It’s so important to foster an appreciation for imagination and creativity in your children. And even more so in uncertain times like a global pandemic when everyone (adults and children) are looking for a way to express themselves, a way to escape from worry and stress, and a way to connect together. Arts and crafts can be the perfect way to do that!
Depending on the age of your children, the complexity and duration of the activity changes, but growing that discipline and habit of using your creative muscles every day is so valuable. It also gives you a peek into the mind of your child – how they are developing, what particular activities they gravitate towards and which they excel at, and clues as to their emotional temperature that day. My best advice is to engage deeply with your child for the five or thirty minutes that “craft time” takes every day. You’ll grow closer together, and each of you will find amazing things when your creativity is sparked.
For younger children, I recommend a more sensory creative project that helps with fundamental learning – a color scavenger hunt. Set out swatches of color and have your child match objects to the correct color swatch. You can curate a tub of items to be color matched, or your child can go through the house finding things that match. Either way, colors are learned and appreciated, and your child starts to recognize them within the everyday. For another fun twist – head outside and find the colors in nature all around you!
For kids of all ages (parent help will be needed for the younger ones), try smush painting! On a plain sheet of paper, add fairly dense drops of acrylic or tempera paint. Then cover the paper with a long piece of plastic wrap and “smush” the colors underneath. Push the drops together and mix colors. See what happens when yellow is mixed with blue and white is mixed with red! It’s so fun to watch your kids discover how to “make colors” (like pink and green). Once everything has been smushed to everyone’s satisfaction, remove the plastic and wait for the masterpiece to dry.
For older kids (5 and up), try life drawing! This has been my favorite thing to do with my daughters during quarantine. In the morning, I set up a scene on the table and then we all sit at different perspectives and draw what we see. If it sounds daunting, remember—no level of skill is required! It’s a fun way to stretch yourself artistically if you’re not an “artist”, to brush up on skills if you are, and to encourage your children in their budding talents. It’s also a great way to talk about perspective and seeing things differently. More importantly, it’s an amazing opportunity to find fifteen minutes of silence – golden!
Once you have started with all these new creations and projects, it will be easy to keep going and find different ways to spark creativity and use your hands and eyes to make beautiful things. But don’t be surprised if your masterpieces start piling up.
It’s a common side effect of watching your children get more creative, you’ll have more stuff! My favorite way to “keep” my children’s art is to take photographs and make yearly photobooks of masterpieces. That way everything is bound and remembered without boxes and boxes of the original pieces. I might keep a piece of two per year and add them to our gallery walls and the girls craft room for a fun touch of color around the house. But please don’t be afraid to “curate” your collection. When I first became a mother, I was determined to keep everything and never lose a memory. With time and age has come wisdom (and limited space!), and I have learned it’s okay not to hold on to every single piece.
P.S. This April I released a board book with Scholastic called Be Curious! that’s perfect from ages 0-5 whether reading it to your baby or toddler or letting an early-reader read words on their own. It follows the adventures of a curious cat seeing the world through color and delight. I hope you’ll all add it to your library to foster creativity and curiosity within your home!