Tuesday, January 6, 2009

We had a disco ball in our garage...

...when I was a kid.

Why?  Because we were using the garage as a roller-skating rink.

But it wasn't like any disco ball you've seen.  It was actually a flashlight, with a string of rubber bands attached to the top.  My brother (who I'm quite sure came up with the grand idea) hung it to the garage ceiling, and twisted the rubber bands tightly.  When he let go, the untwisting flashlight did its job as our disco ball.

I remember being disappointed that once the flashlight was released, it didn't spin for long at all.  It was an experiment that didn't work very well.  But now, that garage skating rink with the disco flashlight has remained one of my favorite childhood playtime memories...joining such remembered treasures as an ATM machine made out of cardboard and a queen's cape that looked remarkably like one of the blankets from our linen closet.

The other day, Chickie found a mirror of mine.  It flips up so that makeup can be put on the tray below the mirror.


She was having fun playing with it as a mirror, and then suddenly a light went on behind her beautiful eyes, and she said, "This is my computer!"  She began "typing" on the tray while she looked at the mirror "screen."

I smiled at her active imagination and thought to myself, "Maybe we should buy her a toy computer."

And then I caught myself.  What?  Do I really want to replace her imagination with a battery-operated trinket from the store that requires no creativity to use?

Chickie loves the play guitar she got for Christmas, and when she pushes the button on it, fun music comes out of it.  But I miss hearing her say, "Mommy, I want a guitar!" while she pointed at the kitchen utensils, where all sorts of "guitars" (shaped like serving spoons, spatulas, and pasta servers) were waiting.

It's fun to be able to offer my kids toys to play with, but seeing Chickie turn a mirror into a laptop reminded me that sometimes when I buy a toy, I'm actually trading in a little bit of my child's imagination.  That's a treasure I don't want her to ever give up.

So for now, Chickie can use my mirror as a "computer," and we'll leave the "real" toy computers on the store shelves.  Who knows?  Maybe in a couple of years I'll strap roller skates on her, grab a flashlight and some rubber bands, and create a disco skating rink in the garage.


If you haven't yet entered the art giveaway on Michelle's blog, you can do so by clicking here.


10.  Children's hangers
11.  Table centerpiece


Anonymous said...

i remember when i and my siblings were younger, and cellular phones are still a luxury that noone in our family has one, we use to cut models out from newspaper advertisements and paste it in a cardboard.. and that simply became our first phones. :D

Laurel said...

Good Post Beth. One thing lost these days is the power and art of spurring on the imagination...

Crazy Mo said...

A roller rink in your garage! I love it!! Gee, we only made pillow castles from the sofa cushions ... which really impressed my mom!

Heard by God said...

That's excellent insight, Beth, & I thank you for sharing it -- we are from a generation of "want it? get it!" & it is SO hard to remember there is actually much more to be gained from pure simplicity. Thank you for being a timely & GREAT reminder.
~ Danna

Call Me Cate said...

Really thoughtful post. I didn't have much as a child and we lived too far from any of my friends to play together often. So I had imaginary friends, made up games, ran around outside. As much as I hate that I was so sheltered and secluded, there are things about it that I would want for my own kids as well.

Now, if Chickie starts up her own blog on her computer, you'll have to let us know!

TesoriTrovati said...

I agree! One thing I think that kids have lost in this digital age is the ability to amuse themselves. That is why my husband and I will never consent to buying a gaming system. My son is really quite good at any sport that he decides to try, and my daughter is a gifted dancer. Parents have actually asked how it is that my son, when he was 9 could fast pitch a basball at 55mph...because we send him outside to hurl balls at the house! Oh, they say, you must not have a ______(insert game system here). I remember playing with boxes and building forts and role-playing as a kid. I love the image of the rubber banded flashlight spinning wildly for but a few seconds. Keep up the great mommy-wisdom Beth! Your posts are priceless!
Enjoy the day!
Erin, TesoriTrovati

Unknown said...

Wow, Beth, what a great post! I hope lots of grandparents read today because we are masters at wanting to buy all that "special" stuff for our grandkids.

I'm going home today and laying out all the wooden spoons so we can have some great Chickie guitar the next time you're at our house!

Love, Sampa

Momza said...

I LOVE THIS POST!!! When I was a kid (back in the dinosaur ages)--I LOVED my Barbie dolls! I used to improvise all kinds of things to use with them...my brother's GI Joe was her "date"...my mom's fancy dress shoes were her cars, my school books covered with a white frilly slip and a par of rolled-up sunday socks were made into a bed and pillow for my wonderful Barbie, PJ, and Skipper dolls! Nowadays of course, you can buy a whole "DREAM-HOUSE-BEACH-HOUSE-CONDO-ON-WHEELS" for Barbies.

Heather said...

I so agree with you and think it's awesome that your flash of thought lit up just in time ;o).

When you said that she sat in front of it, began typing and saw her reflection in the mirror...I visualized that.

I thought of myself, sitting at the computer and typing (writing) and seeing myself as the words I type. That's a much better reflection than the one in my mirror ;o).

Cathy said...

I never knew about disco ball in the garage, but nothing creative ever surprises me when your brother is involved! Love your insights.

Janell said...

I totally agree with you and love the way you expressed your thoughts in this post. Thanks for the reminder! When I gave away a pile of toys before Christmas, many of them I considered eye/ear candy for kids that hardly ever got used after the first day or two. I can't help what other people get for my kids (although I can recycle it when the newness wears off if it doesn't seem to have any long-term value). But I can be a little more discriminating in my own choices. Glad you didn't get the toy computer--the imaginary one is better!

Our Scoop said...

Point very well made! Love this post CB!

Tami said...

Thanks for making me realize their imagination is just as important for them as it was for me! You're great!

Michelle Brunner said...

This is so true! I am a firm believer that some toys really restrict children's imaginations! My best memories were playing in the woods behind my friend's house and collecting our "dinner" aka berries, grasses, crab apples, etc. We would make our house under the shade of trees and just play for hours! No toys needed! I think your kids are going to grow up to be so creative and are lucky to have a mom who understands the importance of using their imagination! Einstein even said imagination is more important than knowledge!

Jenners said...

Oh...I so agree! Let them find their own toys in everyday objects! I've made this mistake too many times and the "toy" one is never as fun as what they come up with. Kids are extremely flexible and will "make do" with what they have. My son was able to play "Kung Fu Panda" using a Zebra for the Panda ("They are both black and white, mommy") a tiger for the snow leopard. He didn't need me to buy him action figures ... his imagination does it for him! So let her type away on her computer ... in her mind, it is real thing! Good job realizing that! Plus you'll save a TON of money!

C. Beth said...

Ares--I remember those days when cell phones were a luxury too! I felt SOOOO cool when I got my first one. :)

Laurel--I definitely hope they grow up with great imaginations.

Crazy Mo--Pillow castles--now that sounds fun! At first when I read this I thought you'd said "pillow cases" and thought you'd taken all the stuffing out of the pillows. Wouldn't that have been...uh...creative? I'm sure your mom would have loved that too. ;)

Danna--You're welcome! It's always great to hear from you. :)

Call Me Cate--Ha! I think her blog would be quite interesting....

Erin--Good for you! I can't say we do a good job keeping TV time minimal. I think it's great that you do. That's something I would like to improve on. Thank you for your encouragement!

Sampa--Oh, good, I'm glad you're stocking up on Chickie guitars!

Momza--Oh, I love the thought of using shoes as Barbie cars! That, and the other images you gave, are great!

Simply Heather--Thank you for your encouraging words!

Mom--Hmm, I wonder if we purposefully didn't tell you about the disco ball? Forget you ever read this. ;)

Janell--Sometimes it can be hard to get rid of things that others bought, since they have that sentimental value--in fact, the same can be said for things I buy. I know I need to go through all the toys and get rid of a bunch. Good for you!

Our Scoop--Thank you!! :)

TJ--You're welcome! Looking forward to meeting you soon.

Michelle Brunner--For the same reasons, I like to see Chickie with a blank sheet of paper instead of a coloring book. I mean, we have coloring books--but the works of art she creates that I treasure are the ones that required more than just filling in a picture someone else drew!

Jenners--That is great! Today Chickie said, "I'm WALL-E!" You're right.... They don't need every action figure out there.

Anonymous said...

Hello? Hello? Is this thing on? :)
I left a comment yesterday, and it isn't here! So, here it is AGAIN. (Good thing I'm persistent. The blogging world does NOT like me doing this from a different computer!)

Two of my SIL's are grade school teachers and they say they have seen repercussions over the years in the children they teach that they attribute to the reduced time children spend in imaginative play. Until I heard this, I had just never thought about the connection between creative play and the skills required for successful learning.

When I was little, back in the Ice Age, we pretty much had dolls and bikes and books. Besides that, our play time was devoted to making up "stories" and acting them out! -- playing house, cowboys and indians, etc. Tents made out of blankets over card tables, horses out of brooms or bikes, a "cave" on the inside of a giant honeysuckle bush. It makes me sad now when I drive through a neighborhood on a beautiful sunny summer afternoon and don't see ANY children outside playing.

Having said that, I realize I am part of the problem. Your Dad is right that it is so tempting for grandparents to give gifts that "fill a need" but really might inadvertently replace a wonderful imagined toy. I'm guilty of that too, and I'll now try to stifle that impulse.

But, obviously, there isn't a lack of imagination in your family -- a flashlight into a disco ball -- and a make-up mirror into a computer! I love it.

This is a great post. I am always impressed with your parenting insticts, Beth. Good work, Mommy!

Becky said...

Great post! We didn't have a lot of money when I was growing up, but we lived on a farm, so we had lots of land to run free. My favorite childhood memories are of things like building a fort in the woods out of fallen-down branches and things scrounged from the 100-year-old family junk pile found deep in the woods (there were some pretty cool things in that junk pile, too!), and trying to improvise a sled out of a cardboard box (tip: it doesn't work really well, especially when the box gets soggy, but we really tried everything to make it work, and the process was fun). I know I have to fight the temptation to keep buying more and more "things" for my kids, and I love your statement that each of those things replaces a bit of their imagination - very true!

Simplicity said...

That's so adorable! It's amazing how many times children look beyond the toy and are happiest with the BOX! Imagination is a wonderful thing!

Beautiful new photo by the way!

Anonymous said...

Imagination is the greatest thing! I remember being a kid and seriously entertaining myself all day long with just a bike and a group of friends. We'd share a pair of roller skates (I always got the off side skate since it was my buddy's pair) and never think another thought about actually owning our own set. Those were the days...