Do Your Kids Watch so Much TV that They’ve Stopped Thinking?

It’s spring break this week and your  kids have nothing to do. They’re glued to the  TV. You’re going to tear out your hair if you hear even one more “Sponge Bob Square Pants” rerun.  They need something creative to do.

If left to themselves, children are creative–often more creative than we are. However, it seems we’ve created an environment for children that doesn’t allow for much creativity.

Lots has been written about the causes: Television, computer games, mind-numbing toys, highly structured free time, the emphasis on skills and knowledge for school testing, and teaching for mandated “No Child Left Behind” tests.

It goes without saying that children need knowledge and skills, but they also need to learn how to think creatively, that is, to create new ideas from scratch. Creativity is, after all, an important life skill.

Even if your child’s teacher is restricted by “teaching for tests,” you can encourage creative thinking at home. So turn off the TV. Turn off the computer games. Suggest activities and games that promote creative thinking.

Try these activities:

1. Drop one of your children’s structured activities. Encourage
them to go outside and play.

2. Do “free” arts and crafts. Put paper, scraps, glue, trinkets,
markers, crayons, rubber bands, paper clips, buttons, yarn, and
anything else you can find on the table. Invite your kids to make

3. Play animal games with younger children. Ask questions. How
does the shape of their body parts help them? How does their color help them survive?  Ask them to draw a creature with the head of one animal, the body of another and the tail of a third. What would they name this animal? What would it eat? How would it survive? What sound would it make? Where would it live?

4. Tell stories. You start with the first two sentences. “Once upon a time there was a little girl named Suzie Q who loved her little dog named Squizzer. One day all of a sudden Squizzer . . . ” Kids come up with the end of that sentence and another sentence that stops in the middle. You get another turn. They get more turns. Then someone says “The end.” Add a timer to the game. Kids love it. Each one gets one or two minutes and when the buzzer goes off, even if it’s in the middle of a sentence, it’s
the next player’s turn.

5. Make things out of wood.  Children love to make things out of wood. Help them make a bird house. They’re easy to make. Birds will love to live in them even if the house is lopsided. Use plans from books or from on-line searches. Better yet, just wing it. Make a little box with a roof, a hole, and a stick for a perch. Hang it in a tree and now kids get to watch for birds.

6. Play with puppets. Use paper for finger puppets. Even something
as simple as a small face drawn on a piece of paper, cut out, and taped to a finger can be a puppet. Old socks make great hand puppets. Puppets can talk. They can sing. They can be silly. Now you can graduate to puppet stories. Start with just two characters: one child and one grown up, two children, two animals.  They’ll start adding characters. Now give them a box. Soon you’ll be invited to watch puppet plays performed in a
decorated cardboard-box puppet stage.

7. Experiment with science.  Get directions from the internet or a book on making a buzzer or electric motor from junk: soup cans, wire, screws. Have a race. Get a board about two feet long, and make a race course hill by propping up one end. Race a full soup can and an empty soup can. They’ll probably be surprised at which one wins. Next race the can and a free wheeling toy car. If they can figure out why the winners won, great. If not, it doesn’t matter. Someday they’ll learn it in physics.

If you’re not thinking too creatively yourself, libraries, bookstores, and the internet are loaded with “thinking out of the box” ideas for kids.

And be sure to encourage your child’s school to promote creative thinking. Talk to teachers and the school principal. Bring up the importance of creativity at PTA meetings. Suggest creativity play days to other parents.

How do you encourage your kids to be more creative? Let us know. We love your comments.

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