Welcome to the August Carnival of Natural Parenting: Creating With Kids
This post was written for inclusion in the monthly Carnival of Natural Parenting hosted by Hobo Mama and Code Name: Mama. This month our participants have shared how they make messes and masterpieces with children. Please read to the end to find a list of links to the other carnival participants.
We engage in plenty of hands-on activities around here, but I still consider myself more of a crafty mom wannabe. I love the idea of crafting with my children, but I’m averse to the mess that sometimes comes along with it (although I’ve become much more laid-back when it comes to messy chaos as my family has grown). And the truth is, I’m not so good with using my hands to create (unless the creation happens to be words pieced together with the combination of my hands and a pen or a keyboard).
It’s not that I’m not creative. I had a runaway imagination as a kid and used to immerse myself in some pretty intense imaginary play. The rope hammock in our family’s backyard was a giant spiderweb; our pool an enchanted lake. I still don’t have any problem coming up with creative ideas, and a lot of my friends call me creative, but making the inspiration in my head come alive in a 3-D, Technicolor reality through the world of crafting and art can be more of a challenge for me.
I remember loving to doodle when I was younger, although I never thought of myself as an artist or even as someone who had much (if any) artistic talent at all. The artists in my family were my dad and older brother. Oh, and my mom painted briefly, and I love what her brush strokes created (we have one of her paintings hanging in our powder room), but she doesn’t think she’s talented either. My younger brother was the athlete. And I was the drama queen, equestrian, singer, and dreamer (and sometimes brooder).
Still, even when I was all grown up, I can remember doodling on the margins of legal pads during a slow meeting at work. There was something soothing about drawing vines studded with flowers along the edge of my paper or even just writing my name in a fancy script.
When I became a mom, I knew I wanted to nurture creativity in my own children. I wanted to arm them with toys that were open-ended and encouraged creative play. The batteries-not-included variety. It turns out my kids didn’t need much prompting from me. Each of my daughters’ minds is a hot bed for creativity. They find inspiration in everything. Rocks become little animals. Flowers homes for fairies. A simple blanket is a magic carpet, a superhero’s cape, and then a colorful howdah atop an elephant in India.
It was so refreshing to realize that my children didn’t need much or any real prodding from me. We didn’t need to produce elaborate crafts either. We’ve stuck to simple craft times. Sure, I sometimes seek out inspiration from some of the uber mom crafters out there, but I try not to be competitive or comparative.
One of the most treasured – and simple – traditions we’ve embraced more recently is regular family draw time. Amanda Soule’s wonderful The Creative Family: How to Encourage Imagination and Nurture Family Connections inspired us to start this last fall. The girls and I each have our own sketch pad that we only pull out during designated “family draw times.” We doodle whatever we want. Madeline has drawn everything from a pirate to a portrait of what our baby might look like. (I’ve shared some of the art below for our mini art show!) We also date each picture, so we’ll have a record of what was on our mind as well as our artistic progress.
At first, I picked up my own set of markers and colored pencils just to encourage my children to do the same. I wasn’t really thinking I’d get much out of drawing or that I’d even be able to come up with many ideas to sketch out. Remember, I’ve never thought of myself as an artist! But, surprisingly, I immediately took to the activity and found ample serenity in the simple act of using my hand to produce something as elementary as a set of shaded shapes with the help of some stencils. I also found that, like my children, I had endless ideas about what to draw.
Now I sometimes suggest we have family draw time when I feel emotions are running high, we’re all on edge, or the weather keeps us from moving about outside. A few crayons and a sketch pad never fail to bring peace to our home – and our hearts.
This designated art period has also helped boost the confidence of Rae, my middle child. Madeline, my oldest, has loved to draw from the time she could first hold a crayon. While most 15-month-olds probably eat any crayons they could get a hold of, I used to tape a piece of paper to my daughter’s high chair while I cooked dinner, and she would doodle for 20 minutes or more.
She still loves to draw, and everyone is always commenting on her artwork, and I started to notice that we were inadvertently labeling her as the artist of the family.
One day Rae scribbled something for me and after placing it in my hands, she said, “I can’t draw like Maddy.” Her words crushed me, and I realized that we all needed to draw simply because it was fun and try not to make a big fuss over what the finished product turned out to be. So much of art is subjective anyway. There are people who find refined beauty in modern art; I personally have always been drawn to Impressionism (and I can always see the genius in my children’s doodles!).
Likewise, I needed to silence my own inner critic and not say things like, “I’m not much of an artist,” or even, “I’m not very good with crafts.”
We just needed to draw, craft, or create for the simple joy of it.
One book that has really inspired me to encourage all of my children (and myself to draw) is Mona Brooks’s Drawing with Children. Brooks is the founder of the Monart Method, which hinges on the belief that everyone can learn to draw, develop their own style, and become artists. Her book not only provides easy-to-follow art lessons to use at home with your children, but it also offers suggestions for parents on how to create a home environment where self-expression and creativity are encouraged. We haven’t actually started the book’s formal lessons yet, but its philosophy alone has helped me to see that “drawing is a teachable subject and artistic talent can be developed” (p. 7).
I help invite the artist within to come out of each of my children – even those who don’t see themselves as having natural artistic ability. In fact, it’s the children who may not immediately pick up a crayon and start drawing who may need the most encouragement of all.
“…some of the most resistant [art] students come from a family with a designated artist as one of its members. These children often refuse to draw at all out of fear of being compared with the artist in the family.”
I knew I didn’t want my Rae to stop trying to draw out of the fear that she wasn’t as talented as Madeline. So, ironically, it was my more reluctant artist who really inspired me to initiate family draw time.
What’s more, I desire all of my children to draw, paint, sculpt, and create just because they enjoy it, and it forces us to slow down and use our imaginations in a life that can sometimes feel like a relay race. Our family draw time has shown us that drawing just for the sake of drawing is a wonderful outlet.
Brooks shares other guidelines on how to give the artist within our children (and within us) the permission to unfold such as remembering that there is no right or wrong way to draw (and I’ll say the same for crafting!), listening to your “silent critic” and learning to retrain it and stop judging yourself, and being patient and keeping in mind that all artists – even “real” artists – are not always completely satisfied with everything they produce.
At any rate, I highly recommend the book – and I highly recommend establishing your own family draw time – even if it’s just for 20 minutes a week.
Without further ado, here’s a small sampling of some of the artwork we’ve created during our own family draw time. (Mary Elizabeth, who’s only 2, sometimes draws along with us, but I’m only featuring the older artists for today.)
*Oh, and please forgive the photo quality. Pictures were quickly captured using a Smart Phone.
Please take time to read the submissions by the other carnival participants:
- Family Draw Time Art Show — Kate Wicker shares art (and inspiration!) from her family’s cherished tradition of family draw time.
- The Rules of Creativity: Learning to Create with the “Non-Creative” — Zoe at Give an Earthly shares how she learned to accept her “non-creative” child and claims that anyone, child or adult, can be creative given the right handling and environment.
- Creating With Kids: 4 Ways That Work For Us — See how Kristin at Intrepid Murmurings nurtures creativity with her kids through craft projects, outdoor creative play, celebrating the creative process, and setting up “little spaces of beauty.”
- Creating memories, not things — Mrs. Green from Little Green Blog reflects on life with a ten year old and how ‘creating together’ has evolved from ‘things’ to memories.
- The Gift of Creation — It may be hot, but Kellie at Our Mindful Life is already thinking about winter.
- Hidden Talents — Sylvia at MaMammalia describes how providing the opportunity for creativity sometimes means learning to look for hidden talents in unusual places.
- Creating Joy — CatholicMommy at Working to be Worthy shares how she and her one year-old son create joy for their community.
- How to do Crafts with Kids — Gaby from Tmuffin guest posts at Natural Parents Network and describes how to keep things simple when doing crafts with kids for magical (easy-to-clean, and tantrum-free) results.
- Sugar & Spice & Baking on the Kitchen Floor — Carrie at Love Notes Mama enjoys making a mess in the kitchen with her daughter.
- Young Scientist Makes Purple Potion — Hannah at Wild Parenting loves being a lab assistant for the young scientist in her life.
- Making a butterfly house — Lauren at Hobo Mama demonstrates the proper way to build a wooden butterfly house with a preschooler.
- Nurturing Creativity — Amyables at Toddler In Tow shares the enjoyment she feels in nurturing the creativity of her children.
- Home School Music – Sparking A New Generation Of Musicians — Based on her musical background, Chante at My Natural Motherhood Journey talks about how she creates with and teaches music to her children.
- Creating (im)perfectly Together — Mudpiemama shares some of the highlights of a summer spent building everything from ships to hoops but most of a lesson on letting go of perfection.
- Family Soccer Kick Around — When her children wanted to play soccer, Mandy at Living Peacefully with Children helped organize something that would work for her family.
- Creating Memories Together on Skype — Deb Chitwood at Living Montessori Now tells how you can create memories online with adult children or anyone who lives in another city or country.
- We’ll always have Halloween: Creating costumes for kids — Jessica Claire at Crunchy-Chewy Mama is not the craftiest mom on the block, but she does make a mean homemade Halloween costume.
- Let’s Make Juice! — Wendylori at High Needs Attachment shares about the benefits of juicing with kids, as well as a quick recipe.
- Everything’s Better When It’s Homemade — Amanda at Let’s Take the Metro praises the art of homemade goods.
- Creating the Opportunity for Art — Jenn at Monkey Butt Junction shares how her family has created an environment conducive to art.
- 10 Easy and Functional Crafts Preschoolers Can Do with Minimal Assistance — Dionna at Code Name: Mama offers ten easy crafts preschoolers can do while sitting near parents — but they don’t need a lot of parental help. Added bonus: all of these ten ideas double as something functional (gifts, decor, educational).
- Creating with Kids: Singing Together — Ana at Pandamoly details the important role music takes in her household and provides a quick (and easy!) tutorial for creating fun songs to sing together!
- Create This — jessica at instead of institutions considers different aspects of creativity including those without an end product.
- Make Your Own Pocket Bib — A tutorial from Amy at Anktangle on how to make two simple and quick bibs to keep your little one clean at the table.
- Creating Together in the Kitchen — Despite not feeling “crafty,” Momma Jorje finds a way to create and connect with her toddler.
- An Artist-Mama’s Perspective — In this post, Shannon at The Artful Mama discusses the differences between her choice of artistic outlet and her son’s, and how they embrace those differences together.
- Heart of the Home — Jona at Life, Intertwined shares some highlights of cooking with kids.
- Getting creative with kids — Isil at Smiling like Sunshine shares how much she enjoys watching her daughter getting creative.
- Creating with Children – The Nature/Seasonal Table — Jennifer at Hybrid Rasta Mama celebrates the rhythm of the natural world with her toddler through the creation of a seasonal nature table.
- How Involving My Kid Saves My Sanity — The Happy Hippie Homemaker explains how involving her toddler in projects allows her to get more done, while providing valuable opportunities to teach and to bond (added bonus: amazing oatmeal raisin cookie recipe!).
- In the Kitchen with Kids — Cooking with Real and Pretend Food — Terri from Child of the Nature Isle engages her kids in the kitchen with culinary creations of both real and pretend food.