Tuesday, February 3, 2009

What will you invent today?

Children are full of energy. They are spirits in little bodies and they are extremely creative.

Just observe a little toddler at play and you will see this. My children enjoyed endless hours of creative play using their imaginations to construct towns, tents and racetracks and to invent all sorts of imaginary activities, games and scenes. I remember Fischer-Price doll houses, fire stations and farms. I particularly remember the day my tiny daughter decided to put her gerbil into her Fischer-Price phone booth. It was a fabulous idea on the surface but she failed to realize that the little animal would protest by plunging its teeth through her finger. She learned a very painful lesson from that but still she forged on undaunted by the experience to create new forms of play.

She didn’t try to make the poor gerbil part of her imaginary play any longer but she continued to be inventive and she recruited other children in the neighborhood to put on plays and shows she directed. I remember wonderful days before television captured children and held them hostage sitting still spellbound and motionless watching the activity outside of themselves instead of delving within their minds to ignite the sparks of their own creativity. That is not to say that there are not benefits to much that we find on our television screens and in our computers but many young children spend too many precious hours of their days watching mindlessly instead of thinking and acting.

I was horrified one day when I took my grandson to the toy store to buy a toy. He had earned the toy and our much anticipated outing was very special. He looked carefully at the many choices on each shelf and picked up a toy here and there to carefully consider which would be the best choice. At one point he held up a particular truck, turned to me and asked, “Grammy, what can this toy do for me?” Instead of wondering what he could do with this toy, he wondered how it would perform and entertain him. I thought this was quite sad.

He was, and still is, a creative, loving child but I’d have preferred that he purchased clay, paints or lots of paper and crayons. I wanted so badly for him to use his imagination and take pride in thinking for himself and constructing his own reality. Do you recall playing as a small child and using your fabulous gift of imagination? A stick could easily become a magic wand or even a gun or a sword. A cardboard box could be a vehicle or tipped on its side, a doll house. It might become a bed for a favorite doll or pet or perhaps a playhouse. There was no limit to its possibilities. What has happened to the sense of inventive and creative play?

As adults we also fail to appreciate out inventive, creative selves and end up doing the same things we've always done in the same ways -- and we often end up, as I wrote about in The Taming of the Chew, eating emotionally because we find our lives boring or disappointing. So, today I challenge you to do something different. Rearrange your schedule or your furniture, paint a picture or take a break and go snowshoeing (that is if you live in snow country as I do... If not, how about a long, relaxing walk in a pastoral setting?). Do something that you normally wouldn't do. Try out a new hairstyle or outfit. Play with your ideas and see what you can come up with. Then go enjoy yourself. That's what life is all about! And, above all else, have fun!

Dr. Denise

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