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  (ARCHIVES)Back to Current
Think outside the box (08/17/2008)
By Janet Lewis Burns
The deteriorating mind scrambles thoughts and garbles words. Its pattern of forgetfulness and confusion is a cruel reality. What’s everybody else’s excuse?

Sparks of creativity are ignited in children from birth. If adequately stimulated, imagination comes naturally and productively. What does stimuli seem to consist of, considering today’s average U.S. household? Briefly, it’s fleeting, mindless, and empty. Most folks are more in tune with the lives, woes, and scandals of celebrities and politicians than they are with their own families.

Young people spend 44.5 hours each week in front of a computer, TV, and video game screens. When they e-mail or use their iPods, or however they connect with one another, are they bothering to use proper grammar, spelling and punctuation? Not! Is that important? We’ll know in time.

Children today are busy, but their activities are not usually of their own invention. Heavy schedules force a great deal of stress and demands on their time. So much entertainment is manufactured and programmed, touted on elaborate, enticing television ads and comes in shrink wrap and colorful boxes at hefty prices.

Kids, from preschool on are enrolled in organized sports, on teams with adult direction, and established game rules. Competition doesn’t allow for spontaneous play. The parent often puts so much emphasis on winning and excelling that many children participate when their interests lie elsewhere, if merely to be a child playing in the sand, or reading, or using his or her imagination building with Legos or playing dolls or school.

This subject leads me to thoughts of my grandchildren. I remember when our first grandchild Alyssa was very young and Kelly signed her up to play soccer. We were sitting on the grass at Lake Winona as the teams were chosen. As they were taught how the game was played, Alyssa continuously got carried away picking clover and dandelions and chasing butterflies. Throwing grass on Grandma and tackling Mommy seemed to be much more fun. Her soccer career never took off. Her playful nature came out on top.

Last year, our granddaughters Alyssa, 12, and Ally, 7, regularly spent time with Grandpa and me after school. A fun project evolved into a massive village for the Polly Pockets and Braatz dolls. It all began with a big cardboard box and scraps of wallpaper.

I continuously contributed tissue, cereal, and other various sized boxes, pieces of cloth, wrapping paper, pot holders for rugs, an outdated wallpaper book, Saran wrap for window glass, and miniature playhouse furnishings from their mother Kelly’s childhood. Imaginations soared!

The playroom became a jungle of elaborately decorated rooms to play dolls with. Alyssa became an expert at making beds covered with little cloth bedspreads and windows with curtains. Ally liked to create her own wallpaper designs. She even made sidewalks between the Braatz and Polly houses. It was hard to pull them away to do their homework!

Young people easily slip into that mesmerizing state of flashing images and witless dialogue targeted at them from screens, or with music (?) glued to their brains through headphones. Today’s rare dreamer, the avid reader of books, the private lover of classical music, a child who listens more than he or she talks – are these young individuals cruelly labeled the “nerds,” “geeks,” “sissies,” and “weirdoes?”

Families who play and laugh together, sing and have picnics, explore and wonder, worship and rap with one another are likely stimulating the positive attributes being nurtured in each individual as their characters and talents are first developing. At an early age, as the appetite for creativity gets into one’s blood, it spreads to the senses, electrifying one’s hands, fingers, voice, spirit and the mind’s awakening imagination. Guide the young to think for themselves, to pay attention, to learn something new every day, to dream! Don’t take schedules too seriously. Be versatile.

Believe in yourself. Life is here! Life is now!

Janet Burns lives in Lewiston. She can be reached at patandjanburns@embarqmail.com. 


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