As hectic as life can get, there is one part of my day that always remains constant: the bedtime story. Since before they were old enough to understand what we were saying to them, my wife and I have loved reading stories to our kids.
Now that they are older, I marvel as their imaginations soar while we read together. From Fancy Nancy and Robert Munsch to Pokémon and Roch Carrier’s The Hockey Sweater, we travel to many imaginary worlds together. And the trip itself is priceless. I’ve heard that even 15 minutes of reading a day can dramatically improve a child’s literacy skills.
My favourite thing about reading with my children is that it helps build their imaginations; it also lets them know it’s okay to be creative and to dream big. My wife and I encourage them to write or record their own stories and to make them as wild and imaginative as possible. We’ve had princesses fighting dragons on magic carpets and flying hockey players who parachute onto horses in skates; I wouldn’t have it any other way.
Cultivating a child’s literacy skills and imagination, however, takes more than just reading a book every night. The more you explore, the more not only your children will learn, but you as parents will take away as well. Here are some family-friendly ideas to get you started down the path to imagination exploration.
Write Stories with Your Kids
This one is easy. You simply get out a pencil and a piece of paper and ask your kids to make up a story. It doesn’t have to make sense, have flow or even rhyme, as long as they use their imaginations and have fun doing it. For some great examples of writing a story with your child, check out Mike Reynolds’ book Daddy, Fly, and also Chris Routly’s Sometimes You Need a Jellyfish.
Learn a New Game or Invent One
After two months of watching my six-year-old son trade Pokémon cards with his friends, I asked him if he wanted to learn how to play the actual game. I had been worried he was too young to learn all the complicated rules of the game but he picked most of it up after only a couple of games. The great thing about trying something new is that your children will surprise you at every turn.
Have a Dance Party
I have always been the biggest supporter of my own dancing abilities but you absolutely don’t have to know how to dance to have a dance party. All you have to do is pump up the Taylor Swift and shake, shake, shake it off until you are all laughing so hard that you are rolling on the floor. I can also confirm that a morning dance party will make you 82 per cent happier through the rest of the day.
Create Your Own Costumes
Halloween is long gone, but that doesn’t mean you have to stop dressing up! Grab some boxes, duct tape and accessories and create your own family of robots. Don’t stop there, get your neighbours involved and hold a robot parade down your street.
Creativity and imagination don’t have a guide book or rules and it is important to keep finding ways for our children to explore and expand their minds. When we, as parents, show our kids how great literacy and imagination can be, we set an example that will stick with them throughout their lives. We are all creative in one way or another, so don’t be afraid to show your kids your goofy side.
Here’s a homework assignment. January 27th is Family Literacy Day in Canada and I challenge you to try a new adventure with your children. Preferably it is something that none of you have done before so you all get the chance to experience learning something new. Happy Adventures!