To the children of yesterday, rainy days were synonymous with paper boats and birthdays meant handmade cards. Today's children snuggle up to watch the television if the rain clouds threaten, and prefer ecards to the paper version.
Television and the Internet have been replacing outdoor games and indoor crafts. For parents who rue this erosion of their kid's creativity, the Internet presents an answer. Recipes for kids, memory boxes, boredom busters and a load of creative activities can be found online. There are also sites that provide a space for children to display their creative works be it writing, painting or craft.
Says Chritine Nicholls, president of Creative Kids At Home: "The main purpose is for children to have fun. I am doing my small bit to encourage kids to think and be creative rather than just be passively entertained."
With an array of crafts and 'things-to-do', these sites seek to unravel the innovative side of your child. They stir children's interest by allotting them a unique site address or suggesting ideas for games. There are detailed instructions on how to craft useful things from household junk, make candle-holders out of old jar lids or design a necklace with paper clips. Children can pretend they are Sherlock Holmes and write secret messages with invisible ink.
Gerard Francis, from Singapore who has a two-and-a-half-year old son, feels these sites are "a lot of fun to explore". From a tender age, children learn to discover new skills through games and puzzles. While 'fun' is an intrinsic element of these sites, they are also educative. Quizzes, fun facts and brain games aim to develop in children a thirst for knowledge.
SMS and chat have created a new lingo among youngsters and many parents worry about the effect this will have on the vocabulary. Children can now build their language skills through spelling games, scrambles, word games, anagrams and crosswords. While all of these are traditional games, their reincarnation in the digital avatars arouses the child's curiosity.
There are also sites that urge children to suggest their own ideas, submit their artwork or writings. Kidstuff, Cyberkids, Teenink and Kidsonthenet showcase articles, paintings, stories and photos submitted by children.
Edel Monteiro from Mumbai has just finished school and recommends Teenink. She says, "It could inspire kids to become journalists and authors. Such sites can help them submit their writings, get appreciation and also suggest improvements."
The Internet provides wider exposure and acts as a morale booster. Beccy Manley, one of the creators of Kidstuff, says kids get the "satisfaction of seeing their work published".
Beccy, Francesca and Rosie were just thirteen when they created Kidstuff together to "invite other kids to send poems". The response was tremendous. In fact they have stopped accepting submissions now, because of the overwhelming number of children who want to get their work published. Says Beccy, "As it got better known we started getting 200 hits a day. Then Yahooligans! made it their Awesomely Cool Site of the Week and we started getting 7000 hits a day. Eventually we got over a million hits a month and a total of 10,000 poems and stories."
The experience of Kidstuff proves that children only need a platform to unveil their creative side. There are opportunities for children proficient in other Indian languages too. Kids on the Net accepts writings in national / local languages too. Check out this Hindi story written by a young Indian girl. Encouraging the younger Net savvy generation to submit multilingual writings online will ensure that Indian languages do not lose their stronghold in an English-dominated world.
Being inherently creative, children only require the right medium and opportunity to awaken their latent talents. The Internet has given them both. For today's children, creativity is just a click away.