It is no secret I value creativity in my life. I see it as a lifeline. Creativity is one of the “words” I always use when describing myself. It is one of the first tanks that needs refueled when I am feeling stressed and overwhelmed. Thus, it is not surprising that I make it a priority in my children’s lives as well.
Earlier this year my sister asked me if I had ever read The Artful Parent by Jean Van’t Hul. I had not, but she just put two of my favorite words in a book, another favorite of mine, so clearly I was hooked. It was in my stack of library books the very next day. Full of lovely pictures of children just making, even Caroline was drawn to the book and admiring the art. So many wonderful takeaways, and her blog is an even lovelier space for inspiration and encouragement, I encourage you to pop over there (I’ll wait. If you are anything like me you may be there awhile.)
Seeing as art is already a part of my parenting, I wondered what I would learn. There are wonderful pages about the importance of art and creativity in your child’s life, how to talk to you child about art, and even a few fun activities to try. But what I really took away was the simple ways to incorporate art into your every day.
So often it is easy to say, “we don’t have time for art. We are too busy.” My role throughout the day is to provide a learning environment for my children but still I get to the end of the day and question what we even accomplished. But Van’t Hul offered some wonderful suggestions for little moments throughout the day when art is not only an easy fit, but also may be helpful to transitioning or completing other tasks. I felt this way this best advice I could offer anyone, even the parent who is not typically drawn to creative play or the parent who may only have morning or evening time with their children, or maybe even the person who isn’t a parent at all and may benefit from a little creativity in their lives.
Here are a few simple ways for making time to make throughout your day and how we have woven them into our lives.
Have simple art supplies on hand near the kitchen table so that in the few minutes while the child is waiting for a meal or when they are finished with a meal they can be creating. Not only does this help with transitions for the child but it is also those few minutes when they can be bugging you for food or whining because they are bored. Have an activity at their fingertips and they are ready to make.
For Caroline we have a silicone placemat and dry erase markers on our table every day. She doesn’t even need to ask. She knows that while she is waiting for her food to arrive she can color. Also, she has a tendency to finish eating long before we do and to encourage her to stay at the table with us, she will color. We love these placemats but you don’t need something specific to make this work. Any paper works great as a placemat. To make it reusable with dry erase markers, you can laminate it between contact paper or a fancy machine if you have one of those.
Another great art tool to have near the kitchen is playdough. While it may not be the kind of art that can be put on the refrigerator, playdough is a wonderful craft that involves hand work and imagination and forming something new, all elements of great creativity. Making your own playdough is easy and there are a bajillion recipes to find out there so have at it, google. This particular one was made in the fall with different fall scents. Yummm. Have a small one who might make playdough a snack? Give them a pile of cookie cutters while sitting in the high chair. Making noise is another form of creativity and they will love to be a part of the action. This is a great one for dinner prep because they can “help you” without actually “helping you,” if you know what I mean. Warning, you may find yourself distracted from the task you are trying to complete. Playdough has a way of drawing you in and not letting you go.
For those other times for art making, Van’t Hul suggests have all the supplies ready for a child before you begin the project. Simple and obvious, right? But here’s the problem I have when I do not do this. “Hey Caroline, do you want to do an art project?” “Sure!” Spend 10 minutes gathering the supplies. While laying out paint and going to look for the paper, she opens up the paint herself and dumps it onto the nearest pile of paper, probably an important tax form. “No! Ididn’t get the right paper yet! You aren’t wearing a smock! That’s not what we were going to do!” Or, another path, you finally find all the essential materials to make the most adorable collage for grandparent gifts and…”No thanks. I’m busy.” Sigh. There goes that.
Instead, The Artful Parent discusses how while a child is at school or before they wake from a nap, or maybe while they are busy with another activity, gather all the supplies to be ready as soon as you offer the activity. It is inspiring to walk into a creative space and see all the tools and do-dads and what-nots for making. There is no space for hesitation - you can just jump right in. This is great for when I have something specific in mind that I want to do, such as one afternoon when I wanted to have decorated wrapping paper. In the last 5 minutes of nap, I rolled out the big paper and I laid out the markers and paint. It was so inviting even Elliott wanted to get in on the fun.
What I think is important to remember is that art and creativity does not need a plan or an end goal. It does not need a seasonally specific agenda. More often than not, it is something that never even gets saved. There aren’t even very complicated supplies needed to get to work. Creating is the process that happens as imagination is expressed. It is this process that is so much more meaningful for the child and the parent. It is the process that brings life and nourishment and growth.
So get at it! Make time to make!