Sunday, November 6, 2011

Our Poetic Pretenders

I’ve always heard that children are natural poets because of their unbridled imagination—because they have not been taught to second-guess themselves or conform to convention—what poetry “should” sound like or look like. The point is that time, and thus experience, silences intuition and creativity. I believe that to be true. However, since 7th graders are the youngest age group I’ve officially taught, I don’t think I’ve gotten to truly see that on a larger scale. While teaching poetry in 7th grade I still had to work hard to undo what kids thought poetry was or was not in order to pull from their unwilling pens some rewarding and creative, original poetry. Teaching poetry to seniors in high school, most of whom had sordid pasts with poetry, was even more challenging. What I found that worked for all ages is teaching poetry through music.  Not that I enjoy every genre of music, specifically what 9th grade boys pump through their headphones, but kids love to listen to their favorite songs as homework and typically they can find figurative language and rhyme scheme in them and even appreciate an extended metaphor. They don’t even know it, but they like poetry. 

All that introduction to tell you that the boys have been delighting us with their creativity and imaginative play lately. Their imagination is not bound by convention, and in that way it reminds me of writing poetry. I can’t wait to read what the boys will write! First thing is first though, I realize. I purchased a book about teaching reading that came in the mail yesterday, and I can’t wait to start. My hope is that they will continue to have such active, think-outside-the-box imaginations that they demonstrate from all the pretending they do.

Here are some of the highlights of their creative pretending lately:

Office: They love to pretend they are going to their office. We took out an old keyboard and propped up a hardback book in a little box so they have a workstation with a computer. They love to say they are working on something and click the keys. The first night we played office I put on their neck ties and they really enjoyed playing their parts.

work station

What is the code for that? Dang it! My HTML is rusty.

Okay, the tech guy is here to help.

Library: They take a canvas bag and declare they are going to the library, walk down the hall, and come back with books. They have a newfound interest in older books we haven’t read in awhile due to this pretending. The variation on this is that one will pretend to put his shoes on, open the front door, tell the other one to “watch Mommy and Daddy” because he is “going to the library to find a new Signing Time video and sit on the blue and green chairs.” This variation can get cold with all the door opening and closing, so there is a limit on the amount of times this can be played back-to-back.

Food: This one is elaborate and extensive. We have a nice collection of play food—mostly old Fisher Price food from when I was little that I love too much to let go of—and the boys always have it around. They started putting plastic eggs and vegetables and fruit up on the real stove, which always scares me a little since I don’t always see them put it up there. I found a clump of plastic green beans on a burner last night right before I turned it on. They recently started feeding play food to stuffed animals—this started after Halloween when Cal started pretending to feed candy sauce (I don’t know what that is) to his “baby ceiling fan” (his costume) and I encouraged him to feed something that actually had a mouth, albeit a fake mouth. We put bibs on the teddy bears and the fun still hasn’t ended. At lunch yesterday they were feeding their real macaroni and cheese to their animals, which really meant they were dumping it on the floor.

feeding ice cream and chocolate milk to baby teddy bears in bibs

We don’t have room for a chunky toy kitchen in our house, but the other day I took a box from Costco that had a panel that flipped open, somewhat like an oven door, and the boys helped me turn it into an oven. We painted it, glued on old CDs as burners, buttons as knobs, and a bead as a handle. I’m pretty proud of it. Cal lately enjoys baking corn on the cob in the oven and Clark likes to cook eggs and bacon directly on the burners. Perhaps they will revolutionize the culinary arts. They also love to pretend things outside are food. The favorites are white pebbles by the pond are popcorn, mulch is cookies (or else keys to open doors, which is weird), pine needles are hay for horses, etc.

Clark monitors Cal's progress painting the oven-box.

painted box, CDs for burners

fashioning the back of the stove

Cal cooks whole fruits and a cupcake...yum?

Everything is a Bat: Pretty self-explanatory. Anything that could possibly be used to hit something smaller is a bat. This includes but is certainly not limited to: toothbrushes, paper towel tubes, utensils, shoes, blocks, tubes of Desitin, etc. Swing it like a ball player, drop it, and run the bases, and it is a bat. (See also, Everything Else is a Ball)

Here, the football-dart thing is a bat...

...and here the acorn is the ball.

House: Outside there are two “houses.” One is between two large bushes and could conceal two boys excellently until a recent trimming. In that house they like to sit down and watch baseball, Signing Time, and of course, eat dinner. The other house is under a pine tree. That is the house they like to clean, which means they pick up the pine needles, run over and throw them into the parking lot, and demand that I kick them. This pointless task burns a lot of energy so I haven’t mentioned to them that it’s pointless.

Clark watches baseball while Cal cleans the house of pine needles.

Hair: Yesterday the boys raced out, sat down on the living room floor, Clark on his bottom, Cal on his knees, and Cal began slowly running something across Clark’s head. “I’m cuttin’ Clarky’s hair,” he said seriously. He was using a toy zebra. “It makes a loud noise,” he told me. Since we cut their hair using clippers, this made sense. Well, except the zebra part.

zebra shears
I can’t get enough of all the pretending they do. I wish we could copy this imagination that little kids have, bottle it, and force-feed it to the lifeless lumps of pimples and cologne with earphones that sit in the back of the classroom and refuse to lift a pencil when it is time to write. I suppose if we could though, it would be totally normal to see adults making mud-pies and playing house and so little kids wouldn’t be as charming. Also, we would have a lot of mud-pies.

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