We think that giving your children space to be creative is incredibly important. I remember back to the time my oldest first got a sticker book, the kind with faces on the pages and the middle pages full of stickers of noses, eyes and lips, etc. Much to my frustration, he stuck the stickers in all kinds of ridiculous places, an ear where the nose should be, an eye under the chin and so on - I spent the whole time he was occupied with it, itching to have him put them all in the right places. Incredibly, I managed to keep quiet, leaving him to it, to do as he pleased. When he had gone to bed, I'm ashamed to say that I peeled them all off and stuck them where they jolly well should have gone in the first place. Oh dear...
Very soon, our first crafty boxes will be winging their way to some crafty individuals, who, in turn, will be using the contents to encourage their little one's to get creative with their own unique imaginations. What I wonder is this; how much of their own input will each parent think is acceptable? Luckily for the children, our boxes will have enough ideas and bits and bobs that should the overseeing parent desire, they will be able to make something themselves - and if their children ask for help, then they may put down their own creation and give assistance.
Being creative myself, I have always 'gently bossed' my little ones into investigating and experimenting with their imaginations. Their 'pieces' do not always appeal to my sense of aesthetics I might add. Like many of you, I'm sure that the red and black crayon 'Mr Messy' looking scribble on the wall at the bottom of the stairs was not a 'keeper', nor the similar art work I discovered next to the front door. I was less than best pleased when I once spent many hours of time, care, attention and fabric upholstering a dirty linen box. Shortly after I finally completed it, my eldest (then 3) declared that he had decorated my box too - with a black Sharpie pen. In fact, I can honestly say that I shed a tear or two.
Anyway, recent events made me examine my involvement with my kids when they are being creative. At any given time, one of them will generally be drawing or making something or other and on assessment, it is this fact that has redeemed me - I am not the interfering, picky mother come art teacher that I judged myself to be following a chat with a friend.
This friend commented that when I set all 3 of my little ones to task on a new project, I got too involved, not letting them do as much of it on their own as perhaps I could or should. I felt a little put out by this comment but thought back to the last new project I had introduced and disappointedly decided that she may actually have a point, I thought about how utterly frustrated I get when baking with them.
I brought this up with Nina Fox who thought about it and said that - to the contrary, she thought I gave my kids much more room to make a mess than even she ever could. Whenever she comes to my house, the dining table is piled with all manner of crafty, arty paraphenalia and various projects in various stages of completion. She herself, hovers over her children as they get creative, picking up bits of paper when they fall on the floor and offering a helping hand at any and every opportunity.
I thought back to the instance my friend had sat and watched. It was the sour dough shape making afternoon. I re-considered what had happened that afternoon and came to the conclusion that Nina was right. That had been the first time I had done this with my kids and I had not tried making it on my own beforehand as I sometimes do with a new craft idea.
Not only this, but I'd needed the final pieces to look half decent because I wanted to take pictures for Mrs Fox's blog. Finally, the dough mixture was really quite stiff and so mixing and then rolling the stuff required something stronger than the arms of children aged 6 and under.
On the whole, when my children are doing their own arty crafty things, the most involved I get is finding the end of the sticky tape, squeezing glue into little pots and changing the water for the paintbrushes. If we're doing something new, I do tend to get more involved but in this respect, I feel I am teaching them some new skills and they need me to show them.
It can be really quite difficult to back off while your children make their way through the creative process but it needs to be just that, a creative process - which is a learning process too. They will learn what works for them, they just need a little help getting off the ground. Even putting a brush to paper gives them a sense of freedom and shows them that they can make their own mark. We cannot expect the perfection we may feel that we ourselves might (possibly) achieve but the beauty of their work will be in their own sense of fun and accomplishment. If they're chuffed with it, you can only match that and enjoy it the joy.