If you’re lucky enough to be able to work with little kids, try this idea out. I’m talking about kids aged 5-8, by the way. Anyway, strike up a conversation with the 5-8 year old by asking a question. If the question is the start of a riddle, so much the better. Do it totally straight and don’t plan on giving the punch line, because the story that kid is going to tell is going to leave you wondering why in the world Hollywood isn’t having 5-8 year olds write film scripts.
I had one such conversation today that started with “Why do sharks like to swim in salt water?” The riddle answer, of course, is “Because they sneeze too much in pepper water,” but the 6-year-old I put this question to told a sweeping tale of undersea drama, adventure, and harsh consequences for hapless humans that don’t respect the habitat of the salt-water shark. It was delightful.
He then asked if I knew how to play rock-paper-scissors. Of course I did, and we started into the game. Pretty soon, we had rules for dynamite, lizards, guns, swords, the number four, Transformers (which can be beaten by swords, in case you did not know), tornadoes, and what do to when both players play “rock”: do a fist bump and say, “BROS!”
I remember watching Bill Cosby and Danny Kaye working with kids. When I was a kid, I loved those interactions. As an adult, I love them just as much, even if now for different reasons. Don’t argue, don’t try to correct, just ask lots of questions and be enthusiastic about seeing the possibilities in what the kid suggests. I’ve had fun discussing all kinds of things with kids over the years, including what’s the difference between elephants and prunes, what’s worse than finding a worm in your apple (hint: it’s an alligator in your apple), and the possibilities of earning a hundred dollars A MINUTE as a lawyer.