Engaging a child’s creativity–and your own–can happen almost any time or anywhere.  Years ago, I studied improvisational acting, which encourages actors to listen closely to one another and “find the game” in a conversation.  Bringing these ideas into parenthood has produced wonderful interactions with my son, who is three years old.  As he’s been learning and exploring language, we’ve invented a few of our own call-and-response games.

One game began suddenly as we were driving.  From his car seat, he mischievously called out, “Mama, you are a tree.”  Seeing an opening for a game, I responded “If I am a tree, then you are a small green leaf.”  Delighted, he offered several more “You are” statements to see how I’d respond.  This “You are” game, in which he calls me an object and I call him something connected to that object, has become a way of understanding relationships and creating metaphor.  Occasionally, he’ll disagree with my metaphor and offer his own, as in a recent exchange:

“Mama, you are sweet chocolate milk.”

“If I am sweet chocolate milk, then you are the cup that holds me.”

“No!  If you are sweet chocolate milk, then I am the one who drinks you!”

Also, learning that some comparisons can be perceived as insults has let him to be more descriptive and specific, moving from “You are a baby” to “You are a sweet baby” to “You are a sweet little baby that I like to keep in my pocket.”

Simple games like these are fun, easy ways to transform mundane events, such as waiting in line, into moments of silliness, learning, and poetry.  Why not try the “you are” game with someone you care about?

posted by Tria Wood, Writers in the Schools

[photo by hleo via Flickr]

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