It really is amazing how fast kids grow up these days. I’m going to try not to generalize here, so I’ll only speak from personal observations, but my oldest son (age 6.5) and his friends just seem to be way more advanced at this age than I was so many years ago. They’re much more adept at technology, and their vocabulary sometimes surprises me. I’m sure there are numerous factors here–television and the Internet are probably high on the list–but I also know my son’s teachers are coming at him with higher expectations. I took Pre-Algebra in the 8th grade… these days I’ve heard of schools getting into it as early as 5th grade.
Which brings me to a serious question I’ve been asking myself for the past few days since reading Issue #1 of Keepers of the Lost Art, a new comic book that is looking to raise funds to put the comic book in 5,000+ kids’ hands and support a website full of activities, adventure, and more: How can I encourage my two young boys to stretch their imaginations and explore their world with more physical play and less digital/virtual experiences?
Let me start with the comic book — the team sent me over a copy of the first issue that sets up the legend and introduces a few key characters. In this world, a kid’s imagination can do many things — a paper airplane becomes a real jet, a paper boat becomes a real ocean-going vessel, and a wooden toy sword can defeat pirates. A young boy (who is given the title Jagman by the young Temple Guardian) is educated on the rules and requirements of all young kids who are given the responsibility to be Keepers of the Lost Art. This “Lost Art” is the art of being a kid. Imagination. Creativity. Problem solving. Adventures. At the end of Issue 1, Jagman returns home to invite his circle of friends to join and become Keepers… setting up Issue 2.
At the end of the comic is a series of fun activities — word search, a maze, some jokes, and, my favorite, a Kid Trick complete with items needed and instructions for creating something fun. Issue #1’s Kid Trick is The Floating Paper Clip… it shows kids how some insects can walk on water and discusses the concept of surface tension. An invite to continue with Issue 2 wraps up the book with a cover image showing Jagman and his friends in their very unique costumes. It looks to be a really fun issue!
One final thing — on the back cover is a blank area where the reader is challenged to draw a strange animal combination and give it a name… a QR code launches a humorous video that answers the question “Did Abraham Lincoln Drink a Lot of Soda Pop?” (The humor is decidedly kid-appropriate.)
The creators have also created two unique websites — one is for adults (LostArtKeepers.com) and one is for kids (KeepersOfTheLostArt.com). The adult site is used to provide information on the comic book and website and explain the purpose of Keepers… while the kid site is exactly what you’d expect — store, forums, contests, polls, and the really cool collection of videos, experiments, illusions, and paper craft among other things. A quick look around will show you that this team means business when it comes to giving kids reasons to get outside, to imagine, to daydream, and just be kids.
The team is looking to raise $20,000 to help promote and distribute the comic book and to continue to provide additional content for the website. I’m lending them my financial support right now — I’m quite pleased with the comic book and my investigation of both websites, and I just know my oldest son (and, hopefully soon, my youngest) is going to have some real fun here.
If you’d like to help get Keepers of the Lost Art off to a good start, please visit the official Kickstarter page and watch the videos and examine the evidence. There are numerous backer levels available, including a few that will allow you to provide a subject to be immortalized as a Keeper-style drawing or painting.
For the last few months, I’ve intentionally reduced my children’s access to both TV and Internet, giving them access to a large tub of items including glue, popsicle sticks, cardboard, construction paper, stickers, foam letters, and dozens more random items. Just a few hours ago, right before bed time, my oldest son created a “torch” from some popsicle sticks and shredded construction paper. He was quite proud of his design, and when I asked him what it was for, he told me it was to light up the cave in his room (his closet). I had flashbacks to my own childhood, when there were only three channels on TV and not much for kids to watch and my parents insisted we make our own adventures.
My son enjoyed reading the comic book with me yesterday, and I’m not sure who enjoyed it more — me or him. I want my sons to play and have fun and to enjoy being kids, and it’s nice to know there are others out there who are trying to encourage a return to brooms as horses. I wish the Keepers team the best of luck in their fundraising, and I look forward to Issue 2.