My NOW is ikatbag, a blog where I write about cardboard, fabric, children and the various permutations thereof. Before I became a wife and mother, I was a high school Physics teacher. I missed both my students and the feeling of being in a classroom with them. I started ikatbag because I wanted to write tutorials. In a sense, it's like a classroom without walls where I get to teach what I want and everyone gets to learn if they want to. I've been sewing and playing with cardboard since I was a very little girl, but doing it with and teaching it to the kids (and my readers!), adds such a fabulous new twist to creating. It certainly leaves the kids and me breathless!
I think that in the light of this current modern craft and sewing movement, it can be tempting to define creativity in terms of art, craft or making new and beautiful things. We try to do that in our home too because we love it and because it's something small children can easily get excited about. And they are naturally good at it. However, being able to ingeniously solve problems is an even more important part of creativity. I blame the teacher-beast in me that I've not been able to beat down into retirement!
Watching them play would be my number one motivation! It's what inspires almost everything I make for them and it also gives me new ideas for things to do with them. It could be something as simple as painting a piece of wood or something far more complex, like designing a board game or a vet clinic. In most cases, it happens because I eavesdrop on their conversation during their play and think, "Hey! I bet they'd enjoy this… or that…." Then we take out the art supplies, cardboard and fabric, and take their original idea off on a different tangent (or two).
Exposure and experimenting. My own parents are very creative people. Mum sews, bakes, does all kinds of other things and makes it look so easy. Dad used to be a teacher. He taught, among other subjects, art.
My brother and I always had all kinds of good art supplies around the house, even more than we had toys. My secret wish as a child was to have an entire room stocked with even more art and craft materials, particularly of the sort which I'd heard about but never actually had seen. Dad always let us have access to whatever supplies and woodworking tools we wanted. Since he and mum were always making something, we had a lot of exposure to different art and craft forms...Sewing, woodworking, food, fiber arts and paper craft, to name a few .
I find myself now unconsciously living that same philosophy in our home with our kids. They will learn from what they see me do and what they're allowed to do. We invest in art supplies and as many crafting materials as we can find space for, including a collection of corrugated cardboard. The kids have access to everything, provided they let me know when we're running low. There's nothing more irresponsible and irksome than taking the last bit of cardboard and not saying so. It is a state of emergency to be out of cardboard in our house!
1. We must not try to be other people.
Blogs, magazines and craft movements are very powerful motivators, but they can also be frightfully intimidating. Pinterest is fabulous, but it can also be distracting. Some of us can only cope with quick projects. Some of us are bored with quick projects. Some of us are naturally drawn to new things. Some of us are happiest doing traditional things. Do with your kids what you're passionate about and they will catch it from you. This is because you are phenomenally excellent at what is naturally interesting to you. I also don't believe you have to be good at one million forms of craft. I mean, kids don't have to be taught everything. If they can learn the basics and concepts, (how to draw straight lines, how to mix paint colors, how to sew a seam, how to fold and glue cardboard) they can take off on their own and surprise you with how innovative they are.
2. We must teach our kids limits.
Especially teach them how to give up. It sounds contrary to the "Never Quit" thing that everyone is supposed to hold to, but this is creativity, not perfecting a batting swing or running laps around the track. We're also not talking about the need to put a project aside because it's time for bed or about the wisdom in letting children figure out a new concept for themselves. Kids often don't know what the limits are beyond which something ceases to be productive. My kids often watch me make a cardboard thing with my glue gun in half an hour and think they can do the same in ten minutes with their desiccated glue stick. When they were even younger, they would repeatedly and continuously try something completely unfeasible and I'd have to step in, pry the roll of masking tape out of their grip and literally tell them, "Sweetheart, you need to give up now. You've tried. Stop. Stop. It's not working." I didn't even tell them to try something else (another popular philosophy) because by that time, they needed to completely surrender and step away. No one was more surprised than I at how simultaneously ironic and useful that approach turned out to be, or how my kids actually needed the "permission" to give up. Sometimes they returned when they felt ready to work at the project again and other times they never did. Either way, they were no longer in that state of frustration that had stymied their ideas and ability to think. And I don't believe their creativity suffered in the least from stepping away.
Anything that "does" something. Recently we did a craft that involved adding face stickers to little windows on cardboard cutouts to form a city scene. My middle daughter asked me what it did. After a stunned silence, I explained that it was a fun and creative way for little artists to populate cardboard buildings with inhabitants, to which she responded, "Well, that's not a craft. That's just decoration." I was both amused and horrified at the suggestion that only items that "did" things counted as bona fide crafts. Looking back over the things we've made together, I'd say that any project that took a long time to develop, had a high open-ended play factor, was 3D with moving parts and had a lot of coloring involved, were favorites. Some of these include the Greengrocer Shop, the Faraway Tree, the Foam Dirt, the Chickens, the Magnetic Bakery and the Barbie Dollhouse.