We all know that we should read to our children and get down on the floor and play with them. But, making the most of this time and making it as fun for us as it should be for the kids can be a challenge. Even those of us who follow parenting blogs to find activities that allow our children’s creativity to shine through find that we need fresh ideas and inspiration from time to time. Luckily, the creative forces behind the incredible plays and kids’ classes at Imagination Stage have recognized the need and are now offering classes that help parents (and other caregivers) tap into their own creativity and, in turn, get creative with their children.
Although I was artsy as a child, years of making a living thinking analytically led to a steep decline in my creative abilities and output. Luckily, Imagination Stage’s Creative Parenting class is chock full of ideas to jump-start caregivers’ creative skills and encourage children’s creativity to thrive. Rooted in the research of Professor of Psychiatry and Pediatrics Stanley I. Greenspan, the class uses theater techniques to help get your family’s creative juices flowing. Studies have shown that learning to “think outside the box” benefits children throughout their lives as it helps them develop the ability to, for example, come up with an innovative way to approach a science experiment or a problem in the boardroom later in life. Importantly, the class stresses that creativity is something that can be learned (or re-discovered) and that injecting more playfulness into your children’s lives doesn’t mean a “25th hour” in the day but can be incorporated into time you are already spending with your children.
Each of the three classes in the series explores how you can use your mind, body, voice, and imagination to allow you to tap into your creativity, engage your children, and allow your children’s creativity to shine and grow. Particular attention is paid to how to make reading books more interesting, connecting with your children, developing your own storytelling techniques using basic plot development or small objects you may have lying around, and using puppets in a playful way to work through fears or problems your children may be experiencing. The class is highly interactive and provides plenty of opportunities to practice what you learn before you try it out on your kids.
In the class I took it was fascinating to watch the instructor turn reading one my children’s favorite books, Caps for Sale, into a mini-theatre production complete with audience participation just by using different voices, some silly sounds, a few gestures, and asking some questions. Using these reading techniques at home after class, I found that my family’s night-time book reading ritual was a lot more fun than usual and that my children were a lot more engaged in the story. True to the promise of the class, I didn’t need to spend any extra time on reading to make this happen.
Other techniques taught in class have made boring car rides and waits at restaurants more fun as well. Making silly sounds and creating fantastical stories come a lot more naturally to me after taking this class. Those trucks and princess figures that I always seem to have buried on the bottom of my purse now come out to get woven into original stories, with input from my children as they suggest words (any words) that I need to include in the story. The class demonstrated that stories don’t have to be elaborate, or even well thought out, to be good. One of the most valuable aspects of the class to me was the practice I got just jumping in to telling a story. Much to my surprise I found that after a couple of tries and a few pointers from the instructors, storytelling started to come to me easily.
Bearing in mind the techniques of using my mind, body, voice, and imagination in playing at home, I’ve been able to get my children completely engaged in books and stories we’ve created together as family As a result of the class’s emphasis on connecting with people through non-verbal ways, I’ve taken my two-year-olds lead on several occasions starting turn-taking games of making sounds and stomping feet, which always end in fits of laughter. We’re taking a long car trip this weekend and I’m optimistic that the some of the new ways in which I’ve learned how to play with my children, such as using periscopes to look ahead on the road and allowing children to be active participants in creating stories, will make this trip more fun (and result in fewer tears) than past car trips.
As silly as it may seem, being in a room full of adults who slowly but surely began to leave their inhibitions at the door gave me the confidence to act more like a child myself. Now I don’t think twice about getting up to twirl like a ballerina to get my daughter to laugh or making Ninja sounds to get my son to smile more widely while reading him one of his favorite books. I’ve also taken great pride in rediscovering my own creativity and being able to create entirely original stories that engage my children.
If you find yourself looking for new ways to play with your children or are looking for ways you can engage your children anytime, anywhere you will walk away from this class with the ability to do so and the confidence to let your imagination run wild. In turn, you will see your children enjoying themselves in new ways and see their own creative ideas come through.
Imagination Stage’s Creative Parenting class takes place in three week sessions, with each class running two hours. Pricing for the class is a very reasonable $130.00, with free childcare included. The class is recommended for parents of children aged 3 to 8. However, I learned many techniques that I can use with my two year old and I believe many techniques, particularly those involving improvisation, could be used to engage older children as well. There were both parents and grandparents in the class I took and I think the class would work well for anyone who cares for your child. If you take the class it is recommended that you read Stanley Greenspan’s book Great Kids before the class or plan to read it while the class is ongoing.
Go ahead and discover your own creative side and give your child the creative skills they will need to succeed in all facets of life. We all deserve to have more fun, and this class will give you the skills you need for you and your children to get there. The next session of Creative Parenting will run June 6 to 30, 2013 – register online.