If you’ve grown restless in your favorite writing chair or your story ideas all seem to revolve around Doritos and game shows, maybe it’s time to replenish those creative juices with a healthy shot of “kid-orade.” Living with two little boys, they often provide me with giggly, a-ha moments that inspire my writing, but there are occasions when I either find or seek inspiration outside of my own home. I thought I would share some of those ideas with you. Maybe one of these hot spots will help you re-connect with your inner child too.
1. Playgrounds. Grab a blanket and a picnic lunch and go hang out at one of these bastions of childhood delight. Immerse yourself in the laughter of the kids. Listen as friends are made with the simple phrase, “You’re it!” Enjoy the free spirits surrounding you. Then get up and join in! Feel the warmth of the slide as sun and friction heat it up. Swing from the monkey bars. Dig your toes in the sand (or turf or wood chips). Play hide-n-seek. Return to a time in your life when you felt breathless and happy.
2. Baseball games. But not MLB games. I’m talking true baseball – Little League! Listen to the calls of the coaches and umpire. Admire the batting helmets covered with nicknames and stickers. See the kids jostling each other on the bench. Watch the celebration of an earned run. Witness the defeat of a strike-out. Smell the mixture of dirt and leather. Hear the chants from the dug-out. So many parents take for granted this moment in time – go and soak in those moments.
3. Go see a movie. Okay, so after 7 years of Pixar, Disney, and Dreamworks, you would think I might be getting tired of cartoons, but I’m not. They’re a great way of understanding a child’s sense of humor and current voice/language trends. In addition, you can use them for some writing prompts afterward. Try to map out the plot lines. Take a character and think about changing their goals, ambitions, talents – how would that change the script? Think about the movie from another characters perspective. Or – just sit back and enjoy the show! Cartoons are, afterall, fun!
4. Go back to school. That’s right – school. Stop by your local elementary school or school district to see if they have a volunteer program. Many schools accept (and welcome) volunteers. You will have to go through a background check in order to work with children, but after a quick frisk and some friendly probing, you’re in! You may be able to assist in the classroom, at a cross-walk, or in the media center. But, ideally, you want one-on-one time with some kids, so if the school offers a reading program, sign up. You not only have a front-row seat to see what kids are choosing to read, but you are also nurturing a lifelong love of reading.
5. Shhhh – we’re in the library. I don’t know if you’ve been to your local library lately, but the children’s area is NOT how I remember it. It’s not quiet. It’s not neat (well, sometimes it’s neat). It’s buzzing and busy and fun. There are chess clubs and story hours. Kids can read to animals or watch magicians. There are movie nights and fairy tale days. And, there are still books – tons and tons of books. Kids are sitting amidst the stacks and lounging on chairs, draping legs over armrests, reading. And you can do it too. How wonderful is that? The library is a great place to find inspiration.
6. The zoo. To quote Robert Lopshire, “I will go into the zoo. I want to see it. Yes, I do.” The zoo is another wonderful location to see kids in action and to return to the childhood wonder of your youth. Scratch like an orangutan. Stomp like an elephant. Snap like a turtle. Slither like a snake. And watch the kids around you connecting with the animals. Kids want to develop relationships and seeing them interact with different species helps us understand how to connect with them too.
I hope these suggestions help to provide you with some get-out-of-the-house hot spots to spark your creative fire and re-charge your inner child.