Friday, January 6, 2012

Raising Funny Kids 6 - Steampunk Mania

"I found the Palace of Green Porcelain, when we approached it about noon, deserted and falling into ruin. Only ragged vestiges of glass remained in its windows, and great sheets of the green facing had fallen away from the corroded metallic framework." H.G. Wells, The Time Machine.

What can you do with a bunch of leftover broken computer parts, old remote controls, broken watches, missing buttons and screws in your garage and junk drawers? Like Indiana Jones says, "I don't know...(but) I'll think of something." 

That's exactly what I have been doing with my 13-year old son and 16-year old daughter. Armed with a bunch of misfit components, a soldering gun, a glue gun, and a rubber mallet, I've encouraged them get out a little "pent-up energy" by smashing all these component parts down into manageable craft material. At this point, they had all they needed to create an artistic, Steampunk device, some Steampunk jewelry, and some pretty cool Steampunk statues

Always keeping safety in mind, invest in some plastic safety goggles until you can make some Steampunk ones of your own.  The best intentions, when poorly executed, can quickly go astray and yield the very opposite of the positive experience you're shooting for. 

Old childhood classics like this Steampunked Mr. Potato Head are cool and unusual, and better build the bridge between childhood and young adulthood. Revamping old favorites is a nostalgic experience that most people enjoy. 

Today's teenager is pressured on nearly every front. Old post-industrial educational systems are being questioned, but nobody has released the kids from that prison yet. Teenagers, as a result, love the cool and unusual. If you're looking to change your "totally unfair" or mom or dad descriptor label, try making Steampunk art or jewelry as a weekend project. Identifying and bonding with a teenager can be a unique challenge, but it really boost everyone's self-confidence levels with it happens. Teenagers feel like they can more easily talk to you when you're ... "pretty cool for a parent." 

Psychologically speaking, the experience of breaking something down and rebuilding it is a highly satisfying process. The possibilities of creation are endless and the experience of letting off steam in a healthy way couldn't be more valuable. If you have a teenage boy who is a Star Wars fan (or if you, like me, are an original trilogy fan), give him some of those old component parts in your garage (you know, the ones you're saving but will never do anything with) and let him smash them to pieces and rebuild a few robots or some Clone headgear of his own. 

While he's building an R2D2 droid, your teenage daughter might just decide to make some jewelry for she and her friends or upgrade her iPhone into something that looks like a Steampunked version of a Warehouse 13 Farnsworth phone.  

Raising funny kids is mostly about letting them experience enough freedom to explore their own talents and interests, successfully conforming to the modern world without loosing their sense of identity, and having some fun in the process. Even if your teen doesn't enjoy these activities and prefers literature to glue guns, here's some suggested Steampunk reading material offered by The Ranting Dragon that's sure to have a similar freeing effect on their minds...

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