I am excited to share a series of guest posts with you by other Artful Parents and teachers while I step back from the blog a bit this month! I hope you enjoy the new perspectives, different ideas, and fresh energy that each brings to this space. And I encourage you to leave a comment after the post to continue the discussion, add your own viewpoint, or simply say thanks!
Guest post by Susan Stephenson, The Book Chook
Parents worry about how much screen time their kids have. With good reason! I've received a letter from a parent, concerned her children don't know how to play imaginatively. And statistics about the rise in toddler obesity quite frankly scare me. There seems to be something so seductive about computer games and TV shows that some people spend most of their waking hours absorbed by them.
I think we'd all agree the key word here is balance. Yes, we need to be mindful of how much time our children spend on screen-related activities. There needs to be a balance of unstructured play, creativity, physical activity and family time in children's lives—in fact, in adult lives too I believe. But technology is not inherently evil. In fact, I think we can help our children use their allotment of screen time wisely by sharing internet sites with them that promote creativity.
Websites that promote children's creativity
Dreamlines : Type in a keyword or keywords and the Dreamlines website produces a sequence of dream-like, almost nebulous images that change and progress before your eyes. Ask your child to think of concrete or abstract words and type them in, then experience what comes up. My four images here arrived after I typed in "sad day". This free-association of images at Dreamlines might spark an idea for art or a narrated story, sculpture with play-do or a written poem. The product isn't as important as the creative thinking!
Pizap : I love free-to-use websites that help us sneak some writing into a child's every day! Pizap is one of several online image editors that allow children and adults to add text to an image. I chose Pizap to share with you because it has backgrounds children can choose, as well as an assortment of characters and props. They can choose a font, then add a caption to type (or dictate) a simple story. You can read more about the process at the Book Chook.
Kerpoof : Kerpoof is a great Disney website where children can do all sorts of creative things. I love that it encourages kids to make their own pictures, tell stories and even make movies. My favourite part of Kerpoof, as you might expect, is the story book, where kids can choose from themes like fantasy, aliens and pirates. Once they've chosen, making a simple book is as easy as clicking on visual elements and adding text. Lots of Kerpoof is free, (there's also a store, where you can buy things with koins) but I don't believe the non-free part is a hard sell anyway. If you don't know Kerpoof, do find time to explore it with your kids.
Bookr : At Bookr, you create and share your own free photo book, using images from Flickr. You simply type a keyword into the tag box, then drag the images you want to your pages, and add text. If you've uploaded your own images to Flickr, perhaps of your child's real life art work, you can also use them by entering your account name into the user box. If your beginning reader loves animals, you can try entering her favourites as keywords, then create simple captions or labels for each page. Older children might want to record their own haikus, say, then seek appropriate images. The result can be saved and link sent via email, or you can get an embed code for a blog.
So next time your kids beg to play Night of the Zippy Zappy Zombie, why not introduce them to websites where they can interact with tools that encourage creativity? By sharing a website like those above with them, you're supervising their internet time (always advised) as well as showing them that you value creative entertainment. Win/Win!
Teachers and parents from all over the world visit The Book Chook to find tips on encouraging kids to read, write and create; articles about using technology to motivate kids' learning; and links to games, learning activities and online fun.