For the longest time my kids wanted nothing to do with anything creative.
If ever I suggested they sit and color a page in a book, they would look at me like I had grown a third eye, and even when I coaxed them into doing it, it always ended with a prompt “MOOOOOM…this is BOOOORING!!!!”
I realize that not everyone is going to be an artist, but still it bothered me that my kids seemed incapable of sitting quietly unless it involved a screen of some sort. Sure, they were old pros at running, jumping, biking, skating, and otherwise playing loudly, but it still seemed that enjoying some quiet time while encouraging their creativity was a life skill we needed to work on.
So, a few months ago, I set out to encourage their creativity…and gasp!…get them to like it.
Here’s how I did it:
1. Turn off the screens. I’m not anti-TV, and I’m not here to lecture you on the evils of technology. That being said, even though we did cut cable a couple of years ago, I found that my kids (and I!) were still in the habit of watching Netflix first thing in the morning.
One day, I just didn’t flip it on for them. After a bit (okay, a lot) of whining, and the mama ignoring, they found their way to the craft space. Months later, they regularly start their day making something or another in their jammies.
2. Have a cleared off, large, flat surface where they can create. Now, I will admit that I’m extra lucky that my dad is a carpenter and built me this awesome desk. But it doesn’t have to be a custom space, or even a desk to make it work.
Allowing your kids to use the kitchen table (even if it means clearing up breakfast ASAP!) or laying out a tablecloth on your formal dining room table (even if it means a messy room!) will work perfectly.
They just need a space to spread out. I find that if they feel cramped, they give up quickly and soon start begging for a movie.
3. Have a wide variety of craft supplies easily accessible. I finally gave up on trying to have “mom’s craft stuff” and “kids’ craft stuff”. Instead, our desk drawers are filled with both of our things and the shelves are lined with baskets of twine, glitter, washi tape and buckets of every coloring instrument imaginable.
Even at 4 and 6 years old, I let my kids have mostly free reign with the supplies. Yes, even the glitter. I’ve found that they rise to the occasion if given the opportunity and are much less messy than my imagination gave them credit for.
4. Be okay with random. The concoctions my kids put together often make no sense. Plastic jewels are glued to haphazardly cut scrapbook paper and then painted over. It isn’t always pretty, but they keep themselves busy for hours. Happily. Quietly.
The perfectionist in me wants to scold them for “wasting” supplies, or jump in and “help” them, but in the end, giving them the freedom to create how THEY want to without a hovering, correcting parent is what makes the creating fun.
5. Periodically organize, clean out, and restock supplies. Coloring isn’t much fun when all you have is a small nub of a crayon, and glue is just an exercise in frustration when the cap is dried shut.
My kids are pretty good about cleaning up after their art sessions, but sometimes it’s nice to have a grown-up go through everything and make it pretty and organized again. Few things are more inviting than an organized space and freshly sharpened pencils.
6. Surprise them with new (simple) supplies or projects from time to time. Every once in a while, I’ll come home with a package of foam sheets, or a new color of glitter, or even a simple wooden birdhouse ready for painting.
Sometimes I tell them, and sometimes I tuck the item into the desk drawers and let the kids find them. Often they start with the new product, and keep right on going. For hours. Did I mention they will do this for hours?
Had you told me a year ago that my kids would sit down and create art quietly on their own accord for hours at a time (much less first thing in the morning with zero TV time), I would have laughed in your face. Surely you hadn’t met my loud, rambunctious crew.
But with a little bit of advance planning, a secret vow to not nag or interfere, and standing my ground against the Boredom of the Century because I wouldn’t turn on a movie, I couldn’t be more thrilled with a crew that not only makes things, but likes doing it.
Do your kids like to create? How do you encourage them to do something that doesn’t involve running around like crazies or a screen?