Friday, October 26, 2007

Miniature Worlds

I have a love of all things miniature. Born long ago because of my next door neighbor lady, Lucy. She was like a grandmother to me. She had a doll house in her dining room filled with miniature furnishings and lights that turned on and off. It was magical to me, and I started to look for miniature versions of things from that time on. It's a passion that continues to this day.

As I was walking outside today, looking at all the leaves on the ground, I noticed that amongst the 'normal-sized' red maple leaves was one perfectly shaped leaf that was about 1/5th the size of all the others. It was a miniature leaf! I picked it up and slipped it carefully into my pants pocket. It is now sitting here on my desk, bringing me cheer on an otherwise gloomy day!

It got me to thinking about something that I loved to do as a child. I loved to create 'miniature worlds' outdoors. What this process involved was picking up things in whatever environment I was in and making some sort of scene out of those things. I might be at the beach, in the woods, on a river bank or in my own backyard. I have created camp sites for a camping trip, farms, luaus, parks... just about everything! It is an act of creativity and imagination. I love putting rocks, twigs, leaves and other natural materials together to create a little world.

I had a vivid imagination as a child (obviously) and stories are still told about how I could have all the fancy toys in the world, but I could amuse myself for hours just playing with an empty cardboard box. The miniature world activity was born from this same imagination.

As I grew older I noticed that kids didn't seem to have the sort of imagination that I had when I was little. There are so many 'real' things in today's world for kids to engage with. They have telephones, where as kids we had to pretend that a banana was a telephone. Kids today might actually get a little car that drives around, whereas we had to use an empty cardboard box and pretend.

The lack of ability to imagine really bothered me when I noticed it in the kids around me. I didn't do a lot of babysitting as a teenager, but I did some. I used to take it on as a special challenge to cultivate the imaginations of the kids I sat with. I used a variety of techniques, and 'miniature worlds' was always one of my favorite tools. I've never met a kid yet that didn't love to do this.

I've continued to do this activity with the kids in my life as I've grown older. I still really enjoy it. One time, when building a miniature world at a beach with a good friend's children, I received a lovely confirmation that my mission to encourage creativity was working. One of the 4 kids that I was playing with said, "Wow! I never knew you could have so much fun with just rocks and sticks and things!" Indeed!

I am still known to stop and build a miniature world these days, even if I'm by myself. It gives me some sort of simple pleasure and satisfaction. I hope I'm able to share this activity with kids for a long time to come. If you've never tried it, I encourage you to do so! Grab a kid and go play with some rocks and sticks and things!

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