10 Tips for Tapping into Your Imagination

Imagination Tips

For a fiction writer to maintain a continuous stream of ideas flowing both on and off the page, not only is a huge imagination a requirement with a dash of silliness and absurdity but also some trusted prompts to encourage those ideas to keep popping into your head.

For me writing requires a combination of the six senses being sight, smell, touch, emotions, hearing and taste. These are the foundations which pull together a piece of writing and create a moving, believable and inspiring story. So if you or your child loves to write here are my ten tips to try over the summer holidays and help trigger your limitless imagination.

  1. Observing: Foremost, always be aware of your surroundings by observing your day. Use all six senses to listen out for funny comments, interesting situations and unusual reactions to inspire charismatic characters and empathic situations to write about.
  2. Looking: Study the images in a magazine, of your favourite painting or on a poster more closely to help inspire you to create an original story.
  3. Listening: Put your own spin on a topic you’ve heard on the radio, whilst on the phone or in a conversation.
  4. Tasting: Pretend you’ve won a competition which allows you to eat whatever you want in a supermarket for a day or write about your experience of accidentally eating soap, sour milk or grass maybe. The English language can be very limiting when describing taste so it’s often overlooked in writing. Learn to take it further by writing about the sensations, physical reactions and textures of food to convey the whole experience.
  5. Feeling: Imagine yourself in a fictitious situation, for example crossing the Grand Canyon on a tightrope! Write about the emotions you feel in your chosen situation. How you might approach it and deal with your feelings and how your feelings might change as your situation changes.
  6. Smelling: We are surrounded by smell every day. Write about how the smell makes you feel, any memories they trigger and the ones you’d prefer to avoid!
  7. Touching: Our sense of touch, whether with a person, animal or object creates a physical and mental connection with the world around us. Touch triggers emotional feelings and physical reactions which are clearly visible for you to notice if you look closely enough. Writing should make the interaction and sensations feel real.
  8. Brainstorming: Choose a topic you like to write about such as water sports then keep asking yourself questions about the topic and write down all the words and phrases you associate with that topic whilst keeping in mind your six senses.
  9. Creating the Absurd: Mix things up. Put a familiar character in an unfamiliar setting such as a postman on TV; imagine an animal, person or object possessing skills or characteristics which are the opposite of what you might expect such as a sprinting elephant or a purple skinned person. Now use your six senses to make this story idea into a believable scenario.
  10. One Word: For one day write down one word related to every place you visit throughout that day. You will then have inspiration for either one story which includes every word you wrote down or several stories based on each single word. Draw on your six senses to remember your experiences surrounding these words throughout the day. Over the summer holidays I’ll be posting some one word writing prompts on my Facebook page to challenge you or your child’s creative writing mind.

To support this blog I chose the following two picture books by children’s author Pippa Goodhart (author) and Nick Sherratt (illustrator) as they help young children discover their imagination, look for ideas by asking questions, being prompted with suggestions, observing pictures and encouraging them to imagine something different. Both books are packed with vibrant illustrations, presented in a clear and simple manner and have proven to be excellent books for fun guided discussions at bedtime.


Just imagine – Published: Corgi Children’s Jun 2013.

This is a book which encourages children to think about situations they’ve never experienced such as imagining being magical, living in the wild, flying in the sky or travelling through time. Imagination can take you anywhere.

CLICK TO BUY Just Imagine


You Choose – Published: Corgi Children’s New Ed. July 2014.

If you could have whatever you wanted, what would that be? Where would you live? How would you travel? What clothes would you wear? This book teaches children that what they imagine is their choice. There are no rules or limits to their imagination.

CLICK TO BUY You Choose!

 

Source: Private copies.

NOTE: Books for Children Blog is a participant in the Amazon EU Associates Programme, an affiliate advertising programme designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.co.uk

#BFCB #BooksForChildrenBlog

@lonerganbooks

Nature Narratives

Encouraging your child to write doesn’t mean they have to be stuck in the house chained to a table and told to churn out dozens of accurate lines. Writing is about conveying experiences, observations, reactions and feelings and one way to help children bring all these responses together onto one page is to get them outside and interacting with nature.

Today I’ve simply put together a mini scavenger hunt which purposefully includes things to collect for reactions and feelings, things to spot for observations and things to do for experience.

These templates can be printed and laminated for use in the garden or in the woods. They are best suited for A5 size. I then hole punched the corners and tied them together so they were easy to carry around.

Scavenger Hunt to Collect

 

Scavenger Hunt to Spot

 

Scavenger Hunt to Do

Your child will also need a small bag containing a piece of coloured or plain paper and coloured chalk for the bark rubbing and to collect and carry any of the scavenger items pictured. You can also include a piece of paper for the petal picture or it can be put together on the grass or ground. If possible take a photo of the petal picture to take home with you so your child can remember what it looks like.

Scavenger Hunt 2

When you return from the scavenger hunt ask your child to write a short story using items they saw or found on their scavenger hunt to inspire them. Tell them they can include as many of these things as they like. Let them think about the following questions to give them more ideas.Writing Nature Narratives

Don’t concentrate on grammar or sentence structure too much this is a light-hearted activity designed to encourage your child to use their imagination and create some crazy stories by showing them how to look for new ideas in unlikely places.

Make Bedtime Reading Interactive

Children’s books are supposed to be fun but this intention can be easily misinterpreted by a child when reading is a daily part of their homework. So sometimes as parents we have to go that extra mile to show our children that although it’s a routine requirement it doesn’t have to be a chore. We know reading stories can be funny, interesting, surprising and enlightening but when we add in a little extra imagination they can be read in unconventional ways too. By doing this we can demonstrate that a writer can provide the platform for your enjoyment but how you the reader benefits from the book is a completely individual approach. The aim is to make reading stories a positive experience. I doubt there’s anyone out there who wants to do something they don’t enjoy so why would we expect our children to feel any different?

Reading with Child

  1. Invite a favourite cuddly toy to act out the story. A cuddly toy is like a child’s best friend. One that never disagrees with them, makes them feel safe and will always be there for them (providing they’re not left on the train, in the park or accidentally dropped down a well). So helping their toy act out a story can feel quite natural for a child. Ask your child to choose a cuddly toy who would like to play the leading character in the story. As you read, swap the name of the leading character with toy’s name and watch your child take them on an adventure. A great way to make the story more memorable too.
  2. Narrate the story in a silly voice. Pick a well known, distinctive voice to impersonate such as Buzz Lightyear, X Factor voice over, Mr Bean, a robot or Yoda etc. Then see if you can get some giggles by maintaining the guise for the whole of the story.
  3. Read the opposite of the story. Children love it when they know what the story is supposed to be and can spot the funny deliberate errors made by the reader. To do this choose a book your child is familiar with (you know the favourite book you must have read a thousand times). Then turn the story around by replacing words with opposite ones. For example, “We’re going on a mouse hunt. We’re going to catch a tiny one, what a rainy day! We’re so scared” etc (based on Going on a Bear Hunt by Michael Rosen) or “Once there was a boy and the boy hated stars very much. Each night the boy ignored the stars outside his window and wished they would all go away” (based on How to Catch a Star by Oliver Jeffers).
  4. Take turns with reading the character’s lines. This is a simple one but very effective on the nights when your child is reluctant or just too tired to read as your joint participation takes some pressure away from your child to complete the whole book on their own.
  5. Sing the story. If your child likes to sing and is losing interest why not suggest they sing the story to you? This can be a made up tune, a memorable song from a film or a popular nursery rhyme and perhaps different characters could have different singing styles. Singing the story can add a new dimension and help develop intonation and expression.

Reading on Sofa

Livening up bedtime reading can be as much for us parents as the children at times. I know I struggle some nights to muster up the enthusiasm when I’m feeling exhausted, stressed or dispirited with life and just want them to be quiet and in bed so I can wind down from a challenging day. So removing the monotony is also a good way to keep it pleasurable for all involved. It’s important for us to stay engaged and enthusiastic too because if we can’t show we’re enjoying reading time the chances are our children won’t see the fun in it either.

Here’s a link to one of my earlier blogs for more ideas on how to encourage reading – 10 Tips to Transform Your Reluctant Reader into a Master Reader.

Books About Things We’re Not Taught in School – Part 2: Visualisation

Perhaps you’re not a big fan of the idea that you can determine your life path through creative visualisation, after all that would need to be accompanied by belief. It’s a subject which is often dismissed as a little new age and far out. However, whether you warm to the idea or not is irrelevant here as regardless of your beliefs there is no doubt that we all use visualisation on a daily basis. That may be to remind ourselves of the next turning we need to take when finding the right route home for example, picturing the choices we have for breakfast, formulating ideas for a flyer for a new business, imagining stories or our next holiday. We may not always be aware of it but we are regularly using it to get to where we want to be and our children are no different. However the more aware we become of the images that we’re creating and thinking about the more power we have to change them or strengthen them to our advantage. Today I’m reviewing a book called Nightlights which can help a child do just that.

Understanding Visualisation

Visualisation is the word we assign to the act of forming images in our minds. It’s in all of us to be creative creatures. How we express that is very individual but to start being creative first requires us to use our imagination. We can form these visual images in our mind as a fleeting natural reaction to a given situation or a deliberate act of intent.

Book Review on Nightlights by author/s Anne Givardi, Kate Petty, Joyce Dunbar and Louisa Somerville.

Nightlights

What’s it all about?

Nightlights begins with chapters dedicated to useful support for the adult on how to use and make the most of the book covering topics such as Imagination and Creativity, Finding Identity Through Stories and The Art of Reading to Children. Next follows twenty interactive stories which encourage your child to relax and concentrate on the story, to close their eyes and purposefully visualise the story as it’s being read to them.

The stories themselves carry an uncomplicated and gentle tone. Each bright and detailed digital illustration maintains a contemporary appearance for a book which tackles such an ancient topic. Each story is between three and five pages long so just the right length to be read at bedtime. This book encourages your child to imagine themselves in the story and in so doing shows them how to mentally create pictures in their mind with purpose to help organise their thoughts, dreams and ideas and help make sense of them. At the end of each story is a list of related affirmations to reinforce the values behind the story, although to me they’re more akin to wise advice than affirmations.

After the stories we’re offered some additional relaxation and visualisation techniques which focus on specific worries. These techniques can be easily remembered and practised when required. The book talks about these skills as the premise for meditation, breathing and concentration techniques. At the very back of the book is an index of values and issues which makes it easier to pick the right story for the right situation or current concern for your child that day.

Which age group is it aimed at?

This children’s book is advertised on Amazon as being aimed at ages 3 to 7. I see no reason why this book can’t have a positive effect on any child’s mindset but to truly appreciate this book I would recommend waiting until ages 5 upwards as any younger I feel they may not have developed the level of concentration required to see the whole story through to the end in the way that’s required of them.

Conclusion: Nightlights has been a permanent fixture on our shelves for some time now. It’s the type of book that I like to dip into every now and again as it’s something quite different to your average children’s book. I consider it an invaluable book for teaching children the skills to be creative with their lives. It covers a complex topic in a very organised and systematic way. It’s a book to be read out loud to a child and in small chunks. To get the most out of this book I’d suggest a little extra time should be taken to orientate yourself around it before sharing with your children.

Story Editor: Anne Civardi.

Author/s: Kate Petty, Joyce Dunbar, Louisa Somerville.

Introduced by: David Fontana.

Publisher: Duncan Baird Publishers (2003)

Our Rating: 4 out of 5

CLICK TO BUY Nightlights: Stories for You to Read to Your Child – To Encourage Calm, Confidence and Creativity

Next week in PART 3 I will be reviewing a book about how to think positively.

Books About Things We’re Not Taught in School – PART 1: Emotions.

Books About Things We’re Not Taught in School – PART 3: Positive Thinking.

Books About Things We’re Not Taught in School – PART 4: Overcoming Fears.

 

NOTE: Books for Children Blog is a participant in the Amazon EU Associates Programme, an affiliate advertising programme designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.co.uk.

Children’s Picture Books about Books

Picture books about books, reading and creating stories are the perfect choice if you want to encourage your child to read during the new term. I really enjoyed putting this list together as each book demonstrates such an individual approach to the same topic from both new and established children’s authors. As before, I’ve written a short review and my two boys have rated them out of 10, the first score being from my youngest, age five.


This Book Just Ate my Dog – Richard Byrne (author & illustrator). Publisher: OUP Oxford (1 Jan 2015). RATING: 10/10; 10/10.

This is a fun, quick read. Beautifully sketched illustrations coupled with a basic story but guaranteed to get some chuckles from the younger ones enjoying the unexpected interactive element to the story.

CLICK TO BUY This Book Just Ate My Dog! (Ben & Bella)


Wanted Ralfy Rabbit, Book Burglar – Emily Mackenzie (author & illustrator). Publisher: Bloomsbury Children’s (18 Dec 2014). RATING: 10/9; 10/10.

I adore this book in every way. The vocabulary and language used is just the right mix of simplistic and clever. The character is cute and the bright and bold illustrations compliment the humorous story. This is exactly the kind of book I aspire to write! I can’t get enough of Ralfy and neither can my boys. It’s a firm bedtime favourite. A “must have” for any little person’s book shelf.

CLICK TO BUY Wanted! Ralfy Rabbit, Book Burglar


Recipe for a Story – Ella Burfoot (author & illustrator). Publisher: Macmillan Children’s Books (1 Jan 2015). RATING: 1/10; 7/10.

I thought this book was both original and informative. The rhyme makes it a pleasure to read and its light-hearted approach to the elements of story-making is a fun way to introduce story writing to children. However, for my youngest the idea was not believable. Being quite matter of fact, he was adamant that it was a strange story as “you can’t cook a book.” He had a point and it highlighted that the age group that this book was written for might not be able to understand or appreciate the full meaning inferred by the clever play on words and take the story more literally than intended.

CLICK TO BUY Recipe For a Story


The Incredible Book Eating Boy – Oliver Jeffers (author & illustrator). Publisher: Harper Collins Children’s Books (25 Jun 2009). RATING: 10/10; 10/10.

This is an entertaining story full of amusing and quirky illustrations. It must be on the road to becoming a classic by now. We have read this book so many times and yet it still remains a page turner for us all.

Note to reader: Although you can’t cook a book apparently it’s quite possible to eat hundreds of them!

CLICK TO BUY The Incredible Book Eating Boy


Bears Don’t Read – Emma Chichester Clark (author & illustrator). Publisher: Harper Collins Children’s Books (26 Feb 2015). RATING: 7/10; 8/10.

George is a bear who is not satisfied with doing the usual bear things, he wants more. He wants to be able to read and it takes a little girl called Clementine to give him a chance and fulfill his dream. This is a charming story with amusing illustrations which can inspire children to be brave, determined and go beyond what they know.

CLICK TO BUY Bears Don’t Read!


Books Always Everywhere – Jane Blatt (author) & Sarah Massini (illustrator). Publisher: Nosy Crow (31 Mar 2013). RATING: 4/10; 2/10.

A very simple rhyming text coupled with large bold illustrations of different types of books, where you find books and what you can do with books means this book will appeal to pre-school children.

CLICK TO BUY Books Always Everywhere


It’s a Book – Lane Smith (author & illustrator). Publisher: Macmillan Children’s Books (1 Mar 2012). RATING: 10/10; 10/10.

This is a book of few words, yet it says so much. It’s a humorous comparison between a traditional book and our expectations of modern technology. It’s brilliant and my boys find it hilarious. We usually take turns in reading the different character parts. However, although the tongue in cheek use of the word Jackass (opposed to donkey) is apt for this story as it’s not a word we commonly use for a male donkey in the UK (except for negative connotations perhaps) I’m not convinced it works as well in a book for young children in the UK as it might in the US and it leaves me cringing ever so slightly every time the boys read the word.

CLICK TO BUY It’s a Book


The Story Machine – Tom McLaughlin (author & illustrator). Publisher: Bloomsbury Children’s (15 Jan 2015). RATING: 10/10; 9/10.

The author’s creative imagination and artistic skill shines through in this book. It beautifully demonstrates that the art of telling stories doesn’t require high tech gadgets to bring them alive. It’s about creating something new with words and pictures in your mind.

CLICK TO BUY The Story Machine


Open Very Carefully: A Book with Bite – Nick Bromley (author) Nicola O’Byrne (illustrator). Publisher: Nosy Crow (6 Mar 2014). RATING: 6/10; 4/10.

It’s all about the book! Caught up in the wrong book is a crocodile, who likes to eat words, gobble up letters and swallow sentences. He gets scribbled on and shaken until he eats his way out the book. A book that aims to engage the reader to comment.

CLICK TO BUY Open Very Carefully


Use Your Imagination – Nicola O’Byrne (author & illustrator). Publisher: Nosy Crow (4 Mar 2015). RATING: 8/10; 9/10.

Wolf teaches rabbit how to create his own story using well known, traditional wolf tales as the basis for this amusing modern twist. A witty, colourful and vibrant read.

CLICK TO BUY Use Your Imagination

What theme would you like to see in my quick look book reviews?

Source: Public or private library.

 

NOTE: Books for Children Blog is a participant in the Amazon EU Associates Programme, an affiliate advertising programme designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.co.uk.

 

Getting all Mixed up

Lego Army

Meet these little guys!

I have to warn you, these are not just Lego people. These figures have evolved into Captain Cuphead, Superstorm, The Undead Surfer, Conehead, Mr Brickhead, Skeleton Warrior, Leverhead Lenny and Torch. In fact I can’t possibly list the whole army!

This is the result of my boys secretly concocting their own Lego characters for their made up battle game. As you can see, it involves taking legs, heads and bodies apart and mixing them all up with unusual additions!

I love it when they play like this. This is how creativity grows. Children are naturally good at creating things as they aren’t limited by the boundaries we impose as adults. They are more open to the impossible becoming possible.

Creativity is the reason I encourage reading and writing so much, not just because I enjoy it but because to me creative thinking is one of the most important skills we can learn. It’s about thinking outside the box, mixing things up and trying new combinations. Creativity has no boundaries and no rules. It explores, it questions, it experiments and it jumbles up the conventional. By thinking and acting this way we become better equipped to deal with the lows in our lives. By turning things on their heads and thinking of novel ways to approach a problem we begin to create a few more highs in our lives. We might even make some innovative discoveries along the way!

Reading can ignite new creative ideas as the reader gets pulled into the writer’s potion of thoughts, knowledge, imagination and points of view. Whilst writing can be the outlet for translating the reader’s creation into a physical form for others to digest, interpret and mould into something else new.

As a children’s writer I experiment with letters to make new words, I mix words to make new sentences and new sentences to create new meanings with the aim of building a fantasy world which is unique, fun, interesting and believable. There’s a story in everything if I look hard enough.

But it’s not just writers who create. An artist expresses creativity by mixing up different mediums, colours and strokes to come up with an individual style. Musicians listen out for new chord combinations or varying tones and lyrics to add depth, feeling and connection to their pieces. Dancers strive for the ultimate emotive expression to draw their audience in by experimenting with different actions and facial expressions. All these activities require the same fluidity of thinking as do inventors, designers, sculptors, speakers, mathematicians, managers and so on. We are all creative thinkers who create new moments and stories each minute and each second of every day. How we present our creativity is the part which is unique to each one of us.

Now I’m sure some of these highly evolved Lego creatures must have some stories to tell……………….

Creating Stories using Art and Play: Part 2 – Stories in Shadow

Shadow Stories Pinterest

I’ve discovered that egg boxes and sieves make fantastic army tanks!

Most of us will by now have seen either on TV, U-tube or even live at the theatre, the seemingly effortless magical stories from the shadow theatre group know as Attraction who won Britain’s Got Talent in June 2013. The shows are original, moving and mesmerizing, surely three of the most coveted elements of any great story.

So continuing with the art and play story theme to help develop children’s imaginations, this week my boys and I created our own version of shadow stories – on a much smaller scale of course.

For this we collected together several random everyday items from around the house such as kitchen utensils, fruit, toys, boxes, bowls, pencils, books, flowers etc. as well as a very important blob of Blu Tack. Barr the Blu Tack these items could have been anything as it was more about looking for different shaped objects. We then twisted and turned the various household items until creative inspiration took hold so we could start to set the scene for our stories. This is where the blob of Blu Tack proves invaluable because invariably things will need supporting, sticking or boosting at some point!

There were a few challenges we encountered whilst setting up. We needed a light bright enough to show a good contrast and it also had to be just the right height to work effectively. Achieving quality photos of the shadows was somewhat tricky but hopefully I’ve captured them sufficiently to give an idea of how it works so you can try it out for yourselves.

Below: Battle of the Tanks………

Shadow Army 2

…… and this is how we made it!

Shadow Army Items

Below: Land of the Giant Butterflies.

Shadow Butterfly

We used the items below and a stalk from a shrub in the garden (not pictured) as the tree.

Shadow Butterfly Items

Below: The Pirate Captain’s Pet Sea Monster.

Shadow Sea Monster

Who would have thought a banana, some plastic cups, custard pots, toothbrushes, bowls and pencils could look like this?

Shadow Sea Monster Items

Below: Alien City.

Shadow Alien City

Here we held the Velcro ball and bat up above as a UFO against the city skyline.

Shadow Alien City Items

Below: Dancing Round the Maypole.

Shadow Maypole Fete

A pencil, wool, cut out people, Lego figure, book and a large mixing bowl was all it took!

Shadow Maypole Fete Items

Once we had set up our scene and given it a title we swapped silly stories of what could happen. Sometimes other objects got added or we used hand shadows to add more shapes and creatures. As with my sand stories blog last week these images are ideal as a story starter for a written piece of work too.

If you do try this with your children I’d love to see the results so feel free to post any of your sand or shadow stories on my Facebook page.

Creating Stories using Art and Play: PART 3 – Paintbrush Plays.

Creating Stories using Art and Play: PART 1 – Sand Stories.

A Doorway to a Bigger World: Part 3: Imagination

ID-10043380 

Image courtesy of digitalart at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

IMAGINATION

“The true sign of intelligence is not knowledge but imagination”. Albert Einstein

Imagination, WOW! Saving the best for last! Stories are a great source for developing imagination. Imagination is at the heart of all great achievements. Everything we achieve in life begins as a thought in our imagination. If we don’t use our imagination we only limit our achievements. Reading develops imagination by helping children to believe in possibilities beyond their own experience and that to me is like offering a child the potential for an incredibly fulfilling life. So how exactly does reading stimulate their imagination?

  1. Reading develops the skills to visually imagine something in order to make sense of it. Children need to be actively engaged in the story in order to become a part of the story and be able to critically and imaginatively process the information in front of them. To actively engage in a story demands a visually imaginative mind to comprehend the ideas and meaning conveyed. To explain this further, if a child is still learning to read they first need to visualise the letters in relation to each other as meaningful words. They then have to figure out what the individual words mean within the sentences and their meaning within the context of the whole story. This requires the ability to imagine things from different perspectives in order to make sense of why they are put together that way. Then just to make the whole process that little bit more mind blowing, by this time more images, more ideas and thoughts are popping into their heads creating their own interpretation of the story. With all this going on simultaneously, it’s no wonder reading can be a real effort for many.
  2. Reading stories can provide inspiration for pretend play. Role play and pretend play, whether in the playground or independently at home is a way for children to act out and practise real life scenarios or conjure up their own make believe world.
  3. Books leave room for the imagination to grow. Picture books and films are a representation of the author’s and illustrator’s imagination. However, unlike films and television, a book cannot create the whole picture but inevitably leaves some gaps for the child to fill. Children are still required to imagine the feelings, the setting and sounds on a larger scale and it is the words which force these new images to appear in their minds. A book is a series of static snapshots of the story whereas television can encompass so many more continually active frames to the story. So an author’s creativity becomes the trigger for the child’s imagination to take part in the story, whereas television is more akin to passively viewing someone else’s idea.
  4. Reading introduces the possibility for new experiences. This may simply be through reading about an event or person they have no prior experience or knowledge of or it may be the idea that something is achievable that they previously thought was not. The point is, reading opens up their minds to consider what might be possible and it puts no limits on imagining what is possible.
  5. A large vocabulary leads to a creative communicator of ideas. Books by their very nature are bursting with words. The more words a child is familiar with the easier they find it to communicate their ideas and share what’s in their imagination. In turn by talking to others, more ideas and inspiration are absorbed in their minds which can only lead to an even greater imagination.

For more information on pretend play here is an article from Psychology Today Reading for Imaginative Play .