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Archive for September, 2011

“Daydreams are a highly creative form of mental engagement and a necessary way for children–lacking real-world experience–to process complex information and emotions.”

~ “How Daydreaming Helps Children Process Information and Explore Ideas” by Amy Fries on Psychology Today

And more playful food for thought from around the web:

“Responding to Children’s Spontaneous Experimentation” by Christie Burnett on Childhood 101

“Guest Post: FiveFreedoms I Had that My Daughter Won’t” by Kerala Taylor on Free Range Kids

“The Junk Box: A Collection of Odds and Ends for Inspiring Creativity” by Jaimie on Two Chicks and a Hen

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Oh the ways that a 4 year old knows to slow life down. Especially when we’ve got somewhere to go or something to do. I try to build in transition time aplenty but sometimes it isn’t possible to go at LP’s pace for reason’s ranging from external time-pressure to my own need to move it along.

I’ve had ample opportunity to think about the different ways a person can amble away from a goal-directed moment. While the slowing things down behaviors  may look the same, defining the intent or motivation can be helpful in playfully moving things along.

Here are the distinctions I’ve been pondering:

Procrastination comes out of not wanting to do something. The focus of the meandering, distraction or sudden intense focus on something else is all about avoiding what comes next.  One of my playful strategies with procrastination is to dive into melodrama. “Oh no! The room has become filled with bits of paper. Whatever will we do? I can’t even walk through all this paper.  Someone help me! Help me!”  OR “How will we ever get to the bus stop? We’ll never make it!” That works about 20-30%% of the time.  I’m trying to develop other playful strategies because although my directive, stern mama voice is somewhat effective, it is becoming less so from overuse. I think it is worth saving for impact when it counts. (If only it worked on me when I’m procrastinating!)

Lollygagging is a gentle getting lost in the moment even when you know there’s something else to do. As we walk home from our neighbors house, LP’s imagination takes her away on side adventures to look for marmosets in a tree or stop every few feet to let her puppy do its business.  Gentle, playful teasing about the fact that she’s lollygagging tends to work on this one. The fact that it is a fun and funny word to say helps too.

Bridging is from an active desire to keep the current activity going. The term “bridging” comes from improvisation where it is generally seen as a negative thing. If you are doing an improv scene and the moment comes to make something happen (metaphorically step over  a puddle), instead you stall and make a lot of other things have to happen first you are building a bridge over that puddle instead. With children and play, it happens when they know the end is coming (either because you’ve told them or they feel your energy start to drift away) and they work creatively and hard to keep the action going, throwing up obstacle after obstacle.  If it is almost quiet time and I tell LP to bring her model horses to their pasture for their rest, I know there are going to be all kinds of things that happen to keep the horses from getting there.  There’s a hole they can’t get over. And one horse needs a lead rope and no one can find one. I gently encourage her through the obstacles and often end up “helping” the horses (which is not what I would do during regular playtime).

Daydreaming is that lovely state of being lost in one’s thoughts and unaware of any other thing happening. It is beautiful to watch a child in that state…I try to let it go on as long as possible and then gently draw her back into the world while acknowledging the dream place she’s been.

In the month since I started writing this post, LP has developed oh, about 17 other ways to slow things down “But I’m not finished” and being in a state of deep engaged flow and not being able to move because her feet “are stuck” and so on and so on)…but those are for exploring on another day.

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There’s an interview with Caroline Kennedy in today’s Parade magazine. She has a book coming out this month based on eight hours of interviews historian Arthur M. Schlesinger Jr. conducted with her mother Jacqueline Kennedy.

Here’s the part that caught my eye and heart:

Did your parents read to you as a child?
My mom did when I was younger. I don’t remember my father reading to me, but I remember him telling me bedtime stories. I got to pick what was in them, and then he’d make them up.

Tell me more.
They were adventure stories. I had two ponies in them—one was black with a white star and one was white with a black star, and they were called White Star and Black Star. I could pick who rode the other one. Mostly I picked my cousin Stevie. [Now a business executive, Stephen Kennedy Smith Jr. is the son of Jean Kennedy Smith, the sister of John F. Kennedy, and the late Stephen Smith.]

Were you always the heroine?
Of course. [laughs] Well, would you want to go to bed thinking that Stevie Smith had triumphed over you? No! My father was spectacular at making up stories. And he used to tell me about a purple shark.

A purple shark?
Yes, he said there was a purple shark that used to follow the Honey Fitz [the small presidential yacht]. It liked to eat socks. My father would make people throw their socks overboard, and they’d disappear. He’d say, “See? See? Did you see the purple shark? He ate the socks!” And I’d go [gasps like a child], “I don’t really see him. Oh, oh, I think I see him! Look, the socks are gone, so it must have been the shark that ate the socks!” Those stories were fantastic.

An amazing and lovely reminder.  The stories we create and tell our children — no matter how simple, no matter how fantastic, no matter what they are — have incredible power to make an impression that lasts a lifetime. I’m especially taken by the reminder of how to create magic with stories by bringing a part into action like JFK did with the socks.

Read the full article “Courage, Strength, and Dignity: A Conversation with Caroline Kennedy” at parade.com.

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