This week for our Favorite Things Column, Chris Wrenn shares his thoughts on imagination, creation, and the Lite-Brite.
My favorite toys are those that invite us to imagine and create, because those actions come naturally to children, and the best toys create avenues to nurture the artistic and exploratory instinct that is already there. It’s for these reasons that I have always loved a Lite-Brite; I never had one as a child (though I did as an adult), so my feelings aren’t rooted in nostalgia, but rather in the toy as a tool to make something original, unique, and beautiful.
Anytime I have a friend whose kid gets old enough that swallowing the pegs is no longer a concern, they can be sure to get a Lite-Brite from Uncle Chris, mostly so I can see what they make. Another thing I love about the toy is that it encourages a willingness to take your creation apart and start over, a concept I am constantly trying to convince my writing students to embrace. Adults tend to see the world as fixed and established, while children see what the world around them could be.
Recently I was reminded of that imaginative perspective when my neighbor, Astarte, who is eight years old, made a portrait of her mother from the twigs and leaves that had fallen from a maple tree between our houses. In life, it’s pretty easy to see lawn debris, but sometimes it takes a child’s eye to find the opportunity to turn that into something loving and unique.