WHY DO WE ENJOY MAGIC?

We are drawn to the sense of delight and wonder that comes with magic and draws us to it. We clap, we drool, and our mouths open. This is the moment when we think, “Oooh! I wonder how did the magician do that?

Stage and Performance Magic
The illusion of stage and performance magic performed by magicians like David Copperfield and Criss Angel requires skill, or a sleight of hand and the ability to manipulate the minds of the audience. It helps too that our eyes can only focus on one thing at a time.

When we can’t make sense of the world around us it creates tension, but when no explanation seems possible (“How did he saw the woman in half and put her together again without hurting her?”), it gives us a thrill. To read more about why we love magic visit:

http://www.shrinktank.com/psychologists-guide-love-magic/

Harry Potter Magic
The wizardry of Harry Potter shows us that people love the fantasy and supernatural kind of magic seen in Harry Potter. J.K. Rowling’s world of fantasy creatures and magical spells draws us in. But we all know that the magic belongs to the realm of story.

The Magic of Science

There is also another kind of magic that is real and alive in our world. It is the magic of science. When we think about it, the science magic show is going on all around us, all the time. We adults take it for granted that we can fly like birds, turn on the electric light at the flick of a switch or talk to someone halfway across the world in real time.

Children are however curious by nature. They ask questions and demand answers. As parents we don’t have to have all the answers. We can explore the world together with our children.

Scientific knowledge helps us to make sense of the world around us, when we take the time to look deeper and closer.

At the Ontario Science, the hands-on exhibits invite us to explore by seeing and doing. They help us to understand the world, and to explain the inventions and discoveries that have shaped it. Click on the link below to learn more about the OSC:

https://www.ontariosciencecentre.ca/

My book is set against the backdrop of the Ontario Science Centre. A great deal of the action takes place in the Skylab in the Space Hall, the Rainforest room, main foyer and other areas.

The hero Virgo applies what he learns about science at the OSC to come up with creative solutions to the challenges he faces. To see a video trailer of the book, click on the Books page.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

WHEN YOU FEEL EMPATHY YOU GIVE A DAMN

Empathy is what happens when you try to understand what someone else is feeling. It is different from sympathy in that you don’t necessarily feel the same way. It is like putting yourself in someone else’s shoes.

Here are two remarkable stories of young people making a difference in peoples lives that will touch you.

Hannah a little girl from the States was only four years old when her empathy for a homeless man changed his life and the lives of many others.

Today people from all over the world collect socks in Hannah’s name to help those in need. To find out more on how she did it and on the Sock Drives she inspired, visit http://www.hannahssocks.org

Terry Fox, a Canadian hero, was diagnosed with bone cancer in 1977. At the hospital, he felt sorry for those who had related cancer problems, especially the children.

He decided to run across Canada to raise money for cancer research. The Marathon of Hope idea has spread around the world and has raised over 300 million. To find out more click on http://www.terryfox.org

Empathy is one of the six core skills that Terry Fox demonstrated to accomplish his goal and What he still stands for today. The other five core skills are listed below:

  1. Courage
  2. Responsibility
  3. Determination
  4. Humility
  5. Perseverance

“[E]mpathy is a skill that children learn. Its value is multifold. Children who are empathic tend to do better in school, in social situations, and in their adult careers. . . . The best teachers of that skill are the children’s parents.” (source: pexels.com)

psychcentral.com/lib/how-children-develop-empathy

Self-absorption kills empathy. When we focus on ourselves and see the world from our own narrow perspective, our world becomes smaller as our problems loom large. But when we focus on others, our world expands.

To be empathetic we need imagination. Imagination allows us to picture ourselves in the other person’s situation and to become aware of his suffering.

“[R]eading, and particularly the reading of fiction, encourages us to view the world in new and challenging ways…It allows us to inhabit the consciousness of another which is a precursor to empathy, and empathy is, for me, one of the marks of a decent human being.”
― John Connolly, The Book of Lost Things

I believe that it is important to foster empathy in our kids. In my book The Weird Adventures of Virgo Capella, the twelve-year-old boy Virgo is at first focused on his own problems and feels sorry for himself. A surprise encounter with a street kid and a strange boy named Biham an alien from another planet, throws him for a loop. At first Virgo doesn’t give a hoot, but gradually he develops empathy for the alien as the story progresses . . . see the Books page for more information.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

IMAGINE A WORLD WITHOUT COLOUR

What if you woke up one morning to the sound of drones flying overhead. But instead of dropping bombs, they sprayed the skies with a chemical that sucked up all the colour in the world. Everything around you was pitch black.

How would you feel? Shell-shocked and miserable, right? It would also be a world without possibilities, lacking in imagination.

This is what life feels like when we have limited scope and vision.The future is not bright.It is the same when we live in a world without imagination.

Is imagination highly overrated?
Many of us seem to think so; we say things like “I send my kids to school so they can learn useful basics.”It is assumed that only the creative types need imagination.The truth is that contrary to popular belief everyone needs it, including lawyers, engineers, plumbers and accountants.

Why?
Imagination allows us to benefit from systems thinking. We realize that everything in this world is interconnected, just like the ecosystem.

It also allows us to shift our position and see a situation through multiple perspectives: up, down and around.

When we see the big picture, it changes how we see things. This is what helps us to make wiser decisions.

An added benefit is that it helps us to face the challenges that life throws at us. Imagination is key to solving problems by enabling us to come with new ideas.

Imagination also impacts attitude. It makes the difference to whether someone will crumple up and quit or square their shoulders and look life in the eye and say to himself: “I can and I will” when facing tough circumstances.

Does it not then make sense to give our children the gift of imagination?
I say develop their imagination at the same time as giving them a solid foundation in the basics and then see what happens. Chances are you will be pleasantly surprised.

A book activates their memories and their imagination because children have to fantasize about the characters and the changing scenarios.

It also strengthens self-confidence by depicting how the hero overcomes his challenges. Fiction that is full of adventure, action packed with a dash of humour — entertains and educates.

Now that’s something to chew on. In my middle grade book The Weird Adventures of Virgo Capella, the hero is on a mission to save Biham from starving from lack of space food. Alien snatchers are close on his heels. Will Virgo succeed in taking him back to Mars in time?

Check out my book The Weird Adventures of Virgo Capella by clicking on the Books page and take a look at the first chapter. See for yourself where it takes your tween.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Hitchhiking to mars

Mars is no longer just a red dot in the sky, but a place we can go. We used to think it was just foolishness to think humans could travel to Mars, but the twenty-first century has seen huge strides in technology.

Before 1965 Mars was a mystery.
What was it like? Was it a dead planet or were its volcanoes still active? Today we even have a map of Mars like that of our Earth.

Since 1965 thanks to NASA’s orbiters, landers and rovers, we now know more about Mars, but it is still a mystery in many ways. It is a land of marvels and wonder. Olympus Mons is almost three times taller than Mount Everest. Valles Marineris is the deepest and longest canyon in the solar system. It is more than four times deeper than the Grand Canyon.

Still think its foolishness to travel to Mars?
SpaceX founder Elon Musk may force you to eat your words.

The Associated Press tells us that Elon Musk unveiled plans to put humans on Mars as early as 2024. Musk said SpaceX’s upcoming BFR mega-rocket can take dozens of people to the moon and to Mars and can also fly from New York to Tokyo in less than 30 minutes.

“For years, Elon Musk has been focused on building a colony on Mars. It’s why he founded SpaceX in 2002, and it’s been the driving force behind it ever since.” According to the article in The Washington Post that appeared in thestar.com on Sept. 29, 2017.

Calgary engineer Zac Trolley was among the 7,000 Canadians who applied to Mars One Mission and among the 1,000 people who made the shortlist in 2014.

When people asked him “Why would you leave everything on Earth behind?” His reply was prompt, “Because I’m getting an entire planet.”

Zac Trolley is the new Martian
Zac Trolley is coming back home to own his planet.

Zac Trolley and the 1,000 people who made the shortlist may be the first astronauts to step foot on Mars. And their children may actually be tweeting from Mars. It may be even become a trendy holiday resort.

Now that’s something to chew on. In my middlegrade book The Weird Adventures of Virgo Capella, the hero is on a mission to save Biham from starving from lack of space food. Alien snatchers are close on his heels. Will Virgo succeed in taking him back to Mars in time? Check it out on the Books page.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Schools are stifling students’ creativity

This news item appeared recently in the Globe & Mail. It refers to a quote made by the well-known education guru, Sir Ken Robinson in his interview with G&M on a visit to Canada.

I found two readers’ comments especially intriguing:

“Here is another neo-marxist recipe for us. Dance instead of math . . .”

When Sir Ken Robinson said, “[There are] a number of schools where kids who were taking dance programs improved in all their other work, including in mathematics.Their math scores went up,” the remark referred to the fact that when kids are physically active, it improves mental function. The flow of blood rises to the brain and more oxygen gets pumped.

The other comment that struck me:“You don’t get hired for your “creativity” and “imagination” if you don’t have the basic knowledge and no skills eg. doctor, dentist, engineer . . . “creativity” and “imagination” highly overrated in these jobs.

What’s happening here is that when most of us think about creativity, we just think about painting a picture, writing a poem or composing a song.Creativity is much more than that.

Doctors, dentists and engineers who can use the logical left side as well as the creative right side of their brains are much more valuable to society because they are not only more competent but have problem-solving ability and a bigger dose of foresight.

“Creativity is one of the most important economic resources of the twenty-first century,” argues Gary Gute, associate professor of family studies at the University of Northern Iowa, and director of the Creative Life Research Center there. “The call from business, industry, and education is for people to think more creatively, not only to solve problems but also to identify problems that need to be solved.
http://www.parents.com/fun/activities/indoor/create-creative-kids/

Sir Ken Robinson says to raise the standards, math should be taught in a way that motivates and engages students.Children are more motivated when they find a subject interesting and fun.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

ROUGHHOUSING IS A GOOD THING FOR YOUR KIDS. HERE’S WHY.

Although both boys and girls engage in roughhousing, boys rough play more by nature. However in recent years, the picture has changed and horseplay has gotten a bad rap.

What’s more, mothers who weren’t exposed to roughhousing are more cautious. They are more likely to step in right away to stop the rough and tumble because they are afraid of someone getting hurt.

Surrounded by three nephews and gifted with two boys with marriage, I quickly learned to wrestle, box, and bounce in bed or on the floor to play with them and connect on their level.

Boys have a need for movement and a physical outlet for their energy just as they have a need for open space.

Roughhousing is non-violent behaviour. It burns off energy. Although it can seem like the real thing, it only mimics wrestling, jumping and kicking.

Research by experts in the field has found that it actually increases bonding among children. Among young boys, rough play often allows them to act out their fantasy of being a superhero.

To find out more about how roughhousing helps kids to develop, visit https://parentingfromtheheartblog.com/why-boys-need-to-roughhouse/

If kids see themselves as being resourceful, they are more likely to fend off an attack by a tough bully. It comes down to having social skills such as being friendly and self-esteem.

Children with self-esteem recognize the difference between a real fight and a play fight. They know when it is all right to walk away rather than get sucked in.

They also know when to fight back using their resources. But building self-esteem is not an easy process for kids. It is not something that can be studied at school or given to them as a gift.

ROUGHHOUSING IS A GOOD THING FOR YOUR KIDS. HERE’S WHY.

This is why I convey this message under the surface in my book (The Weird Adventures of Virgo Capella, see books page). The hero Virgo develops self-esteem only after going through misadventures with a cast of characters who are seriously evil bad guys. As a result he learns how to stand up to bullies and become an individual who can face the challenges of life.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

CHILD’S PLAY IS FUN, FREELY CHOSEN AND SELF-DIRECTED

As parents we delight in our child’s interest in taking lessons of some sort. Music lessons such as playing the piano or the guitar tickle us.It is almost impossible to back off.

We forget it’s okay to encourage our child when she shows an interest, but not to coerce. This is where observing our child pays off. We avoid the mistake of forcing her by refusing to recognize the signs when it isn’t working.

This is exactly what happened to the well-known writer Stephen King when his son Owen was about seven. Owen decided he wanted to learn to play like the sax player in Bruce Springsteen’s band.

Stephen King was delighted by this ambition. Like every parent, he was hopeful that his son would turn out to be talented. Heck, even some sort of a prodigy.

Seven months later, King suddenly decided to stop the lessons even though his son was diligent about the lessons and rehearsal. Why did he come to this decision?

“there was never going to be any real playtime; it was all going to be a rehearsal. That’s no good. If there is no joy in it, it’s just no good. It’s best to go on to some other area, where the deposits of talent may be richer and the fun quotient higher.”

Does this strike some kind of nerve here? The truth is when something feels like work, it’s best to stop. It has to feel like the playground for a child to do his best or to learn something.

Sometimes we even foist our own thwarted dreams on our children. Or if we are honest, it may even be what we ourselves want for them for some reason. A quote from a previous blog is a good reminder:

Canada’s Prime Minister Justin Trudeau shares this memory with us in his autobiographical book, Common Ground:

“My mother insisted on broadening our horizons in other directions. When I was six years old, she enrolled me in a ballet class . . . I hated the whole idea and rebelled at being dragged to ballet class until the day my mother was forced to literally pull me through the door of 24 Sussex while I kicked and screamed.”

When it comes to hobbies and interests, it pays to step back. As hard as it is, we have to take the time to listen to what our child is saying and to observe. Often it only comes across in facial gestures or body language.

Sheila G, Flaxman, an educator with 35 years of experience working with young children, has the last word:

…Play involves a free choice that is a nonliteral, self-motivated, enjoyable process.

“Nonliteral” is, by definition, not realistic. This means that the external aspects of time, use of materials, environment, rules of the activity, and roles of the participants are all made up by the children playing. They are all based on the child’s sense of reality. Children engage in play because they enjoy it—it’s self-directed. Once they get bored, they will no longer play, or will change their play. They do not play for rewards—they play because they like it. They enjoy the activity of play and not the product.

What Happened to Play?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

FREE PLAY IS BACK!

The Free Play movement for child’s play is gaining momentum everywhere. It is exciting news! The number of groups on Facebook that defend free play is mushrooming.

Pinterest Group Board Directory also has several group boards relating to child’s play. More parents and educators are realizing the importance of free play for growth & development, and simply to bring fun back into the lives of children.

Both free play and guided play is important. What we really need is some kind of a happy balance between the two.

Howard Chudacoff’s recent research paper on the history of children’s play in the U.S. argues that for most of human history children “improvised their own play; they regulated their play; they made up their own rules.” But during the second half of the 20th century according to Chudacoff, play changed because of commercialization of toys, concern for safe environments, and focus on academic achievement. The digital age has also made a huge difference to how kids play,

“Unstructured [free] play is open-ended, fun and has endless possibilities . . . Unstructured play can happen indoors or outdoors. However, the outdoors may provide more opportunities.” To read more, see my blog post of April 2017.

The farmers’ market that takes place on Sundays in the summer at the Brickworks in Toronto has a dedicated area for kids who want to play. A big sign “FREE PLAY: Shuffleboard/sign out equipment from the Sipping Container stall,” says it all. A ping-pong table and some play props are scattered about. A cycling area for kids is also cordoned off.

Seen on a giant scribble pad at Kortright Centre for Conservation, near Toronto:

What Does Free Play Mean to You?

• Being a child and having a childhood
• Run around
• Free choice
• Adventure
• Getting dirty
• Most funniest cool vacation school
• Nature
• Risking
• Open-ended exploration
• Outdoor play
• Imagination and exploration
• Playing tag
• Walking where my feet take me, and then learning what my hands teach me through exploration
• Freedom to be/freedom/freely chosen
• Systems thinking
• Discovering/exploring
• Self-expression
• Child-directed
• Exploring and building
• Quote: “In the forest we are real.”
• Joy!
• A five-year-old running through our forest for the first time
• Happy
• Fun
• Wondering
• Investigating with my senses

WHAT DOES FREE PLAY MEAN TO YOU? Think about it.
Here are three easy ways to bring free play into your children’s life:

a) Set aside a chunk of time weekly for your kids.
b) Scatter some suitable props around the house.
c) Connect with block parents in your community to create a safe play area for kids in your neighbourhood.

Bring fun back into your child’s life, and your own with free play.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

GREAT WEBSITES THAT SUPPORT PLAY IS LEARNING

Looking for great websites by experts in their field that have tips and resources on how to support Play with your child? Here are my recommendations that help make the search easier on the web.Check out the list below and you may find one that fits your needs.

1. Kathy Eugster

If you are looking for some imaginative and creative play ideas, check out www.kathyeugster.com. Click on the website address and then choose Articles.

Some of the topics included are:
• Encouraging Children to Play — includes 12 practical ideas to help your child play imaginatively.
• Play Therapy— explains how a play therapist works with a child to explore and resolve problems through play.
• Special Play Time — Helps to strengthen the parent-child bond and to relief stress.

Kathy has a MA in Counselling Psychology, is a Registered Clinical Counsellor and a Certified Play Therapist.

2.Essentialkids

Even when parents agree that their kids need to play more, busy lifestyles often make it difficult.

If you are wondering how to make Play happen, the article on 10 ways to help children get their play back is worth reading: http://www.essentialkids.com.au/activities/school-holidays/10-ways-to-help-children-get-their-play-back-20161004-grudeu#ixzz4haMoprmt

“The studies are clear on the importance of play. . . . It takes a lot of work to make it happen. But it’s worth it.”

3. Encourage Play

This excellent website: www.encourageplay.com has resources that you can read, use or watch. It provides simple &intentional play ideas to help kids learn social skills and connect through Play, as well as acquire coping skills.

You can sign up for the newsletter and receive 40 Family Dinner Time Conversation Starters for free.

Janine is a Licensed Mental Health Counselor and a mother of two.

4. Playful Learning

This newly updated website www.playfullearning.net
has resources and lessons that empower children to make a positive impact on their surroundings.

Be sure and check out the section Free Resources for Parents, which includes activities for home on diverse topics such as science, art, global studies, math, and well being. To get free printables, just sign up to receive your weekly newsletter.

With over 10 years of EDU experience and a growing family, Mariah started Playful Learning in 2008 as a resource for parents and teachers. She has a M.S. ED in Elementary Education.

5. Education

I highly recommend www.Education.com/worksheets
You can choose from a variety of interactive resources: activities and games. Teachers will love the lesson plans. The site offers parents and teachers use of their 30,000+award-winning resources.

The free worksheets and printables help kids explore topics, and build knowledge in key areas. The puzzles, mazes, and specific skill-based exercises help to practice skills in different ways. The materials are fun and easy-to-use.

As a basic member, you have limited access to resources. But it’s a great way to try out the website and you can always upgrade later.

6. Bright Horizons

Click on FAMILY RESOURCES to get expert childhood development tips including on how to grow a reader or a scientist, and fun home activities from the official site of www.brighthorizons.com. You can subscribe to their free weekly e-family news for parenting tips just by signing up.

If you looking to join an online community, listen to parent podcasts or webinars, then this is the place to be.

7.MOMSTEAM

If you need some help in raising sports active kids, then this is the right spot for you.

www.momsteam.com is a youth sports information website for parents looking for advice, an online community and tips from a team of experts and other dedicated parents to make sure that youth sports is safe for children of all ages.

You might like to check out “7 Things Parents Can Do to Keep Their Kids Safe” under Health & Safety.

8. Imagination

Imagine a world where all children are taught to be creative thinkers and doers, and encouraged to make their very best ideas happen.Is this a far-fetched notion?

In 2012, a filmmaker Nirvan Mullick met a 9-year-old Caine Monroy. The chance meeting sparked a worldwide movement celebrating Creativity and Play.

On the last day of summer Nirvan met Caine, who built an elaborate cardboard arcade inside his dad’s East LA auto parts shop.

Amazed by the boy’s creativity, Nirvan organized a flash mob of customers to surprise Caine and make his day. Visit www.imagination.org and watch “Caine’s Arcade” and “Caines Arcade 2” and get inspired.

9.CHILD’S PLAY IN ACTION

This great website www.childsplayinaction.com offers guides and videos on a number of topics such as:

• 15 awesome playground toys
• Play sculpture to get kids’ imagination flowing
• Pretend Play that makes kids brave at the doctor
• 18 Brain Breaks that make kids happy

Get some fantastic game ideas in your inbox each week just by signing up and a Rainy Day Games list.

Jocelyn Greene is an educator, children’s theatre director, and a parent who lives in New York.

10. LEARNING 4 KIDS

www.Learning4kids.net is an online resource where parents and educators can find activities and play ideas to do with their children that promote FUN learning.

Janice is an Australian Mum of three and Pre-Primary Teacher (5 and 6 Year olds). She has a Bachelor of Education (Primary Education) and Graduate Certificate of Early Childhood Education.

11.MOTHERMAG

Who are the happiest people in the world? The Danes are! According to the latest research findings. The article below talks about some of the play theories rooted in Danish culture with The Danish Way of Parenting author Jessica Alexander and psychotherapist Iben Sandahl, and expands on the Danes’ belief in the power of play.

To access this article click on www.mothermag.com and enter “WHAT DANISH PARENTS KNOW ABOUT THE POWER OF PLAY” in the search field, and then click on The Power of Play.”

12.PBS

If you want quick, fast expert advice and tips on how to enhance the play experience for your child, visit www.pbs.org
Scroll to bottom of welcome screen and click on Parents. In the search field enter Encouraging Nature Play.

13.PLAY ENGLAND

Great website to delve into if you would like to campaign and support play for children in your community.

The site www.playengland.org.uk offers excellent resources including articles on Quality in Play, Design for Play, as well as on specific topics such as Adventure playgrounds, and Parks and open spaces, Streets and Play work.

14.DISCOVERY TIME

This excellent website www.discoverytime.co.nz is helpful for primary school teachers who want to take their teaching to the next level. What is Discovery Time?

Discovery Time is an exciting, activity-based program for primary school teachers to explore how to build key competencies in a fun, student-directed way. A successful Discovery Time session allows students to own their own learning by being actively involved in deciding what happens next, guided by skillful adults who set the scene.

What is Imaginative Play?

Imagination adds sparkle to life. It leads to new ideas and problem-solving. Imagining is making mental pictures. We all have imagination, but this power has to be developed. One of the ways that children do this is through pretend play.

Imaginative play is pretend play when children act out their own experiences or role-play something that interests them.

Children learn from what happens around them and from their senses. Imaginative play is the way they make sense of the world around them. Children who are deprived of sensory experiences have difficulty forming new ideas.

Apart from nurturing the imagination, pretend play in children builds skills in many other areas such as social and emotional skills, language skills, and thinking skills.

YOU’RE THINKING, “THAT SOUND’S GREAT, BUT HOW DO I SUPPORT IMAGINATIVE PLAY WITH MY CHILD?”

1. Here are some ideas to get you started to support imaginative play with your child:

Cardboard box
Set up a big cardboard box up in an open area in your house and let your child decide what he wants it to be. Provide heavy-duty markers for decoration, and other materials if needed. Your role here is to be more of a guide by providing some ideas if necessary.

Puppets
Gather a box of assorted household objects and have your child create a puppet show using them as the “puppets.”

Wacky photos
Let your child cut up old photos.Get out some glue, construction paper, and markers and have her turn the stray faces and body parts into new people or create a fantasy picture.

Nature story
Take a paper bag and go on a walk with your child. Try to collect at least 10 nature objects. Have your child make a story from the objects.

Junk-drawer game
Have your child go through a junk drawer and pick out a dozen of the oddest objects he can find. Get a big sheet of cardboard, some markers and some dice. Have your child invent a game using all the found pieces. Then sit down and play together.

Reinventing the solar system
Give your child the opportunity to rename the planets. What would she name the planets if she had the chance? And why?

Hidden stories
Have your child spend fifteen minutes hunting around the house for three objects he hasn’t noticed or paid attention to before. Your job is to tell him a story about all three objects.

For doable tips on how to encourage imaginative play with your child in more detail visit: www.parenting.com

In the search field enter: article/10 Easy Ways to Fire Your Child’s Imagination

2.Kathy Eugster is a certified play therapist with day-to-day experience bringing up her own children. To create a supportive home space and to set a good basis, she suggests:

(a) Set limits around screen time,

(b) Don’t over-schedule your child with extra-curricular activities, and

(c) Be available yourself for play and supervision.

For helpful hints on parenting, visit Kathy Eugster’s website at kathyeugster.com

Imaginative play is fun, life affirming and creates family bonds. Just for that alone it is worth taking some time to check into it.