Tagged: Growth

Literacy Learning The “Fastway”

When we drive on the expressway my children close their windows. It’s been a longstanding guideline in our family. The basis is a perception that rocks and other small objects have the potential of being scooped up by tires attached to the cars and trucks in front of us, and consequently that these rocks and other small objects have the additional potential of flying into our open windows, were they open. Thankfully, due to this longstanding guideline, they’re not. While it’s fun and even kind of exciting to watch flying rocks fly, none of us want to be hit on the nose by a scooped up one (or any other scooped up, flying object for that matter). We think that might hurt.

The kids take the initiative.

When they think there’s a chance we’re headed there, they ask, “Daddy, are we going on the expressway?”

If the answer is “yes” they roll the windows up.

Yesterday, on our way downtown, my six-year-old asked, “Are we going on the expressway?”

The answer was “yes.”

The window closed. Then something else happened.

He asked, “Why?”

He wasn’t asking why we were going on the expressway, of even why the window needed to be closed, but rather, he was asking about language. He was asking why this particular road is called the “expressway.”

I told him that the word “express” has the same meaning as the word “fast.” I told him that people drive on the expressway so that they can get to the pace they’re going faster than they otherwise could.

He thought for a minute, and then told me that is should be called the “fastway.” Decent point.

He suggested that more people are likely to know about the word “fast” than the word “express.” I suppose he’s right.

Regardless, his expression of curiosity and reasoning made me think. It made me think about language and about speed.

We (adults) might be using language that kids don’t completely understand. In fact, it’s likely we are. Part of what kids are doing all the time is learning (like us, but even faster). Part of what they’re learning about is language. It’s one aspect of literacy learning. One that is ever present, no books, worksheets, or multi-media presentations required.

When I talk about the expressway with my kids they understand that I’m talking about a road on which cars move faster than they do on other roads. Until now, however, this one didn’t get why it’s called that.

That’s ok. In fact, it’s natural. Kids don’t know as many words as we do. Ironically, this experience has me visualizing words like the rocks and other small object that have the potential to be scooped up and fly into open windows on the expressway. Words come at kids really fast, and they have to learn about them bit by bit, with intentionality.

If we’re genuinely attentive to language learning, and thoughtful about our communication with kids, we can give them cause to think carefully about language, and when people think carefully about language their communication tends to be enhanced.       If we pay attention to our interactions with kids around language, we can act as windows, keeping fast flying language from hitting kids in the nose while allowing it to be seen and considered by them as it leaps, dances, and even sometimes flies by them.

On the surface, it doesn’t seem terribly significant that kids know specific details about words that they get the general idea of. However, let’s consider the possibility that communication, and even literacy at its very core might be heightened with every layer of depth we add to their understanding. My kid can now contemplate “express” lanes, “express” washes, and even explanations that are given “expressly.”

He can practice making connections with the word “express,” and making connections sometimes feels like solving puzzles, which is fun.

He can use the word express in stories he writes or tells. He can share his newfound knowledge and sophistication around language with his siblings and his friends. When he reads the word “express,” a light bulb can go of over his head, he can shutter with excitement, and he can exclaim, “Express means fast!”

He can take pride in being somewhat of a linguist.

Let’s not talk to the kids we serve about language because we want them to be able to use fancy words, but rather because we want them to enjoy, and be excited about words in general.

Let’s dig in with them and take time to fulfill their language curiosities because it’s fun and exciting.

Let’s take every opportunity as initiated by them, and let’s also provide opportunities by striking up dialogues and asking questions about language that we find interesting, or that we think might be interesting to them.

Let’s model curiosity and care around and about language.

Language doesn’t cost a thing and there’s plenty of it to go around. Let’s make it as fun and exciting as it actually is to those who discover it’s innate influence on our lives, and let’s make sure that the kids we serve have every opportunity to maximize their potential to use it for good.

Live. Love. Listen. Learn. Lead. Thanks!

Some Simple Heart & Mind Math (Exponential Multipliers)

How do you feel? How do you think?

How do you want to feel? How do you want to think?

How do you feel you should be thinking? How do you think should be feeling?

How do you feel thinking impacts the feelings you think you’re having? How do you think feeling impacts the thinking you feel you’re doing?

Ok, I am having fun, but I’m also confusing myself…so let’s move on.

For the purpose of this reflective exploration let’s define the possibilities for both “feeling” and “thinking” within two categories each.

For feeling, let’s go with “good” and “bad.”

“Good” could indicate happy, contented, relaxed or any other desirable emotional state of being. It should be one that promotes well-being and productivity; your choice.

For thinking, let’s go with two traditional frameworks: pessimistic-style and optimistic-style.

Let’s further define our two “thinking style” possibilities as follows:

Pessimistic thinkers view “negative” events or challenges as personal, pervasive, and permanent. They think that every obstacle is a targeted attack on them, aimed at the very core of who they are.

Additionally they think that each obstacle exists to knock them over, infect all aspects of their life, and last a really long time (if not indefinitely).

Optimistic thinkers view “negative” events or challenges at opportunities for learning and growth. They think of obstacles as short-term, limited in scope, and manageable. They believe that after grappling with a challenge they emerge stronger and better equipped for the next one.

Now that we’ve framed out the basis, let’s get to the strategy.

Once you’ve decided how you want to feel and how you want to think, you can insert your intentions into the following equation for optimal results:

(Desired State of Heart and Mind + Strength of Character) x (Interactions + Accountability)/(Patience + Forgiveness) = Actual State of Heart and Mind

The bottom line is that states of heart and states of mind are exponential multipliers.

Embedding yourself in “bad” feelings and “pessimistic” thoughts causes waves of “bad” feelings and “pessimistic” thoughts to advance. Monstrous walls of negative energy, coupled with vicious & destructive undertows pound relentlessly upon those trapped in the negative.

Let’s assume, for the sake of the children we serve as parents and educators, that we each have at least the desire for good feelings and optimistic thoughts. Under this exponential multiplier model, it’s achievable. Give it a try.

Surround yourself mostly with others seeking, and actively working toward the same, act with optimism as a foundation, smile and speak in positive tones, check yourself regularly to ensure a consistent effort, forgive yourself for falling of course as needed, and possibly most importantly, forgive those who insert negativism into the spaces you occupy with bad feelings and pessimistic thinking. I would strongly suggest that they are not doing so from a place of malice but rather one of hurt. Bitterness sinks while compassion floats.

Even more simply, to let the positive multiply within and around you, avoid engaging in the negative. Use your positive energy to shatter negative forces. Know that they are short-term, limited in scope, and manageable, and care deeply about the well-being of others, as it arguably has a profound impact on you and the world at large.

If nothing else, I would confidently suggest that taking this aggressively positive tact can’t hurt.

Live. Love. Listen. Learn. Lead. Thanks.

Letting Go

Letting go ain’t easy.

As parents and educators we know this all too well.

Headed into June we’re faced with the difficulty, and the opportunity of sending the kids we serve along into the next phase of their journeys.

Winston Churchill said, ”pessimists see the difficulty in every opportunity; optimists see the opportunity in every difficulty.”

For their benefit and ours, we must send our kids along with smiles on our faces and optimism in our hearts.
We’ve prepared them well. We know they’re ready.

Teachers will miss them and parents will miss this moment it time. It does seem to go by incredibly fast.

My wife’s great grandmother (Mumma Hattie) used to say, “the days drag and the years fly,” which strikes a chord as I watch my youngest of four play with his big brothers and sister. In the blink of an eye, this kid isn’t a baby anymore.

I remember my oldest clinging to my leg and crying as I walked him into his kindergarten classroom for the first time (through about the sixty first time). Now, this confident almost third grader barely turns to wave goodbye as he self-assuredly strolls into school through the big kid doors (as least he still says, “I love you”).

We must savor & cherish the dragging days. If we don’t, the flying years will hit us even harder.

So how do we do it? How do we watch as the kids we serve fly away? I can’t offer absolutes. It’s going be difficult, as it always is. However, with Winston Churchill’s message in mind, I can suggest some strategies to ease the ache and maximize the opportunity.

Model confidence. The kids might have a bit of tough time too. We should smile as we wrap up the school year. They need to know that we know it will be okay. They need to know that we’re confident the path is a right one. They need to know that we’re not worried about what’s come, but rather that we’re excited about the days ahead.

Believe. Make sure that confidence genuine. Make sure that excitement is authentic. Kids can smell insincerity from miles away. We’ve prepared them well. We know they’re resilient. We understand that when they fall along the way, it’s only because they need to learn how to get up. We know it’s the best way. We know that no matter what happens next, learning and growth is ongoing and limitless. Let’s show what we know.

Celebrate. We can enhance feelings of confidence on their part by reminding them of how far they’ve come. We should be taking every opportunity to celebrate as we close out the school year. Did someone discover the joy of reading this year? Was there a special project that one of our students really connected with? Did a meaningful friendship form? There’s lot’s to celebrate. Let’s focus on as much of it as we can recall, as much of the time we can think to recall it.

Look Forward. Talk about the days to come. Intentionally make note of the exciting things that are sure to come during the summer and into the next school year. Talk about it and listen to kids’ excitements and curiosities. Explore with them, reassure them, and validate their visions of the next steps they’re about to take. It truly is exciting, and it’s what we’re here to do.

One of the great difficulties of being a parent and an educator is that we are meant to let go. It’s also one of the greatest opportunities. It’s among our most important functions, and for the sake of all involved, we must do it well.

Here’s to a peaceful and productive transition into the next phase of this incredible journey! You can do it!

Live. Love. Listen. Learn. Lead. Thanks.

Ready Position

This afternoon I was at baseball practice with my seven-year-old. This one reminds me a bit of myself when it comes to baseball. I remember my own excitement over being regularly assigned to right field.

I remember feeling that it was unlikely that balls would come my way, and that I would have plenty of time for pulling dandelions, spinning around, finding shapes in clouds, making up stories, laughing to myself about the stories, and occasionally jumping up and down in place while counting to a hundred (or so).

Coach kept shouting, “ready position!”

He wanted my kid to bend his knees slightly, put his hand on them, and look toward home plate.

Granted, that is the correct “ready position” for what coach is responsible for teaching my kid to do. However, it isn’t the correct “ready position” for what my kid was actually up to.

My kid was pulling dandelions, spinning around, finding shapes in clouds, making up stories, laughing to himself about the stories, and occasionally jumping up and down in place while counting to a hundred (or so).

I have to imagine it’s some pretty basic apple and tree type stuff. I like to, anyway.

I tried not to smile too big or laugh too loud as I watched the kid do his thing. I didn’t want coach to think I was encouraging him in wrong directions or enjoying myself too much, even thought I was actually doing both.

I have to say, it is truly a joy for me to watch this kid blossoming into a world-class dreamer. I forgot that he was practicing baseball for a minute (or two).

Anyway, my wife asked me to stop by the drug store on the way home from practice. When I told the kid, he shuttered with excitement.

“I need a new journal!” he exclaimed. “One with lines, like ‘The Diary of a Wimpy Kid’ paper.” He clarified.

We picked up a pack of four journals (in my world it’s important to get one for each kid).

The big guy spent the rest of the evening drawing and writing stories. The volume and the creative quality of his work tonight amazed his mom and me. We had to peel the journal out of his hands so that we could get him to go to sleep (as we have to do with a journal or a book almost every night).

As I reflect back on baseball practice I realize he had been in “ready position.” If a fly ball happened along in his direction he would most likely not have been ready for that, but that’s not what he was trying to be ready for.

As a parent and an educator it makes me wonder, should we be asking the children we serve to be getting into “ready position” for what we want, or think they should be doing in any given moment, or alternatively, should we be working on genuinely understanding what they are in “ready position” for during those moments, and then supporting them in efforts to “play ball” in whatever way they feel most compelled?

My kid is a real slugger when it comes to creative writing, and he can field a wild idea like a pro!

It strongly feel it’s important to support his interest-based progress as a wonderer, a dreamer, and a creative artist…even as some of it takes the form of absent minded ball playing. With that feeling in mind, I try to stay in “ready positon” to do so.

Sorry coach…thanks for your patience…and batter up!

Live. Love. Listen. Learn. Lead. Thanks!

Bumps, To Make It More Fun

We were at the park, as we frequently are. This was a new park, one that we’d never been to before (we’re park hoppers).

This park has a slide with bumps on it.

To me, an adult, a bumpy slide seemed like the type of apparatus with the potential to distress one’s bottom. It didn’t look like something I would choose to slide down. I prefer slides that are smooth.

I wondered out loud, “Why would they make a slide with bumps on it?”

My fiver-year-old answered without hesitation, “Maybe to make it more fun?”

Maybe, I thought, and then I watched him run excitedly up the play structure steps, arms pumping vigorously, his smile flashing its bits of shininess through the pattered holes in the elevated platform from which the bumpy slide would soon empty him onto a bed of worn woodchips. The kid was psyched.

He showed no hesitation. He wasn’t concerned about his bottom or his lower back. He was unabashedly powering toward what he had decided, with categorical resolution, was enhanced fun, even over and above the multitude of really, really fun slides he’d gone down (and up) over the course of his five years.

I want to run toward fun just like that, even, and especially it’s bumpy.

I want to enjoy and appreciate the twist and turns the way children do.

I want to return to the unabashed powering toward things that fill my heart with wild anticipation.

I want to not hesitate.

I want to consistently remember that an ever-present positive outlook, laden with joyful trimming and inspired enthusiasm is truly the way.

I recently came across my new favorite quote. It’s by Roald Dahl, and it goes like this: “If you have good thoughts they will shine out of your face like sunbeams and you will always look lovely.”

Bumps. They were on that slide, and as you know, they are all around us. Maybe, just maybe, they really are there to make it more fun.

Clinging joyfully to that possibility, I think it’s what I’ll think from now on. What could it hurt?

And get a load of this…it already feels more fun!

Live. Love. Listen. Learn. Lead. Thanks.

Moxie, It’s Pretty Amazing (And Not so Bad)

So much is so scary. The world can be a relatively difficult place to navigate at times. This is true for people of all ages. At 43 I’m still not immune to hesitation, trepidation, and even fear.

Sometimes those emotional responses to challenging situations can stop me in my tracks. Sometimes, however, I overcome and persevere. Sometime I employ moxie.

Moxie is a word that means: strength of character. It means: determination. It means: courage.

If you’ve got moxie, you’ve got nerve.

If you’ve got moxie, you’ve got grit.

If you’ve got moxie, you have a growth mindset, which means you can’t be stopped, not by an emotional response to a challenging situation, and ultimately, not by anything.

If you’ve got moxie you believe in the will to proceed, a positive attitude, and faith in lots of trying, and when lots of trying doesn’t seem to work, you believe you simply need lots more.  If you’ve got moxie, you’re thrilled to keep towing that line to any end.

People with moxie are happy because they know that “eventually” is better than “now.” They know that the road is long and winding, and they know that the long windy parts can be particularly fun and specifically rewarding.

People with moxie, even as they hesitate from time to time (which we all do), are eager to press on, even and especially when times are tough.  They know that it makes them stronger.

People with moxie shudder with anticipation when they stand at the edge of an adventure, especially the mysterious kind of adventure, during which multiple failures are preeminent.  To people with moxie, that’s the good stuff; the spice.

My two oldest sons and I go downtown to the Detroit river walk every so often. At one point along the walk there’s a stream running parallel. The stream is just wide enough not to present as un-leap-across-able, and just thin enough for kids with moxie to want to try (and to need to).  An exciting dichotomy for my kids, who have loads of moxie (some to spare you might say…no doubt they must get it from their mother).

Anyway, there we were, thinking this would be the year. Sure of it. This would be the year of the dry leap. The stream would be cleared. Last year we walked away with wet shoes (and socks).

The boys were brimming with excitement and anticipation, running back and forth, stopping at the edge, visualizing the jump, building courage, and priming their moxie pumps.

A long-bearded man with coveralls and a fishing pole walked by, saw what was going on,  and told the boys they’d never make it. He said they were too small.

Apparently that was the hammer dropping, because before I could say “wet shoes and socks” the first kid came flying across the great divide, followed closely by the second. They both did it! Just barely, but they did it nonetheless. Adrenaline rushed through their veins, they jumped for joy and hugged one another repeatedly and uncontrollably.  it was blissful.

In a flash of realization my fiver year old shouted, “That was pretty amazing!” and then matter-of-factly added, “and not so bad,” addressing the courage his moxie had him overcome, shaking his head in affirmation, raising his eyebrows, and curling his lower lip.

With out much ado they went back to hugging and jumping around before leaping over the stream at least two-dozen more times each.

People with moxie don’t let the negative infect them, they let it inspire them toward the positive, and they don’t apologize to anyone about it.

That positive bent might be my most favorite thing about moxie, which is saying a lot, because I have a lot of favorite things when it comes to moxie.

That thing, the thing the makes people with moxie believe in positive outcomes through any challenge, that thing truly inspires me, and I sure do appreciate being truly inspired!

Thank you moxie.

Live. Love. Listen. Learn. Lead. Thanks.

Checking In

I’m actively seeking pathways to enhanced mindfulness for myself. You might think that “actively” is the only way to seek.  You might be right.

Regardless, I articulate the distinction because I feel as though I have passively sought the same by wanting, but not trying, in the past.

Now, I’m wanting and trying; so, “actively” seeking.

I’m doing it because I’d like to engage more fully in each moment, specifically, while I’m experiencing it.

I’ve heard it said that mindfulness isn’t about knowing, but rather about being aware of, and appreciating not knowing.

When I think about being aware, I think about “checking in.”

Below I’ve listed 7 strategies that have worked, and are working for me as I enhance my “checking in” skills, and strengthen my capacity for being present during the mosaic-like moments along my journey.

  1. Wishing Well (not the type you throw pennies into)

Frustration, jealousy, anger, resentment, and the like, increasingly seem to be nothing more than distractions in my view. When I muster the strength to wish those around me well, no matter the challenges we face, alone and together, I always find myself feeling better about any given situation, and, I find each moment in which I’m doing so to be more positive and productive than it might otherwise be.  The acceptance of not always knowing and a reliance on an “abundance paradigm” (Stephen Covey) help me make it happen.

2. A Core Values Focus

When I focus on my core values, especially kindness and collaboration, I tend to be able to get to the well wishing quicker and more effectively. As it turns out, when those around me feel good I tend to feel good too.  Subsequently, not knowing seems more OK.

3. A Foundation of the Foundation

Asking myself what I’m getting at in any given moment tends to help. Usually, for me, it’s well-being & achievement. Most of the time I’m driven by seeking well-being & achievement for myself and for those I serve.    Specifically, my energy mostly goes to the well-being and achievement of the children I serve, however, in order to get there the well-being and achievement of all involved turns out to be critical.

4. Right-Leaning

Shades of gray are indelibly woven into the fabric of life. That’s said, “right” and “wrong” appear in most situations without having to dig very deep.  Trusting in my internal compass and a right-leaning posture, repeatedly prove to be wonderful tools for carving a mindful and true path.

5. Doodle Focusing

There seems to be a fine line between unconscious and conscious thought and action. Scribbling on a piece of paper with no particular aim helps me connect the two with uncanny consistency. I’m not sure why, it just does.

  1. Walking Outside

If you don’t already, I would suggest you give it a try. While you do, listen carefully with an open heart and an open mind. I find that the sounds of the world around me help to piece together the complex puzzle of my life in ways that nothing else can.

7. Resting

It’s a busy world. Taking the time to restore myself with rest & relaxation always helps me engage more mindfully during the moments when rest and relaxation are not options.

Food for thought. Wishing you well.

Live. Love. Listen. Learn. Lead. Thanks.

On Promoting Childish Conceptions of The Future

The other day my seven-year-old was reading on my iPhone. He was using comprehension-promoting software.  For every “book” he read there were a series of comprehension questions to answer.

Points were earned for correct answers. He could use those points to buy things in a digital store. The things he bought were meant to help him create a digital world within the software. It was like a game. He was having fun.  I’m old.

This is a kid who loves to read. He has actual, physical books strewn about his bedroom, and wherever he travels throughout our house books follow like the stardust dust trail from a comet.

He also enjoys digital devices. He likes this reading software and he likes games.  All of my kids do.  Thankfully, they all also seem to like actual, physical books too (my personal favorite – a bias I’m working on).

That day, I told him there were no iPhones when I was a kid.

“Really?” He asked.

“Really.” I said.

I told him that my friends and I could have imagined what iPhones would be like, but that they didn’t exist.

I told him that they pretended to have something like iPhones on TV shows about the future, but just not in “real life.”

His face turned incredibly thoughtful, he let out what seems to be an unstoppable, “Ohhh,” and then he matter-of-factly stated, “So this is the future.”

“It sure is, Bud.”

He went on to explain that if it’s true, anything he and his friends might imagine can become a reality one day too, in tomorrow’s future, or the future that will be here on the day after tomorrow, or the one that will happen any number of years from now.

“It sure can, Bud.”

When do we begin to restrict ourselves?

When do we start to deny the incredible potential of our capacity to unfold the individual and collective imaginations of ourselves and our contemporaries into the fabric of reality?

At what point do we decide that not everything is possible?

How old are we when time, cost, and ability begin to seem prohibitive?

At what age do the laws of physics begin stifling our desire to fly?

We must resist.

One of the greatest strengths of kids is that they believe anything is possible, unless and until we redefine their innate gift-of-a-paradigm into one in which it isn’t.

Let’s not.

Here’s to today, and to every future today we are blessed to experience with the incredible children we serve.

Here’s to their childish conceptions of a nonsensical and brilliant series of tomorrows and future todays.

Here’s to the hope that each of their wildly outlandish dreams comes true.

Here’s to the faith that it can, and that it will.

Here’s to the possibility that we will be with them, watching, hoping, supporting, inspired and proven wrong, and witnessing, with blissful awe, the unfolding of what might otherwise have been unimaginable positive progress.

Yes, here’s to the possibility.

Live. Love. Listen. Learn. Lead. Thanks.

“Yet” & The Language Of Opportunity

I recently heard a story about two shoe salesmen who were sent to the same small, remote village in an attempt to sell shoes.

The first salesman returned and told his colleagues that there was no opportunity to sell shoes in that village because none of the villagers wore shoes.

The second salesman returned and told his colleagues that there was tremendous opportunity because none of the villagers owned shoes, yet.

The distinction between the two salesmen’s perceptions, and the language they each used to describe those perceptions, solidified two very different pathways.

The first salesman denied himself opportunity. He closed a door.  He stymied potential.

The second salesman created opportunity on the basis of the same challenge the first salesman faced. By articulating his perception in a positive and progressive way he opened the same door that the first salesman closed.

Like the second salesman, we can each employ a positive and progressive view of the world to expand opportunity and amplify potential.

When we choose a negative and stagnant view of the world we limit opportunity and stifle potential, for ourselves and for those around us.

I would argue that this equation is true of the challenges we face on a daily basis as parents and educators.

The word “yet” is critical in our ability to positively impact each child’s unique pathway to wellbeing and achievement.

The very nature of learning and growth tells us that children will demonstrate limited ability before they are given the modeling, the tools, the strategies, the practice, and the experiences that subsequently lead them to demonstrate ability in the same areas where it once seemed limited.  They each need, and are hungry for hope, inspiration, and experience.

The very nature of learning and growth tells us that we must always cling to a foundation of potential over and above one of defeat.

As we guide and nurture the potential of each child in our care, we must always keep “yet” in mind. We must always speak the language of opportunity.

We must always perceive and believe that growth is seamless, no matter the rate or frequency of its visibility.

The road is long and winding. Moreover, it is unique for every individual.

As parents and educators we must always trust in progress over and above end points.

As parents and educators we must never define the children we serve according to any moment in time, but rather according to the continuum that we know unfolds over time, with kindness, hope, and an undying resolve for the ever-unfolding and limitless potential that exists within each of them, and within each of us.

We must face each challenge with the knowledge that there is a pathway for it to be it to be resolved, and where we encounter roadblocks we must tirelessly seek alternative pathways.

I, for one, have a long way to go in understanding how to meet the needs of every child I serve. Nevertheless, I firmly believe, and have experienced time and again, that the language of potential, with the word “yet” and as a reminder, provides for and builds upon hope and inspiration at every turn.

I believe that a positive and progressive worldview with limitless potential for learning, growth, and opportunity at the center is the way forward.

Live. Love. Listen. Learn. Lead. Thanks.

Fresh-Made, Real-World Creative Play Rules!

When I came home the other day my five-year-old approached me immediately and with a focused urgency. He had no time to waste.

Bolstering a sizable orange at the end of his outstretched arm he asked, “Daddy, is this an orange?”

No greeting, no hug, just the question.

As I mentioned, it was an orange, and for that reason I answered, “It sure is Bud.”

Off he went.

I didn’t think much of it. Goofiness runs deep in our family. Here he was being goofy, par for the course.

No sooner did I drop my keys and loosen my tie when he was standing in front of me again, with a different orange at the end of the same outstretched arm. Different orange; same arm.

Now I began to wonder. Not so much about what he was up to, but how much effort it would take to clean up after this exploration.

“Daddy,” he asked again, “is this an orange?”

“It sure is, Bud.” My brow was furrowed at this point. He smiled. I smiled (on the outside at first, and subsequently on the inside, realizing that regardless of the insuring mess, this could be a moment that might become a cherished memory, and I sure do love those moments).

This time I shadowed the big guy into our kitchen, where sure enough I found subjugated orange parts strewn about the island countertop, encircling a small plastic cup with maybe a quarter once of juice inside it, and possibly two or three ounces under and nearby it.

Now, his smile was huge; super proud juicer in action.

He looked up and shouted, “Fresh-made orange juice…just ten dollars!”

I am a sucker for fresh-made orange juice, but that price was outrageous!

He enlisted the help of his two-year-old brother for sales while his seven-year-old brother and his three-year-old sister ran upstairs to get their piggy banks.

Over the course of the next two hours, the fresh-made, real-world play was energized and stimulating. After very quickly running out of fresh-made orange juice (little brother was thirsty) the team decided to fill what seemed to be about dozen cups with fresh-made water; much more accessible.

It went for ten dollars without a straw and eleven dollars with a straw. Ice was complimentary.

When the fresh made water well ran dry they turned to toys, buy on get one free. What seem to be hundreds of them laid out on various surfaces around the living room.

My daughter took advantage of this outstanding opportunity by filling a partially empty diaper box with sale items, digging her way underneath them, and working hard for some time to close herself and her bounty in the box. She wasn’t playing with the toys; she was playing WITH the toys. It was a spectacularly interesting sight to see. She’s strong willed; get’s it from her mother; serves them both well.

Our little big guy found a dragon puppet and set off engaged in a ventriloquist-style conversation for the remainder of the evening.

The school-age brothers worked hard at keeping shop. They even drew about and wrote about the experience, creating marketing pieces and making business plans. It was an engaging, fun, thinking and learning experience for each one of these kids ranging from two to seven-years old (not to mention me at forty three).

I realized, as I do each time I support and celebrate fresh-made, real-world creative play, that kids love it. Even fifteen minutes after bedtime routines were supposed to begin they were crying for more. I had to drag them upstairs kicking and screaming.

At no time did they talk about or ask for television or any device, and at no point did they disengage or complain of being bored.

So, in reflection I developed a set of very simple rules for adults interested in encouraging fresh-made real-world creative play:

  1. Listen & respond
  2. Celebrate, encourage, participate, & enjoy
  3. Extend & integrate

At home or at school, fresh-made, real-world creative play initiated on the foundation of kids’ interests can be exciting and meaningful, it can promote thinking, doing, and learning across subject matter and curricular areas, it can provide kids with hours of fun, social, and enriching opportunities, and by the way…no screen is required.

In conclusion, I’m going double entendre by once again suggesting: Fresh-Made, Real-World Creative Play Rules!

Live. Love. Listen. Learn. Lead. Thanks.