This weekend I pulled ten dollars out of my daughter’s piggy bank and told her we could go to the store where she could shop for something for herself. We walked up and down toy aisles repeatedly in search of the ten dollar miracle. My daughter quickly learned that ten dollars doesn’t go very far, and that if you want something special, you will need to save for it. However, saving wasn’t on the agenda, because the money was burning a hole in her pocket.
So she finally chose a 97-cent Hot Wheels car and a nine-dollar starter track. I had really expected something Monster High- or possibly Barbie-related, but she went for the Hot Wheels, and I am so glad. Because for the rest of the afternoon she spent her time sprawled out on the living room floor configuring and reconfiguring her track.
Her dad suggested elevating different parts, and she began using throw pillows and DVD cases to create ramps, hills and more steeply banked curves. She would configure something, try the car, and if it didn’t work reconfigure and try again. She was experimenting with simple machines and learning some basic physics in the process. I didn’t bother to point this out. I didn’t want to ruin the fun she was having by making it educational—let’s face it, parents can make things so uncool. So I sat back, watched and let her play.
She was not passively glued to a screen. She was not playing a video game. She was not whining about being bored.
I like Hot Wheels. I like the fact that the tracks are easily configured by small fingers. I like the fact that they can be combined with things like throw pillows and DVD cases. I like the fact that a track and a car immediately create questions like: “What would happen if I made this really high?” or “How can I fix it so that the car goes farther?” These are great toys—simple, cheap. Kind of like a collection of boxes or toilet paper rolls, they leave scope for the imagination.
And imagination is a crucial part of creativity. Without imagination we cannot ask meaningful questions about the world around us, much less think of reasonable ways to experiment and learn the answers to those questions. Creativity puts imagination to work—but you have to have the imagination first.
© 2014 Michele Arduengo. All rights reserved.