Raising a creative child

by my daughter in Kindergarten

Creativity is essential

While not everyone will agree, I feel that one of the greatest gifts you can provide for your child is the ability to be creative.  Thinking with a creative mind allows a person to not only develop novel solutions to a problem they are faced with, but also imagine what might happen should a certain course of action take place.  In our world there is quickly developing a divide between those that can imagine novel solutions and those that are the sheep that follow.  While both are required in society, in my case I don’t follow all that well or happily.

Raising creative kids

So, if I think raising your child to be creative is so important how do you go about doing it?  To start I would like to say that I am not an expert on raising kids; this is just one mom’s opinion on the matter.  What I suggest and do myself may or may not work for your family, kids or yourself, all we can do is try.

That being said, I think the first and most important step to raising creative kids is to have creative parents.  It is far easier to approach things from new angles when you live in a setting where you see the adults doing so all the time.  This is why my kids are welcome to sit at our gaming table and listen to the group try to figure out how to solve the latest challenge the GM has thrown at them.  This is also why we discuss problems that we have at work or with school at the dinner table, trying to find the best way and share our different approaches we have tried in the past with each other.

I think that the best way to bring out the natural creativity in any child (or even adult for that matter) is to ask “what if” type questions.

a drawing by my son in 3rd grade

Such as “What if your rubber duck could swim on its own, what would it do?”, this gives a young child the chance to imagine a clear picture and respond with an answer.  Now comes the hard part, respect your child’s answer by either expressing approval or by asking a question to get more information.  It is critical that you allow them the freedom to answer with something that isn’t even logical, especially when they are younger then school-age.  If their rubber duck would turn upside-down and swim with its feet in the air using its wings to paddle, then respond with a “Neat”.  Don’t shut them down by pointing out that ducks can’t swim like that.  Creativity is about imagining those things that are, combined with those things that aren’t, to generate a newness.  We cannot be creative and endlessly bound by our current reality at the same time!

My creative kids

As a result of letting my children be free-thinkers they are often praised for their creativity.  Of course there are times, such as school assignments, where we have to reign in that creative thinking some so that they can conform enough to pass.  It is a fine line to walk, especially with my daughter who is very free thinking.  In the end though, I find that it is worth the struggle.

I find that because of their creativity my children are constantly looking for ways to rework the world into something new.  Our dining/game room has 2 bookshelves in it primarily dedicated to art supplies, our recycle bin is regularly scrounged through for the latest creative endeavor.  In fact, just yesterday my son looked at his old twin mattress we are getting rid of and since it is too worn for use, he asked if he could take two of the springs from it so he could attach them to his shoes.  As you can see I work to keep up with them as they surprise me with questions I am at best half prepared to hear.

Lego creation by my son

So what do you do with this?

Start asking your kid questions about “what if” with no wrong answer.  Buy them blocks and Lego sets and let any style of car or rocket ship they build be awesome, and join them at it even if you aren’t very good in your eyes – they will think you make cool things.  Watch clouds go by and decide what they look like, cats or elephants or flying monkeys.  If they create a new creature and draw you a picture, provide approval and reinforcement by asking them what its favorite food is.  Anything you do that allows them to make new things adds to their creative pool, giving them the means to move past how it has always been to how it could be.  That is, after all, how we turn our wishes into reality.  And while you are helping your child be creative, help yourself to be creative as well.

Crossover Board Games

We have found that while we really love our truly gamer geared board games, we are always on the lookout for those games that have great general appeal. In our house this are referred to as cross-over games and they can bring both gamers and non-gamers to the table for some good fun.

One of the easiest types of games to introduce to non-gamers are card games. Here I would recommend introducing the crowd you are playing with to Fluxx 4.0. This great little game has simple rules, that change over time but don’t generally lose a person. Since Flux starts with the simple rule of draw a card, play a card it is easy to teach. If you haven’t played before, it is really fairly simple, and even my kids can mange it quite nicely.

Another easy to play game, that has already hit mainstream in many areas is Apples to Apples Party Box – The Game of Hilarious Comparisons. This game is a card based game that has players placing cards into play based on their belonging to a particular category. The challenge comes from that each player takes turns determining the winning card of each hand. So to win a hand you must be able to judge how the other person will judge the cards. Not everyone has the same definition of gross after all.

If you are looking for a board game to pass away some time at the latest family gathering, I would suggest Gift TRAP Game. There is no gamer knowledge required for this game, of giving and taking of gifts. Each hand of play there are a number of cards representing various gifts that can be given. Each player marks gifts with hidden tokens to represent the level of like or dislike they have towards the gift. As an example I would love to get a trip to Disney World, but would hate to get a skydiving lesson. Then each player gives another a gift, no doubling up, and then points are scored. To win you have to manage to receive enough gifts that you like, as well as give enough gifts that other people like. It is a great way to learn a little more about the family or friends that you are playing with.

Human ashes

My dad’s ash spreading

As you may know from previous posts my father passed away in March of this year. Tomorrow would have been his 67th birthday and we will be gathering as a family for a spaghetti dinner and to spread his ashes. All of this brings to mind some research I did a few years ago into the options of what one could do with a set of human ashes beyond keep them in a urn on the shelf, or spread them to the land, ocean, air or space. Here are some of the ideas I found online, some are just ideas that I have been proposed, while others are viable solutions for your use today.

A White Gem from LifeGem

Make a gem from ashes

You can turn the ashes from your loved one into a gem made by LifeGem. These gems come in a variety of colors, and require a pretty good investment of funds as well. For some people this would be a great way to keep the memories of your dearly departed near you at all times. Not really my thing, but I have never been a big jewelry girl.


Make artwork from ashes

Travels to Paradise Cremation Ash Painting

There are artists out there that can use some of the ashes of your loved one to help create a work of art that can be hung on your wall or put on your mantle as a memorial to your dearly departed. They use some ashes to make their works of art. Not sure what I would get a painting of for my father, so we will just be spreading him around the yard instead. It is an interesting idea though, if you are looking for an artist then I suggest checking out Art in Ashes.








Wieke Somers 3D Printer WorkOne artist, Wieki Somers, is using a 3D printer to turn human ashes, and some other ingredients I am sure, into works of art for an exhibit. Read more about it on designboom.





Plans for the future

Now when my husband dies, assuming he goes before me, I would love to turn his ashes into a set of gaming dice. With the advent of technology in the coming years I figure it shouldn’t be too far fetched when the time eventually gets here. As for me, I want my ashes spread by a great, mossy tree in a forest far from any water source. I get majorly sea sick and would hate for my ashes to make it to the ocean before they are mulched back into the earth.

Boffering goes mainstream

Boffer combat

My first encounter with boffer combat was through my college boyfriend playing a home grown LARP (Live Action Role-Playing) Game.  We wore period style clothing, and used boffer weapons for combat.  Our group played each Sunday at Mt. Tabor Park in Portland, OR.  It is actually where I got to know my first husband, who still plays boffer LARPs just different games.  In fact my kids have their own boffer weapons as well.

However it seems that all of the strange looks we got at the park were for nothing as boffer has now gone mainstream.  NERF has introduced a line of boffer weapons called N-Force.  I checked them out online and then in the store the other day and took a good look at the Nerf N-Force Battlemaster Mace Axe.  While the construction is safe enough for most kids to play with, I would still have to say that they are not as well padded as the boffer weapons typically used in a LARP setting.  Add this together with the lack of set safety rules that are part of a boffer LARP, and you could end up with a bit of modern-day boffer bruises.

Despite my concerns over the potential safety risks with these weapons, I think that they would be awesome if combined with a bit of boffer combat rules, such as no head or groin shots.  It is nice to see that another element of our gamer world has hit the mainstream.  It just goes to prove that the geeks shall inherit the earth.

How not to lose your kid in a crowd

Looking for a way to make sure your young, or freaked out, lost child can get back to your caring arms?  I know when we have taken our kids into crowded places like conventions, zoos, or bigger places like Disney World we are always trying to keep an eye on them so they can’t get lost.  But as all parents know some kids are simply slipperier than others, for those that may get separated from you, here is a product I found tonight that can help.

Temp Tattoo for kids

It is a removable tattoo with the means to write your cell phone number on it.  No more need to take a sharpie to their arm when you to the Country Fair to be sure that a concerned adult can call you to claim your lost little one when a separation occurs.

According to the write up on Think Geek, the tattoo is highly durable and can last as long as two weeks.  They also suggest using it for things like medical conditions and food allergies when dropping your kids off in the care of another adult that may not know, like a B-day party.  The only downside I see is that it takes a special pen to go with it, guess you better set it all up in a zip-style baggie so you don’t lose it.

The power of belief

Gamers are well known for their imagination, at least those gamers that play rpgs or LARPs. How else can we dream up characters, recreate scenes in our heads, or plan out wild adventures to run our player’s characters through. For us our imagination is the butter for our bread, without we could not be who we are; and certainly we would never change that. We know the difference between our imaginary world and that of reality, to us it is not unlike a movie or a book which we are in charge of. Our games are the ultimate Choose Your Own Adventure book.

But we also have strong beliefs. They are not the same collective set of beliefs that we are required to have; no, instead we each have our own set. I would hazard to say that if you took a group of 20 gamers into a room and polled them on their beliefs from politics to religion you would find no two the same, in addition you would likely find some of the wildest set of beliefs out there. This, I suspect, is because of our very creative and imaginative nature we can not help but see possibilities for our world that are virtually impossible for others to see.

I have been reading up some on the power of our beliefs, especially our belief in ourselves, and how we can use that belief to draw positive energy to changes in our lives. So I am experimenting with this concept, to see how much energy I can draw from myself and the universe around me towards my goals. Others have used this idea, to great success, in their lives. But the gamer in me can not help but wonder, if it works, if calling the energy and drawing it to a cause could help us to reshape our world. Could someone use it to gain “real” magic? or to fly? or have heat vision? is it all just a matter of believing enough??? And if it is that simple should we stop telling our kids that they can’t do this or that simply because they are human, maybe their belief is strong enough.

Cheeky Monkey

A Fun Family Game>Another game we added to our ever growing collection this Christmas was the Cheeky Monkey Game
. This is a kids game that my in-laws picked up for my 6 year old daughter. The game is one I discovered at this last Gamestorm and was excited for us to add to our kid game selection, as it is one that adults can enjoy as well.

The game is a tile based game and requires no reading making it ideal to play with younger kids whose reading skills are not ready for heavy game play. Game play goes quick and is based on collecting the various animal tiles that are included with the game. The tiles are placed in a bag (also provided) and each player takes turns drawing animal tiles one at a time as many times as they want to round out collections that they have, but if they draw the cheeky monkey then they have to put their tiles back. A great lesson for the kids and a hard strategy for them to master right away. Very similar to Pass the Pigs in general concept.

For families with younger children I recommend this game. The copy we have was purchased from Rainy Day Games for $30, which is a bit steep but the quality is better then the standard big box store games that you buy, this one will be in our collection for years to come. And Rainy Day Games also has online ordering capabilities in case you live somewhere without a local gaming store.

Bringing your kids to Orycon

Pirates at Orycon 31
Pirates at Orycon 31

Kids and Con

Perhaps one of the greatest challenges I have in being a gamer parent is how to incorporate my kids into my gamer life. Specifically without boring them and without them driving me crazy. Orycon is exactly one of those challenges.

I didn’t discover Orycon until my husband and I got together. By then I already had two kids and was fully into mom mode. The first couple of years that we went we did not bring the kids. I was still getting my feet wet and they were pretty young, we weren’t sure if they could handle it, or us handle it either for that matter. Last year we finally took the leap and brought them with us, well for 1/2 of con that is. They came with us on Friday (was a no school day which helped) and stayed over night. We arranged for my mom to pick them up just before dinner on Saturday which worked out great. Splitting the time like that let us enjoy a night of costumed fun with the kids, but also left us with Saturday night to enjoy the costume time and room parties without the little ones in tow.

Orycon Child Policies and Care

Orycon has some good, and clear, policies about kids at the convention which can be found on their website. They also have child care that is offered and they make a good effort to keep it secure which I think is great. Now while looking up the links to paste here for you, I discovered that they have made a change this year to the policy on unattended minors. This year kids 6 and up may be unattended if they have the ability to behave themselves, otherwise I believe they are escorted to child care at your cost (at least the child care part was there last year). Also the kids have special badges that include a spot for parent name and phone number on the back of them, just in case. If you want to take that a step further you could take a lesson from the Oregon Country Fair and use a sharpie to write your name and phone number on your child’s arm. Presumably, short of a cannibalistic kobold attack at the con, they shouldn’t be able to misplace their own arm.

Kids and what to do

I will say that there are only a limited number of sessions that young children, elementary school and younger would find interesting. At least that was the case last year, I am hoping for more this coming year. I suspect next year I will run at least one so I know there is something for my kids to get into. As an exception to this general statement, last year the Greater Portland Costumer’s Guild put on two events that my kids really enjoyed and are hoping to attend again this year. Those were the 99 cent costume workshop, an event where under limited time and supplies you are to construct a costume that fits the rather loose theme provided, awards for everyone at the end. Also they enjoyed the Friday night milk and cookies room party, this year I am going to bring some cookies to it. I sincerely hope both events happen again, and earlier enough that my kids will still be there.

99 Cent Costume Workshop
99 Cent Costume Workshop

Don’t forget the costumes

The kids also enjoy dressing up in costume and seeing all the costumes that people put on for the event. If you decide to bring your child I highly recommend bringing 1-2 costumes for them as well. In fact just let them stay in costume the whole time, how often do they go someplace where that is alright? Since Orycon is only two months away I will be adding another post afterward about how it went this year with the kids.

Gamer Shirts

gamer shirt
Another girl gamer shirt I own

What Sci-fi Convention trip is complete without appropriate t-shirt, hoodies and other clothing to wear during the day before costume time his in the evening? Even more so for gaming cons like Gamestorm. My personal shopping favorite for my con day wear comes from Cafepress, sure the prices can be steep, but the slogans can be priceless.

Take this story for example. My husband, who loves to play a thief, was playing in a cleverly run game by one of my favorite DM’s in which he was playing a paladin. And not just any paladin, a teenage, male paladin. The group started out as orphans and ended up saving the world and being a key force in the war. Now as if a standard paladin isn’t bad enough to deal with, try one that is 16, trusted by the army, and is wielding an artifact sword of his deity. So while this was going on (and back when we were still dating), I found the perfect shirt at Cafepress on the front it had hearts and a unicorn and said “Crazed Paladin Groupie” and on the back it said “So worth the atonement spell…”. So I bought the shirt and dressed in it and plenty of glitter (even glittered my kids too) and we made a special, surprise trip to his game and brought his favorite peanut butter cookies. He was quite surprised and rather enjoyed the “groupie” attention he got that day.

Nothing I can wear to my day job, but it has caught many peoples attentions at conventions, which is the point. The number of shirts, hats, hoodies, bumper stickers, coffee mugs, mouse pads, and even underwear you can get at Cafepress is nothing short of shocking and they cover a vast array of topics. I have also found great shirts there for the gamer guys in my life. Happy hunting and I would love to hear what great gamer clothes you have found out there on the web.

Summer crazies

It amazes me how in my relatively simple life just how busy the summer can be.  Looking at our family calendar today I realized that there are only 3 days in the whole of July that are event free for everyone in my family.  Though July is still a few days away so I suppose those 3 precious days could dwindle quickly.

The kids are both in swim lessons, though blessedly at the same day/time schedule, and they are both in scouts; other then that they have no commitments.  And while we do have a regular gaming schedule for Friday nights and the occasional Saturday, we don’t do much either.  Yet here we are without a moment to breath before we rush off to the next thing.

Guess it is part of life when you only get a couple months a year were both sun and warmth can coexist while you are outdoors.  I really wanted to get in some hiking this summer and a couplet trips.  I did manage one beach trip and we have a camping trip planned, guess hiking will have to wait for August, or maybe even September…

At least we have plenty going and perhaps that will keep the “I’m bored” away for as long as possible.  I will keep my fingers crossed and let you know how long it lasts.