How to help kids CREATE

>> Thursday, September 23, 2010

An epically long post. Good luck. :) 

From August 2010

So, I don't really know about your kids, but my kids like to "make stuff" or as Henry says, "make 'ventions" (Translated to mean "make inventions.") They love LOVE to cut stuff up and stick it to other stuff. They love the paint, they love to color, to sculpt, to cook... really they love it all.

I was fighting them constantly when they'd raid the ribbon stash or cut up papers that absolutely should NOT have been cut up. It was driving me crazy. Not to mention the HUGE SHARP scissors they'd find to accomplish the job.

CRAZY, I say.

And it was all my fault. I was totally stifling them. My demand that they not play with scissors, or NOT cut up string was just not going to work. They would NOT stop. I kind of think they COULD not stop.

So, the old cliche, if you can't beat 'em, join 'em became my new mantra.

And thus the CREATE box was born.

This is not a fancy box full of expensive art supplies. It is not a special box pulled out only for special occasions. It is the "Everyday" art box.

It contains the following:
White scratch paper from the printer (great for one-sided art, cutting and gluing)
Construction paper (I do control the flow of construction paper into the box)
Scissors (safety of course!)
A hole punch
A skein of cheap yarn
Fabric scraps
Toilet paper rolls
Glue sticks
White glue
Sculpting dough of some kind (sometimes, this one isn't a constant.)
Plastic water bottles (seriously, it's amazing what kids will come up!)
Paper cups

You could add:
Pipe cleaners
Popsicle sticks (we're all out!)
Fuzzy pompoms
Foam sheets

It's not terribly organized because my kids trash it regularly, and they definitely have their favorite items, but each and every one is something I don't mind them using. Watercolors even are extremely low on the messy scale. Markers and crayons I do monitor to ensure lids get replaced and that crayons aren't left for baby brothers to do wall art with, but other than that, they are free.

Children, in my own opinion, need lots and LOTS of free time, to play, explore and learn. Besides, I don't have the time or energy or ability to provide them with 100% structured "creative" time. We do some, for school, but otherwise, they can run and play inside and out and cut and glue for the vast majority of the day.
From August 2010

Of course, my children are VERY young, and if yours are older, then their needs will differ. However, I also live with my 16 year old brother, and he takes great pleasure (although he wouldn't admit it) to a little creative play himself. Heck, so do I! And I bet, so do you!

So, knowing your children intimately and knowing their needs, and perhaps with their input, make a CREATE box that is all theirs. If your kid is totally into glue but has no interest in paints, then go from there. If you're not sure what your kids like or would use, get a lot of cheap materials, and let them learn what they like.

A lot of times when this kind of creative freedom is new, kids won't quite know what to do with it. They'll ask you to help a lot. While help is fine, the more you can encourage them to do it themselves, with their own abilities, the better. If you always do it for them, how will they learn what they can do, and what they LIKE to do?

A couple of "extra points"  I feel should apply:

1. No "coloring books" of any kind should ever EVER be a part of the CREATE box. Ever. I'm not joking.

2. Try not to control what your kids do. Don't tell them "go make me a flower." Let them go with their own flow. If they are not used to that freedom (school can squelch that a bit) then gentle suggestions and prodding is fine. Don't MAKE them make stuff. Just allow them the freedom to explore it all. Don't force it. They'll do it all on their own if given the freedom to try.

3. Don't let them multi-task when they are creating. By that I mean, no TV or WII. Turn it all off. Music in the background is great, but any kind of visual stimuli should be turned off.

4. Don't be surprised if CREATE time ends up being small increments throughout a day or a few days. My littles don't really sit for hours on end and do projects. They create for a bit, run off, come back, do some more, just like how they play anyway. If your kids are older and in school, have the CREATE box around so they can dip into it when social studies makes them want to cry. Or for a bit before bed, or whenever. Just having it around, and free to be used it important.

5. You don't have to save and immortalize EVERYTHING they create. Take pictures and save them digitally if they are really incredible creations. Otherwise, don't hesitate to say "goodbye" to stuff when they've finished playing with it, or it gets ruined. Otherwise projects will take over your life. I just recently threw away a "blow gun" Henry created with an apple, a straw and a water bottle. The apple had gone mushy. Ew.

And if your kids span a large age range, create "age appropriate" boxes. Bigs, littles, teens, etc. Keep the box(es) accessible and check it periodically for supplies.

Don't be shy! If you need a CREATE box all your own, I am a big fan of that idea as well. You're never too old or too busy, I say. If you're an empty-nester or a single person without a family, why can't you CREATE a bit as well? Who cares if you're "good" at it or if it looks nice, just try. You might surprise yourself.



Katy B. September 25, 2010 at 3:58 PM  

I love it! We need a create box in our home. Thanks for the idea!

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