Here’s a sneak peek at the introduction to my new book,
800 Elephants to Tea: An Invitation to Imaginative Parenting
You are invited to a lifelong travel adventure
DESTINATIONS: Worlds of imagination
TRAVEL COMPANIONS: Children in your life
PORTS: Wherever you happen to be
WHEN: Every or any day
WHY: See the first section of this book
HOW: See second section of this book
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
An Introduction to Your Tour Guide
If you were planning to travel extensively in a new country, you would want to know that your guide has been to that land many times and knows the terrain well. Since I am inviting you to embark on a journey, I want you to know that I have traveled extensively in the region of imagination.
I went to graduate school to study the power of imagination in people’s lives. I became an expert on K-12 educational history, curriculum development, teachers’ work, and on on-the-job teamwork and planning. My doctorate encompasses this work.
I write for children and parents. I have written curriculum, parenting columns, puppet play, poems, and picture books. I love to write, I have always written, and I firmly believe in the power of good children’s writing. Some of my work has been published or performed; some told to friends or relatives; some manuscripts wait for an agent or editor; and I am usually thinking of stories waiting their chance to be played out onto paper.
I want to be clear, though: I claim the greatest authority to serve as your guide not from the doctorate or publications, but from my own experience as an imaginer. In fact, this book is constructed on a base of my personal experience during childhood and with the children in my life. I am not the oceanographer of play, but the lifelong sailor, and I offer this book as my individual experience in hopes that it will be useful on your own voyages.
I have been a friend and sitter to many children over the years. Each of them has taught me through play and interaction. One of the best roles of my life has been as an aunt: my nieces and nephews have shown me how much can be taught and learned through imaginative play.
I am a parent. My children are the fulfillment of my dreams; they are the best stories I have ever read. I am savoring every page of their days, while also anticipating with excitement each unfolding chapter. I don’t know everything that is right for me in this world, but I have always known that parenting would be. I would never write a book for parents and teachers that I could not believe in and they could not trust.
I read children’s literature. From the time I learned to read to the time I received my first public library card, to the time I vowed to read my way through my elementary school library, have found inspiration, companionship, and instruction in books. In my post-college months I read several children’s novels a day, during the 27 years my partner and I have read aloud to each other, and today when I spend part of each day reading aloud to my own children, I have read and savored and lived in imagined worlds. I recognize these places: the feel of them, the smells, the lighting and noise level. The people within them have angered, intrigued, and moved me, made me laugh, and given me ideas. There is a realness to some of the events in these books that is more enduring than many of the oft-repeated actions of my own days.
Finally, and perhaps most essential to my credentials as the creator of this book, I am a former and a forever child. For some, the world of childhood is remote, blurred and either idealized or forgotten. For me, there is complete continuity. I always engaged in fantasy play. I still do. I was incredibly fortunate to grow up in a house of imagination, stories, and creativity and blessed to marry a man who also loves to play and pretend. There are people who are qualified to tell the inside story of being a pearl diver, illegal immigrant, coal miner, painter, or veterinarian because they have lived that life. My most important qualification to write this book is that I have lived an imaginative reality and co-created it through reading, writing, and especially imaginative play.
I have practiced, become skilled at, loved, and shared the play of fantasy through every phase of my life. To me, there is no reality separate from imagination and no fantasy that does not rely on notions of reality. My hope is to share the power and joy of shared fantasy with you and the children you love.
Your Adventure Awaits . . .
Join me in this book as we tour the sunny and exotic Imagination Islands. See inspiring and moving sights, such as a three-year-old helping her parents heal from the trauma of 9/11 and a 21-year-old finding comfort while coming out anesthesia by hearing about an imagined character from childhood. You’ll cheer as a six-year-old helps his mother live in the moment and a second-grader demonstrates through play how to stand up to bullies.
Relax and enjoy the entertainment as you view a mountain lion aboard a school bus, catch sight of a rare Himalayan Maa, observe playful sword fights, and listen to concerts played on a unique beluga violin. Escape to a land where extraordinary birds and butterflies soar around a colorful Dr. Seussian tree, and dance yourself to bed sharing words from a beloved picture book. Prepare to be thrilled by daring rescues, amused by a teen’s television-show imaginings, and challenged with the task of preparing to invite 800 elephants to tea.
You will see not only the rare beauty of the Imagination Islands, but also the practical solutions and benefits that grow here, including life skills, power, self-awareness, and learning. Watch in awe, for example, as a child wrestles with feelings of powerlessness and emerges victorious.
As you travel on the warm seas of empathy and respect, you will be able to return to familiar shores whenever you wish. Take from this journey more resources and ideas for your own life and the children in it. Prepared by the maps and travel resources in the second section of this book, you and the children in your life will be ready to set sail on your own adventures.
This book is divided into two sections. The first section makes the case for play by describing its benefits based on my direct experience. My hope is to convince you that these journeys I suggest embarking on with your child are worthwhile, and in fact among the most valuable things you can give to yourself and your child. In this section, I show through examples from my own family how imaginative journeying offers your family joy, self-actualization, emotional closeness, life skills, and the practice of ethical action. The second part, Imagination Maps and Travel Resources, is a practical “how-to” guide on reading, storytelling, writing, and imaginative play with children of different ages. Once you start traveling in worlds of imagination with the children in your life, you will set off again and again. I look forward to hearing about your journeys on this book’s website: imaginativeparenting.com . Bon voyage!
~ ~ Happy sailing! ~ ~