Montag, 14. März 2016

Creativity for the Littles

When my eldest child (now going on 11) was little, he liked to make things, as most small children do.  But he was my first, and my only, and we did everything together, and I had not yet mastered the art of "benign neglect".  So when my first little guy did crafts, it often involved me saying, "Hey, you could make THIS and here's how you do it."  And then there were cries of "But I can't!  Help me!  You do it!" from his clumsy, little self and I would help.  Maybe too much.  He enjoyed the projects, but perhaps my help did not further the growth of his creative muscles.  Oh well, live and learn.

Firstborn, modeling one of "his" projects.

So now, with more children and less time, I have learned the art of "strewing".  The little kids' "school time" consists more of crafts than of numbers and letters.  The numbers and letters come easily in our daily life, but we must make time for art.  It has become our routine that in the mid morning, while the oldest does his schoolwork, the little ones request a project to occupy them.  I go to the school cabinet (which maybe should be called the "craft cabinet" since that pretty much what it contains) and select a few things for them to work with.  I "strew" the things out on the table, and go about my business.

Paint is the most popular, but we do other things as well.  Some days they cut up drinking straws and thread them onto pipe cleaners.  Other times they stick googley eyes and popsicle sticks on playdough to make funny monsters.  The pattern shapes (which Evan, center, is using in the photo above) are also fun and absorbing.  I have nearly endless permutations of "ingredients": glitter glue and cotton balls and colored paper, leaves and crayons to make rubbings, pretty postcards to cut up and glue onto paper...  For potentially messy projects, I made them little aprons out of scraps of denim from Daddy's worn-out jeans.

The idea is that the kids can just explore the materials and create whatever and however they wish. It keeps them busy for a surprisingly long time some days, and gives me a breather (maybe).

Often a deterrent for this sort of free-form kid craft is the mess.  The materials get everywhere.  One of the best solutions for that problem that I have found is a stack of cafeteria trays.  Each child gets a tray with his or her own materials.  The tray keeps loose things, like beads or pasta or cut-up bits of paper, contained in one spot without getting spread all over the room, and the paint and glue don't end up decorating my table top. Unfortunately my trays are not big enough to contain a sheet of paper and the paints and brushes and water, but that doesn't pose too much of a problem. 

In the photo above, they were playing with the things I strewed out with the directions to make crosses for the contest.  I told them what the colors mean and why we were using limited colors, but then left the details of creation up to them.  I will post their entries later this week.

I thought maybe while they were busy with their crosses, I could work on mine.  But I found that it's kinda hard to get very far with a lump of cuteness sitting right on my project, happily exploring MY materials.


  1. Thus writes a wise Mama. You learned faster than I did with mine.
    I like your organization system, especially the tray idea.
    We also used the pattern blocks and kept little ones occupied for innumerable hours so older ones could have Mom's attention.
    I hope your little sweetheart lets you finish your cross. What it might be I can't guess from anything I see in the picture. I am looking forward to the results, from all of your family.