Online Games For Learning How To Use A Mouse I Spy And Coloring

Educational games for little ones like our presidential elections are now a thing.

I’m drawn to educational types of games. I appreciate “free” games, especially with interactive content. I’m also inspired by wildly successful DIY projects like do-it-yourself craft kits, creating masterpieces from bizarre everyday household items.

Though do-it-yourself projects can be full of creativity, they require a lot of cleaning up and craftwork, and the messy post-success phase that usually follows makes me want to hibernate and bake a cake instead. So for many people, this idea of staying inside while doing craft project-style with just-assembled material seems appealing and inviting. Especially when you’re really excited to do what it’s been suggested you do.

But for some kids, I’m guessing, the idea is intimidating and undesirable. Or they’re just old enough that crafting just isn’t a priority. So often, during my years of teaching elementary school, I didn’t get many people with the cooperative imagination of an all-ages child. I wouldn’t say it was a large number of students at any one point, but I wouldn’t describe them either. I’d call it not enough.

This is the relatively new thing. When I started in this field, I say 80 percent of my students were boys. And I didn’t blame those boys; I blame a generation of American parents who didn’t take the time to learn what their kids were doing with their hands. My former students — and their children now — would arrive at my office eager to explain to me why one guy needed to buy 20 of the boy’s old Barbie dolls for his battle with the football team and use markers and paper to draw a mock battle with a wooden helmet in honor of his teammate’s injured eye. And I would turn a blind eye. We talked about Thomas Edison, and I said I didn’t care about how fast they calculated their times. But then we’d end the discussion and go on our way.

The world is now a better place for that missing generation of college-educated Americans — researchers, engineers, etc. — who are doing useful and interesting things with their hands. Before the internet, I would blame it on the “consumer society,” when everyone was in a hurry to get out the door and did their work, and no one really considered it creativity.

Now, suddenly, we’re thankful.

One recent and very beautiful project I’ve come across is an interesting variation on the basics of learning by doing. It’s fairly simple, and I wonder if I might try it out someday — you go around drawing different sizes of things, like T-shirts or baby bottles, and when you come to the center, you step up to make a full-size balloon model of the object you’ve been drawing.

Another creative take on do-it-yourself skills is something called Do It Yourself Count. It’s an online learning site that asks you to write five things you want to learn in five different areas of your life, like cooking, cooking for others, or “Life Skills for Enthusiasts.” Each of the five areas is a different type of learning (learn computer stuff, educational chat, etc.), and the ability to go through tasks in sequence is the key to most of them. The part I do with them is teach people how to put together different kinds of items for fun, as crafts — finding and sketching things, performing various tasks with things you have around your house or kitchen.

So how does it feel to try one of these games? I had a hard time getting myself to jump into a coloring book at first, but they’re both hilarious. My weakness is comic books, so I loved the stylized characters, and I began to cry while coloring. I felt the pressure to get it right, and there are some small issues with remembering the colors of things that aren’t so readily available, but the process is essentially based on a drawing game — try just to figure out how to color it out. You start out trying to simulate drawing on the paper, drawing around the lines, and then you get a little better and then you expand your abilities.

(You might want to read this, as I used Do It Yourself Count when I had kids.)

It’s mostly a fun, frivolous game, but the importance of it is something important. Getting messy, getting messy — and getting messy in a fun way — is probably something the majority of our young minds want to experience. And then something cool comes out of it.

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