Dadsforcreativity play (1)

1 Tip to Support Imaginative Play in Children

This blog article is a reflection on a sequence of random events that led up to an incident of  imaginative play that engaged my three boys. This reflection offers 1 tip to support imaginative play in children.

We sometimes talk about a child’s interests as things that emerged by chance. I take the position that they’re not always random acts but an outcome that developed from a sequence of past events.

Before I share my 1 tip to support imaginative play in children, I want to offer my reflection through a timeline of activities that I felt contributed to a game that engaged my three boys in over 45-minutes of focused imaginative play on a couch.

See Also: 5 tips for creative writing at home

Let me be clear; it’s a rarity for my three boys to stay engaged in a single game, absent tears, screaming, and complete chaos in the room.

However, this activity engaged each child at their level, no mess, happiness, excitement, laughter, it was perfect. Sadly, within 1-hour, they were back downstairs in the basement, trashing the furniture to build their floor is lava obstacle course. (note to self – Stay on topic).

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In the image above, the boys played a video game called Ninja’s Past on devices from tech companies Robo & Luna. However, there’s a snag in this story; the game and companies do not exist. They’re made up. Despite this, the talk about unlocking new characters, making it to the next level, and screams when losing a life, were entirely genuine to them. It was a demonstration of the power of imagination, a power that is so strong and evident in young children.

Latest devices from Luna Tech; they include the Pace10X (phone) and the super watch Sentori
Latest devices from Luna Tech; they include the Pace10X (phone) and the super watch Sentori

There are so many angles on how I’d like to explore this experience as a Father who got extra time that morning to enjoy his coffee. I invite you to take this summary of the story and do some thinking of your own. That said, it would be amiss of me if I didn’t touch on the irony of kids playing imaginary video games when many of us worry about the impact of video games on creativity and imagination. (note to self – Stay on topic).

OK, here’s my reflection; I wonder if we do too much research on real-world experiences that fuel childhood imagination and not enough on the discoveries that take place during previous play. Consider the developmental timeline explored below that led to this moment (times are an approximation):

Random Events Timeline Leading to Imaginative Play

  • 9-months prior (approx.). My eldest develops a fascination for technology and begins to use paper and color pencils to create cell phones
  • 9-months prior (approx.). Around the same time, my middle son develops the dreaded fascination with playing video games.
  • 8-months prior (approx.). My eldest creates an imaginary technology company headquartered in his long-term fictional country of Coconut Island – the company is called Luna Tech.
  • 6-months prior (approx.). My eldest begins making paper phones for his classmates, fascinated by the initial prototype that he shared one day in class. The company expands to make devices like the super watch sentori and ear pods to rival Apples airpods
  • 6-months prior (approx.). Around the same time, my middle son and now my youngest begin copying their eldest brother, making their own phones using paper and lego.
  • 5-months prior (approx.). Seeing the attention his eldest brother Around the same time, my middle son and now my youngest son begin copying their eldest brother, making their own phones using paper and lego.
  • 4-months prior (approx). My middle son establishes his technology company called Robo. More importantly, he becomes obsessed with Ninjago on Netflix. This obsession creates a pause in his desire to play video games at every waking hour.
  • 2-months prior (approx). My eldest and middle son begin talking about the different things they can do on their devices. This gives rise to games where they start using their devices in the real world. For example, my eldest uses his phone at birthday parties to capture photos and videos.
  • 1-months prior (approx). My eldest and middle son begin playing Ninja’s past, a new game only available on the Luna and Robo devices.

A short time later, my youngest begins replicating his brother’s play, and I see them one morning playing on the sofa. I use my device from a company called Apple to capture an image. I then used another device from Apple to write this article and share this story with the world.

Reflecting on this timeline, my boys produced this game without any adult intervention. However, it was a game fueled by their interactions in the real world that helped expand their imagination. I suppose it’s not too different from playing home corner in the Kindergarten classroom.

 

So my 1 tip to support imaginative play in children

Give opportunities for your children to play without structure; this requires minimal input from adults and minimal interaction with tablet devices. 

 

Anyway, I have to go; on writing this article, they’re back to playing floor is lava and getting out of control.

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How do parents influence the way a child perceives and uses a new tool like a camera?

When new folks hear my accent, they nearly always ask the same question; “do I like it here?” My answer is nearly always the same; I love the ice-cream, I’ve adjusted nicely to living outside a major city, and I absolutely adore having four true seasons. Specifically, I LOVE the Fall in New England. This love unearths an innate interest in photography and painting, partially because I have a desire to capture the contrasting colors of the Fall foliage.

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My eldest use the camera to snap pictures of his Nona and flowers. This article considers how my actions of introducing a new tool might influence his creative journey.

I never act on these feelings. I worry they will lead to another thing; making me concerned about my capacity to learn the necessary skills needed to master another tool. A paint brush is a tool. A camera is a tool. To express my feelings of the Fall foliage, I will need to master these new tools.

This introduces the topic of this blog article, a tool like camera is something that either exists or doesn’t exist in our home or in our classroom. For those familiar with this concept, you’ll know I’m beginning to play around the edges of sociocultural theory, which includes investigations into how individuals interact with tools inside their environment. This includes how a learner perceives a tool, and how a learner is influenced by other people when using the tool.

My question for readers of this article is how do parents influence the way a child perceives and uses a new tool like a camera? I thought about this question when I gave my eldest a camera and asked him to take pictures of the Fall foliage. I think this question is also something to consider as we look into gifts for  Christmas!

You may also like – Photography and Creativity: What’s the Connection? 3 Question Interview with Photographer, Dan Kane

Photography and Creativity: What’s the Connection? 3 Question Interview with Photographer, Dan Kane

I’ve been amazed about his interest; he’s been snapping away, holding it like a pro, and even switching over lenses when he wants a close-up of a flower. This experience makes me think about the action of giving a young child a tool for the first time. To what extent does this experience influence their creative destiny?

There’s a whole bunch of things whirling around in my mind as I consider this question:

  • What is the relationship between our first access to a new tool and sociocultural theory? Is receiving the tool enough to set a child on their way? Or do they need mentorship to use the tool purposefully? If it’s the latter, will my inadequate photography skills make this experience irrelevant? I think not!
  • What about equity? I remember reading how Bill Gates was fortunate enough to gain access to a computer at a young age. Access to this tool (and environment) initiated a life-long curiosity for computers, which obviously contributed to his future success. What if he never received this experience? Would he still be as successful? Here’s another crazy thought – what if he had received the same experience, but a few years later?  
  • How does this relate to gifts for Christmas? Twenty years from now, will our child recall the moment they received an electric guitar for Christmas?
  • Finally, what if we have too many of these experiences when young? Might we reduce our focus of exploration on one single tool? In Malcom Gladwell’s book Outliers, he uses Beethoven as an example of what is known as the 10,000-hour rule. This is considered the approximate time it takes for an individual to master a set of skills at the necessarily level to produce majors changes within a field. What if we have a child who is destined to become Beethoven with a Piano, or Gates with a computer, but we keep giving them new things to try out that they never have an opportunity to put in the hours needed to master one single tool?

Clearly, I’m enjoying my Thanksgiving week and allowing my mind to wonder on a bunch of thought experiments. To conclude, I’ll simply say that my boy has enjoyed access to my old camera and has responded well to my inadequate mentorship. I’ve suggested he stay in auto settings for now and focus on capturing “interesting” images of the Fall foliage. However, I’ve given him complete creative liberty of what he chooses to photograph.

I’ll conclude on this – if he becomes the next Beethoven of photography, we can credit me as the parent who introduced him to this tool – right?

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Why parents should take a more active role in promoting multiculturalism at home

I’m busy. We’re all busy. We are all busy because we are parents, challenged with the daunting task of raising children. This is on top of all the other responsibilities we have in our lives, which might be our careers, managing the household, caring for a loved one, and in my situation, working on completing my doctorate program. I shared this information for two reasons; the first is because this is actually a social scholarship assignment that requires me to initiate a conversation via social media (hence the inclusion of references), and the second reason is because I’m about to suggest we parents take on another responsibility – taking a more active role in promoting multiculturalism at home.

SEE ALSO: Creativity Chit-Chat: I need more input Daddy

As we are busy, I thought I’d offer some context to multiculturalism and how I am approaching this subject as a white male raising three other white males, and then structure the article via a few simple questions so you can pick and skim the article if time is short.

What do we mean by multicultural?

My boys are learning that the Soccer World Cup is a big deal, and I have an expectation that they support England over USA
My boys are learning that the Soccer World Cup is a big deal, and I have an expectation that they support England over USA

When we talk about culture, we could be talking about a few different things. Rather than extend the article into another topic, let’s assume culture to be something that considers behaviors, actions, and beliefs commonly associated with a group (e.g., English culture, white culture, European culture, etc.) or a time period (e.g., 18th Century Culture) (Mason, 2014). Furthermore, let us agree that culture is something that changes and remains complex.  It is likely that we belong to multiple sub-groups associated with a culture (Mason, 2014), for example I am White; I am a White European; I am a White European Male; therefore, I most likely have behaviors commonly associated with being white, but also being of European descent, and of being a male. You see how complicated this can be… I’m going to stop…. The point is raising my boys to increase their awareness of cultural norms other than their own, is moving in the direction of promoting multiculturalism. Rather than perceiving events only from a White European Male, I want them to accept or even acknowledge that this perspective is unique perspective they offer, but it will be different when comparing an experience through another cultural lens.

Ultimately, I want my three boys to develop a capacity to expand their perceptions and understanding of the world beyond the single cultural lense of their upbringing.

What do we need to know as parents?

Pedersen (2000) explains that a major challenge to promoting multiculturalism comes from the fact that us humans like to see things almost exclusively from our perspective; so we measure difference based on how it relates to what we consider to be normal; we measure correct or incorrect behavior based on what our parents (or teachers) taught us was correct or incorrect behavior. Unfortunately, these “rules of the game” (p. 23) become our norm before we develop the cognitive capacity to reflect, compare and even challenge our expectations of the world and its inhabitants.

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Many learning theories, most notably Vygotsky’s sociocultural theory, highlight how influential parents are when it comes to the upbringing of their children. They sit quietly, making observations of or actions and behaviors, they construct knowledge about their world from the questions they ask at the dinner table, to the conversations they hear on the ride up to visit their cousins. Ultimately, our children will “group into the intellectual life of those around them (Vygotsky, 1978, p. 88), and that means we need to consider how we are socializing our children to participate in a multicultural world (or reflect on whether we are unconsciously limiting their perception and judgment of the world to one cultural perspective only).

On October 31st we dress up for Halloween, and going trick or treating. I don't spend many time reflecting on the origins of Halloween, its just something I did as a child, and am passing along to my boys.
On October 31st we dress up for Halloween, and going trick or treating. I don’t spend much time reflecting on the origins of Halloween, it is just something I did as a child, and therefore something I expect my children to do as well. What other cultural habits am I passing along?

Why is this important?

There are many reasons why promoting multicultural awareness at home is essential; for a start, we shouldn’t assume that schools can tick every single box when it comes to sharing information about different cultures (which is particularly essential for me as my boys attend parochial school). We also need to recognize the influence we have over how our children are being socialized. For example, if I never engage in actions associated with preparing meals in the kitchen, and my boys only see their mother engaging in these actions, am I inadvertently, though my actions, passing on this cultural pattern to my boys? Might it develop into an expectation of all women? Likewise, as we celebrate religious and national events within our culture (i.e., Christmas, Thanksgiving, etc.), what meanings do my children interpret from these events? For example, as an outsider living in the U.S., it seems that the meanings given to Thanksgiving have now assumed more of a celebration of Americanism, as opposed to honoring a historical event. Therefore, my boy’s interpretation of Thanksgiving feels very much connected to freedom, religion, and thankfulness for everything this great country has to offer, as opposed to its colonial routes. I am not suggesting I destroy their perspective of Thanksgiving, but when older perhaps I could ask them what Thanksgiving might mean for a Native American’s perspective, or help them avoid the conversation I often have to experience each year.

PERSON A: Do you celebrate Thanksgiving on the same day (I’m assuming this is because they know of a country to the North that celebrates Thanksgiving on a different day)

ME: No, we don’t celebrate Thanksgiving in England

PERSON A: Really, why?

ME: Because we’re not American

Ok, I’m not that harsh, I usually find a more respectful way to inform them that not everyone celebrates Thanksgiving.

SEE ALSO: Why parents have an important role to play in Media Literacy

Where might we start?

For this course, we are asked to read Joan Wink’s (2011), Critical Pedagogy: Notes from the Real World. What I’ve shared in this blog article would be referred to as a mess, and my challenge would be to identify something within the mess to address. I think a good starting place is to find ways to expose my children to other cultures, and then find ways to facilitate discussions through questions. For example, having them ask why I don’t celebrate Thanksgiving, is an opportunity to expose them to the simple fact that Thanksgiving is part of American culture, and not something that should be expected outside of the Americas. Likewise, exposing my children to other cultural events could help generate questions about those events, and this might lead to exciting discoveries for me as well as my children. The key to promoting multiculturalism is raising my children to understand they will share likenesses and differences with people of other cultures (Pedersen, 2000); however, they must work hard to resist the temptation to limit their viewpoint and judgment to one perspective only.

For those interested, here’s a list of the citations used in the article above:

Mason, M (2014). Comparing Cultures.  In M. Bray, B. Adamson, & M. Mason (Eds.), Comparative education research: Approaches and methods (2nd ed., pp. 19-46). Hong Kong, China: Comparative Education Research Centre. 

Pedersen, P. (2000). The rules of multiculturalism. In A handbook for developing multicultural awareness (3rd ed.; pp. 23-41). Alexandria, VA: American Counseling Association.

Pedersen, P. (2000). The rules of multiculturalism. In A handbook for developing multicultural awareness (3rd ed.; pp. 23-41). Alexandria, VA: American Counseling Association.

Vygotsky, L. S. (1978). Mind in society: The development of higher psychological processes. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

 

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I like to write. I love to parent. So why not share the occasional weblog?

A random blog article for the few readers that stumble across my articles or graciously liked the DadsforCreativity Facebook page. I haven’t written for two years! My absence is not because I have lost ideas on what to write or even lacked motivation. DadsforCreativity simply found itself lower down the priority list that we all must construct to survive our busy lives as parents, professionals, and wondering humans.

In January 2017, my even busier wife gave birth to our third boy. Wow. She’s been either pregnant or nurturing babies for almost a decade. The little guy, of course, created a disruption and is now sitting on my lap as I write this article. He has a pacifier in mouth, a cuddly toy, and yes an iPad (bad Daddy!).

During this period, not only have I been adapting to life as a parent of three children under the age of seven, but I also produced my second education documentary (check it out here), collaborated on a supporting application that helps facilitate a conversation about the future of schooling (download iOS or Android), and started a doctorate so I know a little more about what I sometimes find myself talking about – education technology and changing schooling.

Here’s a clip from the documentary – Class of 2032: Schooling for a Digital Culture. Examining how children interact with YouTube speaks to the opportunity and challenges of learning in the digital age. 

I share this information because it helps add links to the projects online (always good from a digital marketing perspective), and more importantly to provide a statement on a change to how I will approach my future works on DadsforCreativity.

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My favorite thing is parenting. I love my role as a father, and it will be my greatest accomplishment. Therefore, I’m going to continue to write from that perspective, and use my blog as a creative outlet to share my thoughts, ideas, and feelings toward parenting and using technology in the home to nurture the type of skills that we value in our young.

Occasionally I might share a study or academic perspective that I think is particularly relevant for informal learning environments (e.g., the home), but I will NOT be applying APA or offering citations. These articles are not going to find their way into a journal, and perhaps my most important readers will simply be my three boys, and God willing my grandchildren, and great-grandchildren many many years from now.

I’ve realized I like to write. I love to parent. So why not share the occasional weblog?

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