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A Summer Full of Imagination

by Miriam Downey 5. July 2012 10:56

When my son was about 12, he told me one "boring" summer afternoon that he wanted to make an "imagination cake." I told him that he could experiment in the kitchen as long as he cleaned up after himself. Of course, the product that came out of the oven didn't look anything like a cake because he had used some of his favorites like peanut butter and catsup but had used no flour or eggs or leavening agent. After I explained to him about how a cake had to have all the previously mentioned things, he and I baked a real cake together. It was a good experience for us both; he got to use his imagination, and I got to teach a cooking skill.

Summer is a great time for children's imaginations to run wild. A recent article in the Wall Street Journal (May 23, 2012) discusses this very topic. Tinkerers Unite! How Parents Enable Kids' Creativity talks about how having time to "mess around" may be an extremely valuable experience for children by allowing them time for unstructured, hands-on creativity. The family in the story kept a box of junk that the children could use to make whatever they wanted.

The article suggests that even though Legos and other toys that can be purchased can encourage a lot of hands-on play, some of the best play comes when the play equipment has to be scavenged and repurposed. The article suggested that telling a child that you won't purchase some big single-purpose item may encourage a creative solution to the problem. Following the article, readers expressed opinions on the article. One anonymous reader said: "As a society, we've transformed childhood from a time of exploration and imagination into a time of consumerism and staring. It's critical that we parents limit screen time and require our young people to come up with their own activities, ideas and plans, if we are to support a future society in which people know how to fix, build, and create."

The problem with massive amounts of creative play is massive amounts of chaos in the house and yard that has to be cleaned up. I can offer no solution for that, but I can offer some books that will help guide your child's creative efforts. The following lists of books are about sewing, cooking, building, technology, putting on shows, etc. Most will be available at your public library. Any one of these books can inspire a summer's worth of tinkering.

I must say in closing that the same son who experimented with cake baking and other messy, messy endeavors as a child is now a toy designer and inventor. Some of his creations may be in your playroom or your game closet. It is satisfying as a mother to know that all the chaos and cleanup amounted to something!

The Way Things Work or The New Way Things Work by David McCaulay. These classic books are a tinkerer's guide to creation. Everything you would ever want to know about how things work.

The Way Science Works by DK Publishing. All the secrets of science.

Gizmos and Gadgets: Creating Science Contraptions that Work and Knowing Why by Jull Frankel Hauser. Perfect for making major messes!

Kids and Inventing! A Handbook for Young Inventors by Susan Casey. Easy-to-follow instructions for turning ideas into realities.

New Junior Cookbook by Better Homes and Gardens. This cookbook is appropriate for even the youngest cooks, and the recipes are appealing to older children as well. There are lots of cookbooks for children available. Your own favorites may be a child's best source of recipes, however.

Sewing School: 21 Sewing Projects Kids Will Love by Amie Plumley and Andria Lisle. These projects look really cute and fun. They also use material scraps, which makes for fun for most children.

Theatre for Young Audiences: 20 Great Plays for Children by Coleman A. Jennings. Some original plays and some adaptations that children can act out and plan the production of.

On Stage: Theatre Games and Activities for Kids by Lisa Barry-Winters. More fun in putting on a show.

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