Do Silicon Valley Execs Keep Their Kids Away From Screens? Yes.

Why do Silicon Valley executives raise their children technology-free? This headline from The Guardian says it all: TABLETS OUT, IMAGINATION IN: THE SCHOOLS THAT SHUN TECHNOLOGY.

They do it because they want their kids to be imaginative and mentally healthy, basically. Looking out over the wasteland of anger, narcissism, teen suicides, obesity and incivility that social media networks have caused in young lives recently, many of these tech wizards are scared for their own kids.

Like King Midas, everything they touched has turned to gold. But don’t forget the old story: When King Midas touches his own daughter, whom he loves, she turns to gold, too. That’s the end of her.

Digital Addiction begins with kids interacting with screens. The colorful, always-changing worlds they find are so much fun that when they’re suddenly without their screens and look up to see the real world around them, it simply moves too slowly. It’s boring. This causes a kind of free-floating, stimulation-seeking depression.

Down through the ages, kids engaged in creative play with toys and role-playing, attempting to do what grownups did, but in miniature. It has always been this way. But not now, not in the dopamine-laden world of video games and social networks. Not unless the kids’ lives are balanced by getting them away from these devices.

It’s ironic. Now that the digital masters of the universe are having families, too, they realize this, smart as they are. Heck, they built these things to be addictive. And yes, they love their kids, too.

So what is the indispensable skill they want their children to develop at these very expensive, very selective kindergartens and elementary schools where less is more?

Imagination.

What grows imagination best?

Creative outdoor play, kids playing with kids, without any adults around.

If that’s not possible, what’s the next best thing?

Storytelling.

As Einstein said, “If you want your child to be intelligent, read them fairy tales.”

Wait a moment, you might say. Odds Bodkin is using digital media at the moment. Isn’t that a bit hypocritical?

Well, no.

That’s because my imagination developed long ago, when I was a kid, playing outside all day, and then, after coming back home, listening to my dad tell me stories.


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Someone Who Loves Me Just Sent Me a Bag of Magic Coins!

The bag of Magic Coins arrives as an email from the Head Gnome. In the email is a gift message from a certain someone who loves you, so you know who asked the Head Gnome to send it.

Magic Coins? Sent by the Head Gnome?

What’s this?

Read on and find a link to the secure https site of Odds Bodkin the Storyteller. And in your email there’s mysterious number. A unique numerical code.

Click on the link and you’re at Odds Bodkin’s Shop, a treasure trove of stories to listen to and imagine. Award-winning stories. Funny. Charming. Scary. Moving.

If you’re a kid, you soon discover that they are mesmerizing, too.

Fill your cart with titles and proceed to checkout. How do you pay? Just type in your Magic Coins code and discover that your coins are worth more than ordinary dollars. The more Magic Coins in your bag, the more you can buy.

You save on everything. You get great stories.

And you’ve been given a gift by that certain someone who loves you.

THE MYTHIC CAR TRIP SALE: 50% OFF ODDS BODKIN’S EPIC ADVENTURES (TEN HOURS OF STORYTELLING)

Become lost in classic myths and legends told by Master Storyteller Odds Bodkin. Pre-teens to adults will enjoy The Odyssey, Beowulf (NEW), Hercules, Sir Percival, Viking Myths, The Iliad: Book I (video) and David and Goliath, all told with unforgettable characters and music. Find out more here!

Odds Bodkin Summer Sale #2/The Little Proto Trilogy @ 50% Off

The Little Proto Trilogy is 3 hours and 20 minutes of dinosaur adventures with Little Proto, a character young kids love to imagine. Along with a wise old Triceratops, a retired but still bombastic T-Rex and other dino friends, Proto goes on wild, yet child-safe adventures. Good for ages four and up, these stories talk about friendship and family. Each features songs, too, a full score on 12-string guitar and amazing dino sounds, all created live in the studio by Odds Bodkin. Great for car trips.

 

The Adventures of Little Proto, Little Proto’s T-Rex Adventure and Little Proto and the Volcano’s Fire­­––regular download price $24.95. On sale this week for $12.95.

Not available as CDs.

Kids in the Treetops

I was about eighty feet in the sky. Up here, the tulip tree’s two giant trunks, which split off from each other about twelve feet from the ground from a single bole, were only a couple of inches thick, still growing. Around me were big, mitten-shaped leaves and bursting tulips, orange and green. Not really tulips as you might know them, but flowers anyway, the amazing blooms of liriodendron tulipifera, a term I didn’t learn until much later. At the moment I was nine years old, having climbed my favorite tree with Andy McKemie, a kid my age. This was Virginia in 1962.

 
We both knew not to climb any higher. This was the perfect place to rock the two treetops, flexible as they were this high up. The tulip tree towered above all others in the woods by the creek. We could see the old house on the hilltop in its abandoned, dilapidated glory. The meadows, too. At least today, the feral horses that lived in the untended barn and grazed the grass around the collapsed chicken coops weren’t chasing us off. In the old house we’d found blue ribbons from horse races long ago. Somebody had left the property in a sad hurry. I’ve never looked into who the family was.

 
My parents had no idea I’d learned to do this. All we kids had. There were no limbs close to the ground around the trunk in the clearing. To get up there, we tossed a rope tied around a thick stick over the lowest bough, sat on it and hauled ourselves up. From there, once we’d pulled up the rope so no kids from Jefferson Manor could follow us, it was an easy climb along the dusty, evenly distributed limbs to the top of the tulip tree.

 
Andy’s perch on the twin crown was about ten feet from mine. “You ready?” I probably said, since we both knew what we were about to do. He probably said, “Sure,” and we both pulled back, bending our treetops away from each other, then, like kids do on swings, we rocked forward, working our swings to eventually pass each other, getting those green twin treetops to bend back and forth.

 
By the time we were done with this game, the exhilaration was always worth the climb. I guess if someone had had a drone with a camera, hovering above us, it would have captured two little boys, laughing and swinging two treetops past each other in deep arcs, better than a ride at the carnival. Wind. Light. Trust in the tree and in our hands.

 
The reason I bring up this true story is that here in Bradford, New Hampshire, far north of their normal range, I’ve planted two tulip trees my sister Lindsay gave me as tiny saplings four years ago in my back yard. She lives in Maryland. They’re budding again, one of them now a head taller than me.

 
Hopefully, long after I’m gone, they’ll be eighty feet tall, too, helping to replace the forest of red and white oaks, pines and sugar maples that currently surround my home. The poplars have survived thus far. The climate’s changing. Remember the chestnuts. Things come and go.