Saturday, November 8, 2008

Hope for Childhood

I worry about the lack of creativity in kids. If it doesn't have a keyboard, monitor, joystick, hand controls or a television screen, the kids I work with have declared it a waste of their time. They'll ask what I did as a kid and when I tell them we made up games and played outside, they will sigh and shake their heads sadly. One even said to me, "I feel sorry for you. You didn't have a computer."

No kiddo, I had the world at my fingertips and my imagination as a guide.

Most parents will joke that little children will often find the box a gift came in more interesting than the contents. That's because at their age, younger kids can still entertain themselves to some extent. This is why I found one of my news e-mails today so interesting.

"Stick, skateboard and Baby doll enter Toy Hall of Fame."

I didn't even know there WAS a Toy Hall of Fame. Evidently it's located in the Strong National Museum, formerly known as A.C. Gilbert's Discovery Village in Salem, Oregon. The criteria for being chosen includes fostering discovery and creativity, as well as longevity. The 38 classics range from bikes, kites and Mr. Potato Head, to Crayola crayons, marbles and yes, the lowly cardboard box. Most of the items in the museum were played with by your parents and grandparents.

The Baby Doll is an 18th century creation and the 1950s brought us the ever popular skateboard. But I swear, my favorite was The Stick. As in fell off a tree in your backyard stick. The stick was praised for "its all-purpose, no-cost, recreational qualities, noting its ability to serve either as raw material or an appendage transformed in myriad ways by a child's creativity." From swords to wild west horses, river boat paddles to slingshots, snowman arms or roasting marshmallows, sticks have no age limit. Even dogs and other animals got a nod for their ability to find a stick and play with it.

Maybe in order to play creatively, you just need encouragement. Yesterday, I brought autumn picture coloring pages for the after school kids. I laid them on the table without comment. In ten minutes, all of them were sitting down and coloring. Everyone had collected each page and quiet actually reigned for a few minutes. One even complimented another on his "technique" of outlining in dark color first. When one whined at me, "I messed up!" another child shook her head and repeated my oft offered mantra, "You can't mess up. It's art!"

Two of them even left the computer to come color. There's hope for them yet.


Dave King said...

They used to feel sorry for me not having a telly, then it was a computer, then a mobile phone. When we moved into the twentieth century at school (as we fondly imagined) they were dismissive, first of our T.V. (too small) and then of our computers (didn't have the graphics of their ones at home). I was asked once what I did in the stone age. You are right, I think, to be worried about the lack of imaginative play, but I think it goes back well before computers.

hope said...

Yep...if you don't have encouragement to fly, you'll never know what to do with those wings of imagination.

I remember on childhood vacations at the beach my Mom would grab a shell, draw a HUGE clown's face in the wet sand, then scoop out the "nose". We'd collect small stones or flat shells, stand back and try to toss them in. We'd play, then go for a walk, happy to return and find some other kid playing.