I do not feel like I am a creative person, at least when it comes to creating “something” from bare materials. Although as a teenager I learned how to embroider and I even had been known to sew myself a skirt, today I find myself impatient with the slow pace of those tasks. I took a pottery class and a drawing class at some point during high school, but those two artistic talents also try my patience so much that the pitiful end result is rather discouraging. Further, I have horrible handwriting, so my posters and cards are normally made from prints-outs from the computer. When I moved to Australia, I gave up on scrapbooking because Internet albums are much prettier and I’m online a lot so I can see them anytime.
Let’s face it: I’m a blogger and want-to-be photographer who rarely takes photographs (but I like tweaking them in Photoshop: instant results). I like to use computers creatively, but I do not create things completely from scratch. I know that practice makes perfect. But I don’t have patience to practice.
And yet, I have a two-year-old. He loves to “help” me cook, so I’ve turned to Play-Doh during those times when he’s really just in the way. Then I wanted him to make his grandparents a Christmas present, so we’ve been playing with markers and wooden ornaments for weeks. And he loves it.
So, thanks to my son’s budding creativity, I decided to pick up The Creative Family: How to Encourage Imagination and Nurture Family Connections by Amanda Blake Soule, which Lisa and Eva reviewed recently. In some respects, I found Soule’s book to be a life-shifting book for me as a mother.
No, I’m not suddenly going to be become a proponent of “unschooling” as Soule is. Soule’s philosophies are a bit extreme for me. But Soule’s book was, for me, a creative recharge that I needed. She shares my opinion that kids don’t need big plastic toys with batteries to have a happy Christmas childhood. She helped me see what I could do with my son instead.
Interspersed with gorgeous photos of her children and their creative projects and pursuits, Soule discusses what creative things mothers can do with small children. She focuses on the materials, including how to be resourceful. She explores the ways in which art can be play, how art encourages imagination, and the ways that children can create gifts we can be proud of. She explores how the arts can be the center point of mothering, and she talks about how creative output can connect a family together.
As I look back now, I can’t recall what specific thing in this short (215-page) book spurred me into action. Was it the idea of creating a “station” for a child to call his own creative corner? Was it the sample projects she shared, with patterns? Or was it the pictures of rather beautiful art created by her very young children? At any rate, I feel motivated to stop delegating my son’s care to toys and movies. It’s time I help him create in whatever ways I can.
When I see him discover Play-Doh or crayons, his eyes light up in delight and I know that for him the end result isn’t what matters. For him, it’s the joy of creating, of putting a marker on the paper and seeing a line appear. I don’t even have to purchase a coloring book for that light to come into his eyes: I need to hand him a crayon and a paper.
For Christmas, I was aiming for low-key, since I don’t think Christmas should be primarily about gifts. Now I’m feeling rather embarrassed by the idea, but I was going to give my son a second-hand plastic castle a friend gave me. It’s in good shape, and I think he’d really enjoy playing with it. It has all sorts of reactions: touch this and the stairs unfold, etc. But it was huge and ugly, so I took it to Goodwill this week.
Instead, I’m setting up a bulletin board near his desk in the playroom to become a new “creative corner.” I bought watercolors, and we have markers, crayons, Play-Doh, etc. I’m also making a felt “weather board” for his bedroom, so every morning when we look outside, we can choose the sun or the snowflakes or the rain or the clouds. I feel like I’ve suddenly gone insane with creative ideas for my little son. (I’ll post pictures of my creations if all turns out all right.)
For the record, my son does not have a lot of plastic toys. But he has some, and if I took away his choo-choo train and cars, he’d certainly let me know he is upset. Besides, he uses them in a creative way:
If you can’t tell, that’s one of the Wise Men (from the Little People Nativity) driving in the train. They choo-choo up to the stable, the people get on, and then my son waves “Bye! Bye” to Mary and Jesus before the train leaves again. (P.S. I hope you don’t find that offensive or irreverent. I personally think the Little People Nativity is great because I don’t want my son touching any of my other nativities, and I have about a dozen non-touchables. The Little People Nativity is his to play with for December as consolation. Besides, he apparently understands that Jesus stays and the Wise Men come to visit. He’s learning the story!)
Are you creating gifts this Christmas?
I noticed that Chris at book-a-rama has a list of homemade ideas for you if you’re feeling creative!