Birth, Babies, and Beyond

Pregnancy, birth, and parenting

The Best Toy Ever

Sometimes the most creative activities are the most simple

The most creative kid-activity ever was invented in 1961 by none other than my mother. We lived then in Yonkers, New York-a suburb of New York City in the days when there was no such thing as DVDs or video games. (Though I had my share of Barbie dolls). In the corner of our backyard was a huge boulder, something that I'm sure could not be budged out of the yard when my parents moved in. But instead of griping about the space it occupied, my mother turned this rock into a pedestal of thinking. Yes, whenever we complained of boredom, or when I started annoying my older brother or sister, my mother would say: "Why don't you go sit on the thinking rock." She told us-and we all believed-that when you sat on the rock and really tried hard, great thoughts came into your head.
My mom got a kick out of staring out of the kitchen window at us as we scrunched up our noses and squinted our eyes-something we instinctively believed pushed those intelligent thoughts to the top. I can't remember any great revelations, but I can remember sitting on that rock. I remember how important it made me feel. And
I remember exactly what it looked like. My mom painted the rock white and in black paint wrote the word: THINK.
I had no idea at the time that my mother had studied child psychology and knew the simple tricks to spark creativity. Maybe her experience as a school teacher taught her that while social skills are important, children also need alone time. Sure we needed play-dates and trips to the local zoo or playground, but we also needed time alone. Time to think. Time to make sense of the world around us.

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Randi Hutter Epstein, M.D., is the author of Get Me Out: A History of Childbirth from the Garden of Eden to the Sperm Bank.

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