If you have ever given a speech, then you know firsthand that your energy level is at a peak once you get going. Here is a first rate activity that builds on that same kind of momentum. It also does a wonderful job demonstrating the power of imagination.
Here's what to do:
Place one or more brooms between the mattresses of your bed so that the bare stick end is shooting out. Those are thruster levers at the front of your rocket ship. Now find some old pocket radios, clocks, a blender base or anything that looks mechanical and is just collecting dust in a closet somewhere. Place a few of these items around the bed, and one or two on a nightstand if you have one. You don't need to plug in any of these items. They'll work just fine the way they are. Now with the rocket ship instruments in place, you're ready to take off.
Here's an example of what the activity might look like:
You: I just got a call from the lieutenant. We're supposed to blast off pronto to investigate some kind of neutron echo in the nebula cluster. Come on!
(You and your child run to the rocket ship. You take the head of the ship and move the broomstick lever clockwise)
You: Engaging main thrusters. We need a helium booster straight away! Over there (point to old clock)-turn that on full blast! We need super helium additive if we're going to make it out of this atmosphere. What?!!! My instruments are showing there's incoming craft right in our flight path. We need precise mathematical calculations. Pronto! What's the starboard wing tilt reading? (Point to instrument) I hope it's not over 30 degrees.
Your child: It is!
You: I was afraid of that. We're in deep trouble! Here. Take the thrusters! Increase to maximum power while I recalibrate the manual drive shaft.
(Switch places. Tinker with the instruments while your child moves the broomstick lever)
You: We're almost out of time. I can't get the drive shaft calibrated. I'm switching us to back up. (Turn knob on an instrument) Are we at maximum power?
Your child: Yes.
You: Great! Now prepare for emergency 360 roll-over. Repeat: Emergency 360 roll-over. Ready!
Your child: Ready!
(Roll over once)
You: Phew! We just made it. That was too close for comfort! Are you alright?
Your child: Yes
You: Good. We need to stabilize this ship right away. Prepare for full instrument analysis. Just ease us in that direction past Venus and. . . (Rub your eyes) Great Scotts! That's not Venus. I don't recognize any of this. Does that look like Venus to you?
Your Child: No!
You: We must have hit a warp loop that sent us clear into another galaxy. This is serious. Check the infrared reading. What is it?
Your child: 32.
You: That can't be! Did you say 32?
Your child: Yes!
You: Do you know what that means?
Your child: No.
You: We're in the Hubble Double galaxy! I don't think we're very welcome here. We can't be seen like this-we're sitting ducks! We need to land somewhere straight away. It's risky, but it's our best strategy. That misty planet will have to do. Let's get the shields up and prepare for descent. Reduce thruster power!
(Child moves broomstick lever while you fidget with instruments)
You: Shields up! Engaging reverse torque level 10. Repeat-engaging reverse torque level 10. Uh oh.
Your child: What!
You: We've got a problem. I can't get the reverse torque system past 6! Repeat-torque system in peril! Torque system in peril! We need the alpha access code immediately. Quick, do you have the alpha access code?
Your child: I think so, here!
You: This isn't it. This looks like the combination to my storage locker back home. We're a long way from home right now! Prepare for crash landing! Repeat-prepare for crash landing!
(Simulate crash landing)
You: Uhh. Are you okay?
Your child: I think so.
You: Good, me too. These instruments look a sorry sight, but that's not our first concern right now. We can't stay here. I'm sure we've attracted too much attention. Come on. Grab your oxygen mask. We're going exploring! (Pause) Just one thing- we better hope we run into somebody friendly or it's lights out!
(Put on imaginary oxygen mask and depart the ship. . . )
Now is an excellent opportunity for your child to explain everything under the sun to someone who knows nothing about Earth. Before the activity starts, clue in your spouse or another adult. Now, encounter that person during your exploration of the terrain. Have the person assume the role of an inquisitive creature who asks your child the following sorts of questions:
What is your name?
How old are you?
Where are you from?
What is it like on Earth?
Are there animals?
Are they friendly?
Is there water?
Can you drink it?/ Is it safe?
What do people eat on Earth?
Is it cold?
Are there seasons?
What is your favorite season?
How do people get around?
Is there pollution?
Do people work?
What kind of work do they do?
Do people read on Earth?
Where do they keep all their books?
What are your favorite books? Why?
Where do people live on Earth?
Who builds all the houses?
(Etc, etc. . . )
What happens after that is up to you. The indigenous creature might describe some basic facts about her planet, and then assist with repairs to the rocket so you can return home.
What if there isn't another person to ‘go along’ with the activity?
If there is not another adult to assume the role of the indigenous creature, then here is a suggestion for exploring the terrain: examine items around the house as if you were seeing them for the first time. Of course this flies in the face of logic, but your child will eagerly go along. It will give your child the unique opportunity to describe the purpose of things as she understands them. For example:
You: We need to find out about the people who inhabit this place. (Looking around) Maybe we should examine some artifacts. That will help us understand them better. Here's something. What do you suppose this could be?
Your child: It looks like a candle.
You: A candle. Hmm. I wonder what they do with something like this?
Your child: You're supposed to light it.
You: Light it, eh. Why would someone want to do that?
Your child: It smells good.
You: Ah ha! These people have noses. I wonder what else we can find out them. What's this?
Your child: A ball of string.
You: Very curious indeed. I wonder what a ball of string is used for?
(Etc, etc. . . )
Your child will enthusiastically express her understanding about all kinds of things.
The main thing:
The main thing is that you are having fun while nurturing the power of imagination. Your child is completely focused while building confidence in her ability to spontaneously explore new ideas and outcomes.
Anthony Vecchioni runs http://spaghettiboxkids.com/blog -a parenting site that offers specific strategies, tips and activities to enhance child learning. Read more About Anthony Vecchioni.