Dear KidsOutAndAbout.com readers:
It's hard to talk for a long time to a 4-year-old. Even the most devoted parents find themselves running out of things to say: After all, there are only so many times you can only hear about CookieSwirlC opening Shopkins Blind Bags on YouTube before you go on autopilot and start thinking about something else. Wouldn't it be great, instead, to find a simple activity that lets both of you connect without either of you getting bored? The drummer from the rock band Rush has a solution for you.
Neil Peart is Rush's drummer and lyricist, and the author of a bunch of books recounting his travels. He is also the dad of 7-year-old Olivia, and he takes that job even more seriously than he takes his work. Rush's lyrics often talk about connection--for you Rush fans out there, think later songs like "Emotion Detector" and "Ghost of a Chance" rather than, say, "By-Tor and the Snow Dog." Neil's profound connection with Olivia permeates his latest book, Far and Wide: Bring that Horizon to Me. In it, he writes about a fun thing he and Olivia do that I wish I'd thought of when my kids were preschoolers. It's simple and easy and free, but brilliant, and one I bet you've heard of: They draw.
Well, to be more precise, Olivia dictates, and Neil draws. Though he's no visual artist, he draws whatever Olivia can dream up in her fantastic little brain, and then she colors it. Here is a typical interchange from one of Neil's blog posts (you can see the drawing if you click there and then scroll waaay down):
What should I draw? “You should draw Olivia — she should be flying.”
What kind of wings should she have? “She should have feather wings. She should have a crown, with stars on it. She should be holding a wand."
Neil and Olivia even have their daily drawing session on Skype when he's out of town. I think it's genius. Imagine what it can do for you if you have to travel away from your young kids: Instead of having a 5-minute call in which you ask your child what he did that day and tell him you love him but then run out of things to say, you can actually spend the time connecting and stoking his creativity. Draw what he tells you, take a photo, and email it home to be printed and colored.
Got a preschooler handy? Give it a whirl. As you can see from these photos, my colleague June's 4-year-old granddaughter and I had a great time talking, drawing, and coloring yesterday. Halloween's a great time to do it, too: Pumpkins and spiders are easy, ballerinas not so much, but who cares? Lily didn't.
—Debra Ross, publisher
P.S. In case you're interested in last week's parenting lesson, it was via Pink Floyd's The Wall. Not kidding. Hint: Don't be like Mother.
Debra Ross is publisher of KidsOutAndAbout.com, and a long-time Rush fan. Her other Rush-related essays include Live What You Love, Take Your Daughter to Rush Day, and How to Prepare Your Kids for a Rush Concert. She is the author of Seasons and Reasons: A Parent's Guide to Cultivating Great Kids.