Why ‘Good Ideas’ is a MUST HAVE on every parents bookshelf

michael rosen

I don’t very often read how-to parenting books. They can leave me feeling frustrated when I try to put into practice their advice but it ends up backfiring, leaving me with bad-tempered children and wondering where I went wrong. But Michael Rosen’s book, ‘Good Ideas – How to be your child’s (and your own) best teacher‘ is definitely an exception to this. It is inspiring, practical, down-to-earth and served up with a healthy dollop of Rosen’s customary good-humour, embracing trial and error as an integral part of the out-of-the-classroom learning experience. Eschewing box-ticking and learning taking place solely in formal settings, not only are the ideas that Rosen throws up fun and fascinating for kids, but it re-awakens curiosity in adults, drawing us back to that innate inquisitiveness that slowly left us as we grew out of our childhood skins.

Former Children’s Laureate, broadcaster, writer, poet and so much more, Michael Rosen peppers his book with references to his own childhood and how his experiences growing up formed the canvas and backdrop of his own education. We often think of learning taking place primarily at school or university, but Rosen argues that we live in a world in which ideas, knowledge and learning can be drawn from a whole multitude of settings if we are only open to it. In his own words,

‘When people ask me about my education, I think of course about my schools and universities but part of me always wants to say, ‘And the back yard, window-sills and the alleyway where I lived.’

So how, exactly, can we and our children gain the kind of long-lasting, meaningful knowledge we all crave? Rosen divides his book into clear sections, taking us through all the different places where good ideas can come from: The Home, Outdoors, The Street, Travelling and Holidays and Days Out, Outings and Visits. Let’s take The Home for example, not only does he dive into what makes the kitchen or sitting room interesting places of learning, but goes a step further, devoting a whole chapter to ‘The Loo’. Because come on, let’s face it, all children have a fascinating from a young age with wee and poo! (My four year old loves to shout these words at every possibility). If the cistern breaks, don’t just call in the plumber, lift the lid off with your kids and see how it all works in there to enable the loo to flush. This is, Rosen argues, ‘home technology at its best.’ What are some amusing rude rhymes that your children know (and that you can remember from your own childhood?) How do our digestive systems actually work? How come some animals can cope with swallowing down great chunks of food (or smaller animals) and others need to meticulously chew? Who invented the toilet? How do they differ culturally around the world and taboos surrounding going to the toilet?

There are so, so many questions that can be asked if we keep alive that crucial element of curiosity. Children have this naturally, but as parents or teachers, we can encourage this by suggesting interesting questions as a springboard to deeper learning.

Rosen finishes his book with some ideas to get children writing (which has proved invaluable for my Magic Pencil workshops), suggestions of supplies to have at home, advice about books and some fun puzzles which my nine year old has gleefully dived into from time to time.

I honestly cannot recommend this book enough. It needs to be on the bookshelf of every parent up and down the land, no matter the age of their children. Please, buy it now. It might just be the best thing you have bought for your children (and yourself) this year.

I’d like to leave you with the advice Rosen gives the reader in his introduction which was given to him by his older brother and parents. Inspiring stuff.

1. Be curious. Endlessly curious. Go on asking questions. Never stop wondering why. Or how. Or when. Or where. Never stop wondering why or how one thing links to another. How something changed. How one thing turned into another. How something died out. How something else started up. Be curious, they said.

2. Anything out there, any knowledge, any culture, anything going on, can be yours, they said. You are entitled to find out about it, enjoy it, go there, do it, be it. There are no walls, nothing is too posh or un-posh, nothing is too highbrow or lowbrow.  Don’t let anyone block you off from any of it. Don’t block yourself off from any of it. Just give yourself a chance with any of it. Give it a go.

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