Should you let them create?

The off the cuff answer would be YES! Of course!

...but after years in classrooms and years raising little boys, I've learned that sometimes the answer is actually NO. You see, there is fine line between teaching kids to create, allowing them full reign of their own creativity and stifling their ideas.  I think the best way to handle this particular aspect of parenthood is to ride the fine line between the first two.  It all depends on the project.

Teaching Kids to Create

There is certainly an argument for allowing kids to create FULLY on their own (see my Quiet Time Kid Tins or simply walk through my backyard to see all the crazy creative things they come up with!)  However, there is a time and space for actually TEACHING kids to create and fully directing their creative process. There is also a range of how involved the teacher vs. the student should be in the creative process.  Today, I want to explore that range of intervention and what it does for children and their creative development.

Kid's Aprons and Chef Hats

This was a project that included total intervention from me at every step (until the project was complete and the pretending began).  Why?  Why didn't I let my kids decorate the aprons the way they wanted them to be?  Why wouldn't I allow them to splatter paint them and go crazy with markers and PUT THEIR STAMP fully on the project?

KIDS CRAFT Chef Aprons and Chef Hats

Two reasons: 

#1 I want to teach them to visualize a good font, correct spacings and learn to use small coloring movements to stay within the line.

#2  I want beautiful toys to fill our spaces -- toys that invite creative play and give the children a sense of pride in helping, but toys that don't make me cringe everytime I look at them.

Creating toys and crafts with kiddos can be a chance to teach them to SEE what good design and art look like.  It is not to diminish their creativity, but to give them a structure and frame of reference as they go out and create their own projects.

#3 OK, so I have one more reason :)  This particular project is also a project that I created for Crafts Unleashed, using supplies from Consumer Crafts and the end result must look good to publish.  I am able to create dress up clothing for the boys, invite imaginative play, complete my work and make a little income off the project.  It is a win-win-win around the board, but not if I let the kids go haywire on the materials.

How did I intervene? This project was completed by creating a font template in the silhouette studio, cutting out the stencil on the machine, tracing the letters, then filling them in with Sharpie.  The kids were able to choose the colors based on the culinary professions (farmer is green!) and they also helped color in the letters.  I did all the tracing and supervised the coloring heavily.  Basically the project was 80% mommy, 20% kids.  Once the project is complete, the kids keep the chef hats and aprons in their grocery store downstairs and play with them however they choose.  100% kid creativity -- 0% mom intervention.

One more note:  The older the kiddo is, the more they get to do.  My 7 year old was able to color in the letters almost fully by himself without bleeding beyond the lines, while the 3 year old needed me to actually hold the marker with him.

Quiet Time Kid Tins

Here is another example of my preparing the craft, but allowing the children to have pretty much full control over how the materials are used (As long as they aren't coloring on the walls or hardwood floors).

KIDS CRAFT IDEA  Quiet Time Kids Tins with Amy Renea

I did the shopping, the spray painting, the collecting of materials, etc.  The kids do ALL the creating once the tins and materials are in their hands.  I could let the kids do the spray painting and collecting of materials, but then the collection of tins would look icky and wouldn't be cute displayed on the shelves in our living room.  By splitting up where I intervene and how, I am able to create crafts that look good, can stay out in the "public" eye, yet still encourage creativity in the kiddos.

Kiddo Free-for-all Creativity

Now that most of you think I am an uber-controlling mom that is stifling her kids creativity, let us discuss the free-for-all the kids have in both our loft and outdoors.  Basically the loft is a large open room above our living room and the kids have total control of it.  (Again, aside from drawing on the walls and jumping out the windows and such.)  I do not go up there very often at all (It stresses me out).  There are forts made from anything from yoga mats and cardboard boxes to blankets and bookshelves.  This is the space where they CAN move furniture.  There are toys EVERYWHERE on the floor, whiteboard on the walls for them to color on and plenty of reading material in the little "library" up there.  It is THEIR space to be creative and play the way they want, regardless of the mess.

Now when they want to get REALLY messy, they have to go outside.  Outdoors, they can build, climb, create almost anything they want.  There is a stock pile of scrap wood, nails, etc and our 7 year old now builds something almost everyday; sawing his own wood, nailing together pieces and blowing our mind with his creativity.  The 3 year old is still very much into chalk drawing and goes nutso on the porch and driveway.  Our 5 year old?  He is somewhere in between with his main interest in creating "hideouts" among the gardens.  The only rule?  Don't crush flowers when you are building a hideout and it needs to be actually "hidden" if it is in one of Mommy's gardens.  Anywhere else in the yard?  Go crazy.  How do you split up the division between kids' creativity and a reasonably sane household? Feel free to differ from my opinion -- this parenting thing is a learning experience for us all!

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