where creativity led to today

inspired by a book, but making it his own.

 

big E introduces yac (his phonetic spelling) and cat.

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creativity and the little one

My oldest little one, big E, well, he loves to craft. Markers, glue, scissors, and lots of paper make for a happy boy. And I encouraged it from the start. I left out the paints and crayons and all the needed tools – a choice he could make anytime of day. And it was going great until about the age of 3. With being older and more skilled, I noticed more messes that resulted from bigger projects. So materials started disappearing off the shelves, I began encouraging him to choose other works, even getting angry and stressed over the mess (ultimately, he gets in so deep, he needs rescuing and help cleaning up – not cool when  we had a newborn). The other day on the verge of losing it yet again, I was finishing up my Facebook time. A friend found a link to a YouTube video of Sir Ken Robinson, who I had actually had the pleasure of hearing speak at the AMI Refresher Course back on February 14, 2009. Here is the video I got to hear yesterday. It is long, but worth the listen in my opinion. While I listened, I ignored the crafting table. Twenty minutes later, this is what he brought over to me:

Lesson learned. When I keep my nose out of it, he is a happy creative boy. And the paper pieces, open scissors, glue stick on its side, pencil rolling on the floor? He was also very willing to clean up the resulting mess after he was done working. And when I had to pick little scraps off the floor that night that he overlooked, I was just fine with it.

Some tips for crafting with young children:

– There is no need to make every project a parent-child project. While it is great to make a project you have seen in a magazine or do a big one together, this does not and should not be the bulk of your child’s crafting. They are creative thinkers and need time to work on their own ideas, not someone else’s.

– After showing a child how to carefully write and draw with crayons/marker/pencils, put an age appropriate amount out on an accessible shelf. Make sure to include a mat to protect your table and paper that fits onto the mat. If you have a low table for them to work at, this is even better. They need a place to work at that fits their body and is always there when they want to work. If your kitchen table is your craft table, a lot of struggles may ensue when it is time to set the table for dinner and the crafting materials are still in use!  At first, you may have to remind the child where they can write (on the paper). But what happens when they do not? Well, without a lot of fuss, have them clean up the mess they made with you and then put them up, out of sight, for one day, two days… Later, give them a chance again, demonstrating again where they can write. For a young toddler or young child, it is important to state where they CAN draw, not where they CANNOT draw.

– As a child is able to be trusted with one medium, make more room on the shelf for a second, or rotate in new choices. Crayons, colored pencils, markers, oil pastels, chalk, clay, watercolors. Introduce them and make sure they have everything handy to use them. For instance, to do watercolors, they need high quality paper, a mat, a brush, a bowl for water, a pitcher to get more water, and a bucket to put dirty water in. You do not want them emptying that tiny rinse cup in the bathroom if they have to cross two white rugs to get there! And don’t forget the sponge or rag to wipe up drips and spills. They will happen and there is no quicker way to kill creativity and discourage working with art materials than to yell over the mess. Trust me, I know.

– When crafting together is happening, make each project your own. Your work and your child’s work. You choose your colors, design, and medium. Allow your child the same freedoms. It may not be what you would choose, but what a sense of independence and satisfaction with their own work at the end! And if they do not like their work at the end? Well, they are then able to reflect on their own choices, not a parent’s choice.

– And if you absolutely cannot tolerate the idea of crayons and markers at first, start with sticker and paper. Put something in their hands. Trust them and you may be happily surprised.

Here are two setups we are using for our boys.

I put out coloring for the very young child at one, watercolors for the older child at the other. Notice that the crayon set up has only three chunky crayons and only white paper for the youngest artist. This helps to focus the toddler on how crayons work and what they are making. Chunky beeswax crayons write well and are easy to hold. The white table and low chair are from Michael Olaf. They served big E from sitting age to about 3. For the watercolor set up, since the older child has more concentration, they are able to set up the materials, use them, and clean them up. It is a bigger work, more responsibility. The green table and blue chair were garage sale finds (with dings to show it). The table is from Ikea. The chairs are old school chairs my mother passed along to us. With two chairs it is great for snacks with friends or crafting with friends. There are lots of options out there. Just find one that fits your child, cutting down table legs if you must.