Wednesday, April 08, 2009

A Cool New Toy: Your Imagination

It's important to encourage children to use their imaginations, because there are so many mental distractions and structured activities today. It's easy to forget that it's necessary to just wander around and think, off task and off schedule with no technological devices nearby. Even I used to spend hours in the backyard, dreaming up all sorts of adventures. In my world there were tiny people living in the tree trunks and every animal could talk. As a mom I'm a true believer that free time must really be free.

In an effort to get the children outside playing this week, since they are off from school, I read Alice McLerran's children's book Roxaboxen to them this morning before breakfast. In the story the author remembers a make-believe town that her mother and aunts created as children in the suburbs of Arizona. Our copy is signed by the author, whom I had the pleasure of meeting when I wrote a feature article for my local newspaper about her story The Mountain that Loved a Bird. At the time, it was being translated for a program that provides books for schools in Pakistan.

They were inspired, to say the least. Before breakfast was on the table all three kids were outside outlining their town in the dirt, and gathering objects to fill it. They created a federal court and a circus ring first, adjacent to one another. (Of course, these are the most important components of a town.) I was invited to the opening ceremony, held in the circus ring. The princess announced in her most formal, deepest voice:

"I by name this town Gary!"

On a large rock they drew a picture of a snail in pink sidewalk chalk, in honor of the great American role model of their town: Gary, SpongeBob's pet snail. It was unanimously decided that Hell Hound would be the home invader, and Most Wanted criminal in Gary.

Next came turf wars and the construction of a prison while I cooked pancakes. We met at the kitchen table to discuss a treaty over breakfast. A truce was called, and baby Bigfoot volunteered to spend twenty hours in jail in order to solidify peace, (my little Gandhi). Meanwhile the two older kids joined in a common effort to build a rocket ship. I had tickets made of rock to a mud pie tasting at the Princess's bakery at 2 p.m. That's the price a mother pays for personal free time.
When the kids got too cold they came inside and went back to the computer. I was about to shut it off and make them play a board game, but then I realized that they were busy recording Gary town history in Microsoft word. No joke. Big Brother was asking me how to spell words. Here's his story:
I by call this town Gary.. Like most stories are magic stories, you
will be looking at fake people, but in this there’s a town.
They paid with rocks as $. If you played car, just play car!
But if you go too fast you got to go to jail. A horse is better. There is no jail.
And wars! Yes wars! Everyone gots their sticks and it’s starting.
And if you’re the leader you will shout war!
The Gary team wins!
The end.
Alice McLerran's children's books are available at She's great, check her webstite out


Elizabeth Kathryn Gerold-Miller said...

I'm going to take this out when we go to the library! Our kids have off next week and will be spending most of it in our backyard - the rest on the ball field. Who knows? Maybe we'll get lucky and have a nice warm day so we can go to the beach!

Anonymous said...

Sim City through the eyes of a child. Neat!


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Welcome to my writer's blog, started about six years ago for fun. Over time, the writing I have posted has ranged from personal reflection, to Long Island history research, to tall tales for my own amusement, to feature articles for local newspapers. As you can see from topics listed here, I travel in many mental directions in regard to interests. Click on the tabs and labels to explore my strange mind which senses that you may be having a criss-cross day. If so, perhaps this blog will distract you. However, please note that if you tell me my blog is beautiful just to get me to advertise rhinoplasty surgery and cheap drugs from Canada in your comment, I will ask the gods to give you a tail that cannot be concealed.


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