Lots of folks have asked how Schizz and I encourage creativity in our children, and few have suggested I write a post on the topic. I have to be completely honest with you guys. Initially I found the question to be a challenging one and I think it’s because I view children as inherently creative beings. I don’t feel like we do anything, really.
But then I reflected a bit more and I think that’s just it. You need only provide space and materials and then get out of their way. It’s the staying-out-of-the-way-and-just-letting-it-happen part that I think may be difficult for some people, especially when glitter is involved. So, without further ado, I present to you the ways in which Schizz and I encourage creativity in our children:
Provide access to a variety of art materials
In our playroom, we have an old, rustic cabinet and almost all of our art and craft materials are housed therein. I like to save money as much as the next guy but sometimes it is worth the extra cost for the name brand. Know which materials it’s okay to save money on and which ones to pay full price for. I’ve tried a lot of crayons in my day and I keep going back to Crayola. Quality in art materials can go a long way. Paints, canvas, paper, paintbrushes, palettes, clay, glitter, glue, beads, buttons, feathers, sequins, googly eyes, gel pens, markers, crayons, do-a-dots, stamps and ink pads, scissors, hole punches, tape, stapler, string, pipe cleaners, felt, stickers, stencils, rubbing plates, coloring books, needles and thread, origami, etc. You name it, it’s in that cabinet somewhere.
In addition to this access in our playroom, our children have a basket with crayons, markers, and pens in their bedrooms. My boys keep these materials in their closets, where they have made a cozy nook for themselves, while T keeps them on a table in her bedroom. Access to materials encourages both creativity and writing.
Rotate the materials every so often, or add something new
That white cabinet that you see above? It’s a mess folks! Every now and then, I’ll rearrange some of the stuff in that cabinet so that my kids can rediscover something that has been there all along (I do the same thing with books– nothing encourages reading more than rediscovering an old love!).
Allow for mess
I feel like a lot of parents have the art materials, but they do not necessarily allow their children full access to these materials. If your goal is creativity, you must allow for mess. My three year old has access to everything, glitter included. Yes, clean up can be a challenge. No, my floors are not sparkling. But that’s why I have this sign in my kitchen:
If you are worried about clean-up, encourage more independence. When your kids are using the easel, provide a soapy bucket for paint brushes- that will make clean up easier later on. Provide access to cleaning supplies and wet wipes and let those creative little hands help you.
Children are born creative, so just leave them be and they will astound you. Resist the temptation to interfere, or to clean while they work. Try to say yes more. Let them use the glitter! Allow them to use materials in unexpected ways. Thinking outside the box is a hallmark of creativity.
Reuse and Recycle!
I get a ridiculous amount of paper in the mail and in my children’s backpacks (Note: have you heard of Paperkarma? It’s a free app to cut down on snail mail). Most of the paper I receive is blank on one side so we reuse it for art. I save shoe boxes, paper towel and toilet paper rolls, and cardboard for projects. The kids also have access to our recycling bin.
Get messy with them
Some of my most treasured moments with my children have occurred during creative moments. Don’t be afraid to get your hands dirty. You might surprise yourself with how much fun you have!
Show them that you value creativity
Get excited about their creativity! Smile even when the glitter is flying. Ask questions about their process, use of materials, or use of color. Share with them what you like about their work. Show them that you value their art by putting it in a special place. I hang my children’s art in various places throughout our home and Schizz will often bring special art into work with him to display in his office. Remember to put dates on the back of works of art; it’s fun to look back and see progress over time. Along these lines, Leo has always had a strong inclination toward art. When he turned five, he wanted to have an art-themed birthday party. We got all of our ideas from Pinterest (I saved a bunch of pins here) and had a blast in our backyard. The same year, Leo wanted to turn his room into an art studio. It was the perfect way to display the work of such a prolific little artist and demonstrate to him that creativity is important.
Nowadays, one needs only to log into Pinterest to find a gazillion creative ideas, but if you are interested in other resources, I’ll share some of our favorites from over the years.
Host a Craft Swap:
If you want a stash of crafts but you don’t want to pay for one of the monthly arts and crafts boxed subscriptions, why not host a craft swap? My momtourage did this a couple of times and it saved me on sick days and when I was sick as a dog while pregnant with Seuss. You’ve all heard of a cookie swap, right? Well, it operates on the same principle. Someone hosts a party and everyone arrives with x-many (depending on the number of children represented by moms at the party) ziplock baggies. Each baggie contains the materials and instructions for one craft. The moms hang out, chit-chat, have some vino, and then go home with a tote bag full of instant crafts to keep kids entertained on a rainy day.
Those boxed crates are fun:
Over the years, my children have, at one point or another, had subscriptions to Kiwi Crate, Tinker Crate, and Doodle Crate. Another amazing crate to check out is Groovy Lab in a Box. We are fortunate to have received these subscriptions as gifts. Guaranteed fun in a box each month. These subscriptions make fantastic gifts!
Books & Magazines:
Babar’s Museum of Art by Laurent De Brunhoff
Discovering Great Artists: Hands on Art for Children in the Styles of the Great Masters by MaryAnn F. Kohl and Kim Solga (This is a must have for homeschoolers!)
Ed Emberley has a ton of books that teach young children how to draw. (We love his Make a World, Drawing Book of Animals, Drawing Book of Weirdos, Drawing Book of Trucks and Trains, and his Drawing Book of Faces.)
First Art: Art Experiences for Toddlers and Twos by MaryAnn F. Kohl with Renee Ramsey and Dana Bowman
Stone Soup Magazine (This magazine publishes art and stories created by children!)
And, because STEM is so closely related to art, check out anything by David Macaulay (we especially adore The New Way Things Work, The Way We Work: Getting to Know the Amazing Human Body, and Castle) and also Steven Caney’s Ultimate building Book!
On the Web:
And there it is, folks! I hope this post was helpful. If you have a question, or if there is a topic that you’d like us to write about, please let me know. You can comment here, shoot me an email, or contact me through Facebook. I love hearing from you all!
Every artist was first an amateur.
~Ralph Waldo Emerson