We are reading Where the Wild Things Are in my family right now. After so many years since I read this story, I feel like I’m reading it for the first time. I didn’t see the recent movie–not because I’m in the camp that believes that books are always better than movies (but I usually agree) but because we as a family choose to spend less time in front of the TV or computer screen for family time.
So reading about Max and his adventures reminds me of two things. The first is to get out and play. To use your imagination and make believe. This doesn’t happen in front of a TV. Max puts on his wolf suit and makes some crazy mischief in his house that lands him in his room without supper. Discouraged and frustrated, Max does something remarkable. He closes his eyes and begins to create a forest in his room. Rather than play video games, watch TV, yell, scream, throw things or punch holes in walls, Max closes his eyes and imagines a paradise. Trees and vines begin growing out of his floor and ceiling until-BEHOLD!- he imagines a limitless wilderness unencumbered by the adult world.
I think this imaginative skill is one to foster in our children. Teaching children how to imagine and play helps their brains grow and develop. Research shows it bolsters creative problem solving and self-initiated mood stabilization. Allowing children to run with the creations of their imaginations is nurturing.
Try this simple exercise: Ask them to tell you a story about what they would really like to be doing. Your task is to go along with it, regardless of the content. You might need to prepare yourself for some off-the-wall things! This is a good practice of acceptance for parents! But also, by practicing this simple skill regularly, you are helping your child develop their cognitive skills. You are also connecting with them deeply. Both of these acts are nurturing and wonderful for your child’s development.
Additionally, encourage your child to play games outside or non-screen games. I think some parents are wary of the rough games, the shooting/killing kinds of games or other violent games that children engage in. But you can set limits to these types of games. Change the rules for them by saying, “Instead of killing or shooting someone, zap them with a freeze ray that traps them in ice. Or use your Transmogrifying stick to turn them into a cement toad or a fossilized spinach patty.” There are also non-competitive games that can foster team building and friendship. Try:http://bit.ly/YqWOhZ
And give your children plenty of attention during their play. Get in there and play with them. Play with your infants, kids, middle-schooler, high-schoolers, college students and your adult children. When I do, I’m reminded of what having fun is really like.
Remember what it was like when you wore your wolf suit?
More lessons from Max on raising self-confident children tomorrow!