Recently we introduced a new series called How To Raise Your Child To Be A Real-Life Fictional Hero. This week’s pick is the infamous Sherlock Holmes, a fictional “consulting detective” created by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. Holmes, featured in four novels and 56 short stories, is always accompanied by his friend Dr. John H Watson, who is the narrator in almost all the Sherlock Holmes stories written by Sir ACD. The stories ran from 1887 to 1914, and since then there have been a slew of adaptations, from plays to movies. In 2012, The Guinness World Records named Sherlock Holmes the most portrayed literary human character in film and TV, with more than 250 on screen depictions.
Sherlock Holmes was the world’s only consulting detective and despite his unusual lifestyle, Holmes was a brilliant man whose mind was chock full of useful knowledge and facts. He had keen powers of observation and deduction, which he often used to solve the most complex of mysteries. Although it’s doubtful that your kid will turn out to be a Sherlock Holmes mini-me (trust me, you wouldn’t want that), there are still plenty of ways to train your child to use his or her mind to the maximum capacity.
Sherlock was known for his methods of deduction and his powerful sense of observation. You can teach your kid certain habits at an early age — such as being observant of their surroundings, questioning everything, reading body language and of course encouraging them to have a thirst for knowledge. Sherlock always took on cases that were challenging and stimulated his own genius. (You see this quite heavily in the BBC One TV series Sherlock).
One of the first things you can teach your child is to trust their own intuition and how to read body language. Holmes could often tell a lot about a person just by studying them. You can start off by buying the book Body Language, Intuition & Leadership! Surviving Primary School by Dr. Orly Katz, where kids read up on how to interpret their own intuitions and the importance of body language.
You can also teach them how to watch out for signs of lying, and if you don’t mind going the extra mile, you could encourage them to “people watch.” Now before you recoil at the thought of sitting on a park bench and ogling strangers with your little one, people watching is considered a normal pastime, and it’s a good way to learn observational skills. It takes a lot of guesswork, but your child eventually learns about certain habits and mannerisms that different people exhibit.
Another way to practice and improve their observation powers is by giving them Spot the Difference puzzles or quizzing them on things they do or places they go to routinely. Ask them about their school building. How many floors does it have? How many classrooms are on the first floor? What does their locker/cubby neighbor look like? Ask them to describe their friend’s book bag. Long story short: Teach them to take in all the details, even the little ones.
If you want to start applying those skills soon, hand them the Encyclopedia Brown series.
It’s an amazing series of solve-it-yourself mysteries that your kids will enjoy. Read the books with them and go over any questions they might have about the answers at the end. You can also introduce to them to the Doyle and Fossy, Science Detectives series which are similar to Encyclopedia Brown, but with a science-y twist. As they get older, you can slowly slip them age-appropriate Sherlock Holmes stories. (I say age-appropriate because despite the popularity, the stories contain references to racism, sexism and negative stereotypes, along with some drug use by the great Holmes himself.) A couple of stories to introduce them into the world that is Sherlock Holmes include “The Speckled Band,” “The Adventure of Dancing Men,” and “Silver Blaze.”
If you’re not comfortable giving your kid a Sherlock Holmes story just yet, you can go online and find adaptations of the series made particularly for children, such as Sherlock Holmes and the Baker Street Irregulars. This kind of literature will engage your youngster, turning the wheels in their head and helping them get into that detective mindset.
Gaining the Knowledge
Let’s get one thing straight. There’s no such thing as a consulting detective. Disappointing I know. Unfortunately, cops cannot consult with freelance civilian detectives outside of the police department, mainly due to liability issues. However, there are similar jobs, and the closest to a consulting detective is a private investigator (or PI for short). PIs normally work for private citizens or businesses, and their main job is to collect information.
There are no specific degrees that can lead directly to becoming a PI, but some beneficial degrees include criminal justice, chemistry, mathematics, biology or computer science. Sherlock Holmes had a huge interest in chemistry and often used it when looking for evidence or clues. If you want to put your kid on this road, one of the first things you want to do is get them anything science-related. What’s a better way to spark their interest in science than with an awesome chemistry or biology kit? I mean, seriously, nothing says fun better than making something go … BOOM!
Make sure you don’t overwhelm them with too much information. Science is an extremely large field, and if you thrust your kid into it, they’re bound to get lost. Find age-appropriate science books and read them together. If they’re a little older, consider getting them kits like the Chem C100 Test Lab — it’ll quench their science thirst by allowing them to test different substances, like pH balance.
If you want to add a little criminal investigative practice, you should consider getting forensic science kits. There are some that are pretty pricey, but if you do the right research you can find some decent-priced kits, like this Fingerprint Science Kit, through which they’ll learn how to take fingerprint samples and store them. With this DNA Wizard kit, kids have fun taking DNA from fruit and solving chromosome puzzles.
That Bad-Ass Outfit
Now that we have your kid well on his or her way to becoming the next Sherlock Holmes, it’s time to look the part.
More than likely you’ll have to shell out a bit of cash,if you want to do it right, and depending on which depiction of Sherlock you want to imitate. One thing that stays consistent for the most part is the deerstalker hat.
Next is the suit ensemble. This might prove a little difficult since blazers, waistcoats, dress pants, and dress shoes aren’t necessarily cheap. However, I was able to find a dress shirt and dress pants for cheap on Sears.com. You can also find some cheap dress shoes like these to complete the look.
Since Sherlock is based in London, it only makes sense that he always has a jacket on. In the most recent depictions, there was a transition from the infamous tweed jacket to a pea coat. Any additional accessories include a scarf, gloves, a toy pipe, and a violin – either a toy one or a real one, it’s your call.
Now you’re good to go, hope your kid has fun solving mysteries. Goodness knows Sherlock definitely loved a good case.