The importance of fun cannot be forgotten today in regards to children and your own adult time off. Back in February, the Boston Globe featured a story by Beth Teitell in the style insert about “How the French are Influencing a Generation of Helicopter Parents.” Bedraggled American parents overbooked their kids’ extracurricular activities so heavily that they had no time to read them a bed-time story or have a snowball fight. When does a child have the time to think abstractly or creatively problem-solve if they are constantly forced to practice their ukulele or hit the ice for fear of not making the pee-wee hockey team? What adult among us has had the same problem in their own social life?
"We have dinner with the Watterlys on Monday, game night is Tuesday, Wednesday we have to clean for the new renters, Thursday is the town meeting and Friday we’re going to see Joe’s band play. So NO, you can’t just sit and read a book because I can’t just draw a dragon!"
In the spirit of play, a simple exercise (I dare not call it that for fear of obfuscating my own message)-a simple example of something I like to do is have a pair of scissors out when reading the paper. I don’t know about YOUR grandparents but this is how they lived, clipping coupons and mailing grandkids stories they thought would interest us.
You can do that, cutting out that new play you want to see, clipping out phrases that have a beautiful rhythm. But one of the most fun things to do (as I discovered with cartoonist Jon Chad) is to SWITCH the captions of Marmaduke (by Brad Anderson) and Family Circus (by Bil and Jeff Keane). One of the first exercises in a comics classroom is about how we juxtapose meaning of pictures and meaning of words. Some mornings Marmaduke and Family Circus work so PERFECTLY hand-in-hand, sometimes they don’t but we work to build a story around this one-panel gag comics.
Try it out in your own home (or on the internet if the newspaper no longer exists!).