recycling center. I have the kids go with me when I do this, so that they can see how the gift of the reading material can brighten the day of someone else who is enthused by getting something new to read.
I order subscriptions of subjects my kids find interesting: horses, science fiction TV shows, the paranormal, motorcycles, auto racing, etc. They’ll be more likely to pick them up if the subject interests them.
Take it a step further: when you’re done reading a magazine I encourage the kids to cut them up and do art projects out of them. One I like to do is go buy cheap vases at yard sales and flea markets and have the kids cut up shapes and patterns from the pages that interest them, then Modge Podge the clippings to the vase. They then create something for their rooms, or to make a thoughtful gift for a grandparent or friend, and they feel a sense of accomplishment and pride when they make these items, They may even think of other items they can decorate such as lamps and lamp shades. That is the idea.
This is simple but just talk to your kids. My twelve year-old son and I often talk about various subjects on the way to school of a morning. My mother started a tradition of making him learn a new word every day. She would look up a word that was not often used in everyday conversation and would then not only teach him how to pronounce and spell the word, but would insert that word into a sentence and have him use the word in conversation.
My son and I enjoy many of the same TV shows, so I will often start a conversation with him such as, “Hey, wasn’t that hilarious when Sheldon said Bazinga to Penny last night?” and that in turn will help his memory and recall skills. Sometimes the cartoon shows he watches aren’t the most interesting to me but I try to show some interest and still discuss the parts I do find interesting with him. If I don’t like a particular show or cartoon, I do not make a big deal out of it but if there’s one that I liked as a child that is similar, I introduce him to it, by telling him things like, “hey, if you like this cartoon, see if you like this one.” THEN we discuss. Also, I start conversations about how creative the people who made it were to come up with such things. The key here, talking about imaginations, with the hopes that he’ll use his own to come up with ideas in play. I remember back that my brother and I would reenact TV shows in our backyard. We’d jump our bikes over a ramp and call them the General Lee and that was just fine! We’d stand on round pieces of log and say “beam me up Scotty”. So while television itself is not that great, at least try to steer kids into a direction of “hey, let’s pretend like you’re on that show, what would you do?” It will then spark their imaginations, and help them be on their way to writing fan fiction and imaginative play. If they’re older, they might even enjoy blogs and fan fiction sites based on favorite TV shows, which in turn might entice them to start writing their own.
Along the lines of talking to my son, I also try to get him to think about things he normally would not think about by asking him creative questions, such as, “what do you think our house smells like to your friends?”, “when you go to your friend’s house, how does it smell different or the same from ours?”
Kids aren’t going to give up their video games, and cell phones entirely. They do however have a wealth of information at their fingertips and you can take great advantage of that by doing a bit of your own research and finding websites they might not have discovered about subject matter that interests them. With my son, it’s insects and reptiles. So I find sites about favorite insects and reptiles. If they are turned on to it, they are likely to share these sites and subject matter with friends, who are likely to share with their friends and so on. Sometimes kids don’t notice that there are websites beyond Facebook, You Tube, and video game cheat code blogs. But if they are shown that there are great websites out there they’ll definitely post these things to their Facebook pages and get into discussions with their friends about content that they share.
Don’t be afraid to try to get your kids turned on to NEW things outside of their interests. Again, if they discover something new and interesting they are likely to share this new information with their friends. The possibilities here are endless. If you’re sick to death of hearing about Justin Bieber, a bit or redirection can help. But do not make a big deal out of the Justin Bieber interest: remember it’s just a phase and will pass quickly if you nonchalantly change the subject rather than go, “I don’t know why you listen to that stuff.” You can however, say things like, “Justin’s music is not my type of music, but I happen to like this a lot.” then introduce them to music type you like. Don’t push it on them however, let them test the waters about it and make up their own minds. If they don’t like it, that’s OK, just move on to something else by saying, “perhaps this will be to your liking.” Then repeat the process. It doesn’t have to be music either. It can be anything. If your child likes lizards, they might like dinosaurs too and it’s alright to turn them on to that as well. It may be a new twist on an old interest. If they like dogs, then they may enjoy books, movies, about dogs, but it would also be a great idea to get them physically involved in this interest by helping them look up dog shows or dog events in your area. Money often motivates kids so it can even be beneficial to see if there are ways they can earn a bit of money by feeding, walking, or bathing a friend’s or neighbor’s dog.
Finally try to encourage your kids to write down anything interesting that happens to them during their day. It doesn’t have to be a long blog but it is a great idea to encourage them to say, “some day you’ll have kids and grand kids who are interested in what your life was like, If you write this down, it will help you remember. One thing our family is into is genealogy and they enjoy hearing interesting stories about how their great grandfather had a pet wild rabbit and got his picture in the newspaper with the rabbit. This helps them to understand that it is important to preserve their own personal history for others to enjoy and it makes them feel important. It becomes less of a chore when they are encouraged to think.