It used to be a bad thing to be considered a nerd or a geek. Just look at 80’s high school movies — they were rife with stereotypes and filled with bookworms with thick glasses and wired braces. Today, though, geek culture is becoming mainstream, and it’s not such a bad thing to be a geek — if we can help dispel those stereotypes of years past.
It’s up to us, the parents who lived through those rough years, to teach our kids to embrace their inner nerd.
Nerd vs. Geek
First, what’s the difference between being a nerd and a geek? The two terms have almost become interchangeable, but they don’t always mean the same thing.
A nerd is used to describe someone who is intelligent and industrious, the kind of person who understands things that others might not comprehend.
A geek, on the other hand, is someone who is interested in lots of different things, usually things that other people aren’t interested in. This could be anything from programming to anime to anything else in between. Geeks know a lot about their interests and are more than happy to share what they know.
Being a Geek
Simon Pegg has become a geek icon — the mind behind iconic movies like Shawn of the Dead and Hot Fuzz used to be worried about being a geek. Now, though, it’s become something better.
“Being a geek is all about being honest about what you enjoy and not being afraid to demonstrate that affection,” said Pegg. “It means never having to play it cool about how much you like something. It’s basically a license to proudly emote on a somewhat childish level rather than having to behave like a supposed adult. Being a geek is extremely liberating.”
Being a geek or a nerd is an awesome thing in today’s culture, but sometimes it’s hard for tweens who are worried about being different than their peers. How can we convince them to embrace their inner nerd? Here are a few ways.
Get Moving and Catch Em All
While it might not be as popular as it was a year ago when it came out, Pokémon Go is still a great way to embrace our inner geekdom — especially because it’s something that can be done as a family.
Get together and go out for a walk, or a take a trip to a local park where you might find more gyms and PokeStops to take advantage of.
Nerd out Your Braces
Braces are a quintessential symbol of nerd-dom — every nerd in every movie in the last 20 years or so has worn these correctional orthodontic appliances, and while they can be uncomfortable, they’re just one more thing you can customize to show your nerdiness. Pick your colors carefully to represent your favorite characters:
- Red and Gold: Iron Man
- Purple and Green: The Hulk
- Red, Blue, Yellow: Superman
- Red, Blue, Gold: Wonder Woman
- Red and Blue: Spiderman
- Yellow and Black: Wolverine
- Orange and Green: Aquaman
The possibilities are endless! Showcase your love for your favorite superhero or nerd icon with your color bands.
Write All the Code
Programming careers are on the rise, but even if your nerds aren’t thinking about their future career, programming can be a great hobby and a great way to embrace your inner nerd.
You can start young, too — board games like Robot Turtles and CodeMaster are designed to help provide younger kids, even as young as four to five, with the foundations for programming. Once they’ve gotten a bit older, websites like Code.org and Codecademy offer free online classes that each the intricacies of each programming language.
Learn Something New Every Day
Being a nerd is all about knowing things, so to bring out that inner nerd, it’s important to keep learning new things every day. We’re not talking about the kind of stuff that your tweens are learning in school — you know no one actually wants to learn that stuff.
No, we’re talking about learning more about the things they’re interested in. It could be art, programming, science, writing or anything really — just make it a point to help them learn something new every day.
If you’re not sure where to start, take a look at these:
- TED Talks — These 15-30 minute videos are recorded by some of the greatest minds in the world.
- Coursera or eDX — You can take college courses for free online. They don’t count as credit toward a degree, but if all you’re worried about is learning something new, these can be a great tool.
Get Your Cosplay On
Cosplay doesn’t have to be a full costume only worn to a convention — it can be something you include in your daily wardrobe. Closet cosplay is the name for this kind of costuming. You design a cosplay based on your favorite character, or what your favorite character would wear while they were walking down the street.
Some characters are easy — they’ve got street clothes that fit well into any regular wardrobe. Other characters, however, might require some more creative license. Thankfully, there are plenty of sites to give you ideas to help your tweens embody their favorite characters.
Tabletop games are a great way to spend time together as a family while improving creativity, writing skills and problem-solving. You don’t have to play Dungeons and Dragons, either, even though that’s probably the most well-known tabletop game. There are dozens of different games you can pick from. Fight off hordes of zombies, play as a horde of zombies or play as a group of humans trying to fight off the Old Ones — the choice is entirely up to you!
The idea here is to get your tweens to think their way through problems, even if their characters are swinging the biggest mace in the game. Many of these games also designed to foster teamwork instead of competition — the one that we mentioned a moment ago that pits you against the Old Ones like Cuthulu can only be won if all the players work together.
When it comes down to it, being a nerd is an awesome thing in today’s world. Take the time to help your tweens bring out their inner nerd — they’ll thank you for it when they can be open about their love for things without feeling ashamed about it.