Trials and tribulations of raising the next generation of gamers.

The start of a reading bug

So my daughter has struggled with her interest in reading for some time now, even though she reads at level, she is in 3rd grade. After a plea for help among my personal Facebook friends I was given a long list of potential books. I will try to update the site later with the full list of books as many of them were great suggestions. The problem was that many of these books were above her level and I was at the point of losing her for reading all together so couldn’t risk anything too over her head. Thankfully I had a friend who turned out to have the perfect solution. She brought over The Spiderwick Chronicles. Turns out they were perfect, about 100 pages and just enough pictures to break up the text but not enough to get the story from them alone. She is now on Book 4 and is delighted with herself as she finishes each one!

Prior to this it was impossible to get her to finish any chapter book, and left to her own choices she would choose Disney stories that I had collected before my kids were born. And while I feel that any reading is good reading, I knew she could do more she just didn’t know it herself. My friend also gave her the incentive that when she finished the 6 book series she would lend my daughter the movie to watch. My girl announced to her step-dad last night that she was “going to read them all, watch the movie, and then keep reading lots of books”. I am so delighted that we have finally made a reader out of her!! So while I haven’t read the books myself, I can certainly recommend them to anyone trying to bring out the reader in their kid.

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.

Train your evil geekling

Welcome to another addition of Wacky Wednesday where I bring you one crazy item or article I have read online.

Doctor Who Ride-in DalekThis week I wanted to share with you the perfect way to start the early training in ultimate destruction of, well, everyone for your young geekling.  I bring to you the Ride in Dalek toy available at Think Geek.  Just when you thought you had seen it all in the Dr. Who fandom items, they dig a little deeper, but why not kids can love Dr Who also, right?

Personally, I would rather have put my kids in a sound effect laden Tardis, but I bet that is available somewhere too.  Who knows maybe your little one won’t turn out evil after all even after riding around in this ride!

Get your geek on for less

For many of us our Library is an untapped resource for getting our geek on.  Today I started small and borrowed my first DVD’s from the library.  So, for the price of nothing beyond the taxes I pay anyways, I brought home 4 movies that we can watch for free.  Today’s focus for my movies was Disney as I am a huge Disney animated geek.  We watched some older Goofy shorts that my kids giggled at heartily and The Great Mouse Detective (Mystery in the Mist Edition) which I hadn’t seen in ages and my daughter hadn’t seen at all but rather enjoyed.

Next I am planning to cruise through the online catalog and find a video game or two that look interesting and put them on hold.  One of the down sides is that many of the more popular games are usually on a wait list, but on the upside I can easily place them on hold from the comfort of my home and get a friendly email when my name eventually makes it to the top.  This will allow me to play a variety of games without the expense of buying them.  If I find I really like the game I can go pick up my own copy, otherwise I can just play it until my time is up, then return it all for free!!!

In addition, I know a number of libraries in my area that are also are supporting Manga and anime clubs, in addition to board game nights for the teens, kids and families.  What a great, free resources us geek families have in our local libraries!!!

99 Cent Costume Workshop – From Orycon

99 Cent Costume Workshop

Every year that I have been to Orycon (which is the last several) the Portland Costumer’s Guild has put on the 99 Cent Costume Workshop.  I am sharing this great idea so that other groups might stumble upon this post and decide to do the same thing at their convention as well.

So what is it?

Well the guild brings in multiple boxes of scrap material and other various bit and pieces of electronics and other stuff.  All of it are things that no one really wants anymore.  Some of the fabric is sizable, like a half to full yard, but most are smaller pieces like remnants from a pattern cutting.  All of these items are dumped into a mound on the floor in the front of the panel room while the attendees gather in the chairs for instructions.

Once the appropriate time has come and everyone that needs to be there from the Guild is there the “workshop” begins.  Each year there is a different theme and we are instructed to not only make costumes from the items in the heap, but also generate a short back-story for our character.  While there are not many kids that go to this workshop it is a shame as my kids have really enjoyed going to this every year.

We are given about 45 minutes to generate our costumes and stories.  In addition to the various scraps of fabric, ribbon, electrical cords and the like we are provided with glue guns, duct tape, and scissors to assist our endeavors.  There is a good amount of teamwork that happens as people see where others are going with their costumes and either offer to help them or find items in the heap that would add to their décor.

Is it a contest?

In a manner of speaking it is, but the prizes are generally low key.  The first couple years I did it the Costumer’s Guild gave out prizes that they made during the event pulling from the same material that we used to make our costumes.  Of course to do this requires you to have enough base material to draw from.  One year they decorated CDs, another year it was hats, and one year it was these odd disk shaped things (see the picture from 2009 below and look at what my kids are holding).

There are also usually other prizes that are given out for things like “Best Costume”, “Best Back-story”, “Best Robot”, “Best Animal”, and “Best of anything you can think of”.  Usually there are enough small prizes like kid’s books, candy bars, or light switch plates that everyone gets something.

And then when all is said and done there is the packing up of the event and the endless encouragement from the Guild to take home anything you want from the heap.  This is because if they wanted this stuff it wouldn’t be in the heap in the first place.

Themes and Pictures from Years Past

2010 – Alice in Wonderland

This time we were to make characters that would be auditioning to be in Alice and Wonderland by Lewis Carroll.

This is my daughter in her completed Multi-Color Cheshire Cat Costume

My son made himself into a robot which would protect Alice from the Red Queen.  He did pretty much all of this himself, I only assisted with a small portion of the hot gluing until he figured out how to manage that himself.

My entry was of Little Blue Riding Hood who was rather upset about having being beat out by Little Red Riding Hood for the other gig and decided to try out here instead.  Sadly as I was wielding the camera I didn’t score a picture of me.

2009: Alien Dreams

We were all aliens whose alarm clocks had sadly woken us each up from a great dream, and as we rushed to get ready for our day we had just enough time to piece together the great inspiration of our dream that we had been having prior to waking up.

Here are the three kids that attended the workshop in 2009. Left is Z, who dressed as a kind of robot complete with his weaponry.  Right is my son, who was a statue that was protecting someone (this picture does not show the great lampshade head armor he had engineered).  And Center is my daughter who was a teenage princess complete with her cell phone crown.  [Note: I just finally got the piece of material she is wearing as her dress removed from her dress up bin this last weekend]

Sadly, again, there is no picture of me and my great costume from this year that I have a copy of.  I was so busy helping these 3 with their costumes I didn’t have time to work on my own.  So in the last 5 minutes Guild members and the kids were throwing together a costume for me.  It included a dress type look, complete with two Earth idols, one of each from the great icons of the planet as understood from space, Indiana Jones and Sponge Bob.  I believe I still have both of them around somewhere.

Beyond Orycon

I think that this is not only a great idea for a Science Fiction Convention like Orycon, and I sincerely hope it will be back again this year as me and my kids look forward to it all year, it can also carry over to a birthday party or other gathering.  I can see this working well for a pre-teen or teenager Birthday party.  I can even see it working at something like a bachelorette party where you make wedding gowns.  The possibilities are virtually endless.  So have you been to an event like this one?


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.