People occasionally ask me how to get their child away from video games, watching tv, reading books or surfing the net to doing something constructive.
The answer isn’t as simple as limiting their access to what are referred to as time wasting activities. As a child, I procrastinated, I was lazy and unmotivated. This trend continued through highschool. I did well enough to get into university, but nothing really ignited my passion and curiosity for learning or doing things. I was simply bored.
Upon entering university, I still was unsure about what to do with myself. In high school, my hobbies consisted of reading books, articles and hanging out with friends, talking about various topics until the early hours of the morning. I never thought what we were doing was educational or productive.
I now see that I was wrong. Turns out all the things I did for fun were areas that I pursued in higher education to success. I was lucky I had friends and family to support my navel gazing. Some kids aren’t as lucky as me. Below are three pop culture topics that kids can be doing today that might foster their creativity and interest. Not all learning happens at school and the home should be the breeding ground for curiosity.
- Meccano (aka Erector in the U.S.)– As a child growing up in Australia, I never realized how lucky I was to have this toy. Meccano is the advanced version of Lego. Instead of plastic bricks, you use metal strips, bolts and various metal pieces from a kit box, that you bolt together to create your own constructions. It was actually quite difficult to build objects, even with instructions. However, it made me fantasize about building machinery and got me interested in computers, cars and science. The toy is a fantastic prototyping kit. Instead of fiddling about with Styrofoam and cardboard, the child can sit down and build something solid out of metal and feel like they are actually engineering something.
- Lord of the Rings/Middle Earth—Newsflash. It’s unsurprising that as a writer for Nerdy With Children, I really love Lord of the Rings. Where the average trilogy book reader and I diverge, is the obsessive fandom I have about Middle Earth. As a kid I just loved to read. Dune and The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy were late night favorites of mine. Then The Hobbit came into my life. My school library had just received a new shipment of books and the librarian was placing them on stands around the fiction section. One of the new books’ covers caught my eye. It was of a giant dragon sleeping on a pile of gold. Curious, I picked up the book and read the summary on the back. I was instantly hooked. Gold, dragons, adventure and something called a Hobbit made me very curious. That night I started to read The Hobbit and I couldn’t put it down. It riveted me. Tolkien’s prose, exposition and storytelling opened my mind to ideas I never knew were possible. As a consequence of that night, I have been an avid Tolkien fan ever since and his methodology to writing and world building has left an indelible mark on my own writing. Perhaps he will do the same to your child. Dreams need fuel and perhaps Tolkien may be the one to start the fire in your child’s mind.
- Tintin – Some North Americans were consumed at the pomp and ceremony bestowed upon The Adventures of Tintin: The Secret of the Unicorn (2011) film. Directed by Steven Spielberg and produced by Peter Jackson, the film tells the tale of a reporter, Tintin, his dog Snowy and drunken friend, Captain Haddock as they go on an adventure for treasure. As a Canadian, my friends’ opinions on the film were split. The francophones in my life were excited about the film—Herge, was a French Belgian and his comic adventures gave an adult respectability to the “funny pages”. My English friends just went “huh”. As an Australian, I was used to Tintin as European continent culture seeped over more readily to Australia than English speaking Canada. The Tintin book series are so numerous and gloriously colorful, that it’s difficult to shoehorn the series into one coherent idea. However, the series theme remained constant throughout. Tintin explored exotic locations, went on adventures, solved crimes and never submitted a newspaper report. My gushing is a roundabout way to say that the series allowed me to see parts of the world through an innocent and charming lens and as a result, enabled me to fantasize and dream about my own potential adventures with Tintin and Snowy.