I consider myself creative and resourceful with my children, but I have never been able to get into the level of craftiness deemed Pinterest worthy. I don’t typically plan out crafts far in advance, I don’t have an entire room (or even a closet) dedicated to art supplies, and our canvas is usually a brown paper bag. Simply put, I am a mom who exhibits anxiety when it is our family’s turn to share snack at preschool. Sure, I am happy to bake fresh banana muffins or make a plate of celery with cream cheese and raisins, but you will never see a display of fruit sushi or frozen banana penguins come from my house. Trust me, I find these ideas adorable, they’re just not me.
I am actually a big believer in exploring creativity with children. I take every occasion to get my two toddler boys playing with crayons, paint, glue, scissors, stickers, and any other accessible creative tool we can find. My focus just tends to be less about the outcome and more on the adventure found in the process. Often I don’t have something specific in mind when we set out on a creative endeavor. At this point, it is important to me that my boys build independence and practice the many social and motor skills they will acquire as toddlers. I try to offer an equal amount of unstructured play time along with opportunity for directed exploration. I have found art projects to be an easy way to shift gears when time in the playroom expires and a change of pace is needed. But none of this is very glamorous. In fact, we have never pulled out the glitter.
Compared against some of the projects you see across preschool blogs or parenting sites, my art projects are more likely to be considered as reusable wrapping paper (something I actually do quite often with the boys’ art) or an interpretive modern impressionist piece. I don’t have insecurities about any of this. I am confident in my parenting style and I am proud of the fun my boys find in our spirited projects. I guess my quandary is more about finding an answer to the question of, “when is play just about messing around?”
We’ve made instant play dough, turned paper towel rolls into airplanes, and painted with Q-tips. We have turned our fair share of cardboard boxes into cars, trains, trucks, and sleds. These simpler creative play experiences have been some of the most rewarding interactions with both my boys. I often find myself discovering a new skill they have mastered or in awe of an innate creative sense they display through an activity. It is in these moments I relish in the unpredictable nature of what is unfolding and the unforgettable dialogue that ensues as little hands and fingers work away.
My older toddler has become quite fond of our “projects” and often asks when we will get to do another. I take this as a sign that he finds enjoyment in this time and personal satisfaction in the work he does in these moments of creativity and exploration. So why do I still worry about how my creative play matches up against others? Obviously my boys are not concerned whether or not their art project looks like the masterpiece shared on Pinterest or a recent blog post; therefore, why should it matter to me? The expectation to consistently create the perfect activity, the perfect craft, is admirable but not in alignment with my parenting style. I make my best effort to mute the noise as often as possible and roll up my sleeves with the boys. It is almost never perfect, but it is us.
In the end I realize that am comfortable with our messy, somewhat undirected, and wildly unglamorous play experiences. I know my boys are learning, discovering themselves and the world around them, and building confidence and independence along the way. Our play may not always have a specific outcome in mind, but we are making our best effort to live in the moment and find enjoyment in each experience along the way.
*This post can also be found as part of #28DaysofPlay at You Plus Two Parenting.*
ABOUT CHRISSY K
I am mom to three boys (one with several life-threatening food allergies) who will never own too many picture books or create Pinterest-worthy snacks. Simply Chrissy K is a place to find helpful tips on parenting that stem from my work with families as an educational consultant and parenting coach.
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