Thursday, 10 October 2013

Leaving Behind Creative Tools

I know they say to a certain extent you can't teach creativity, but as a parent I love encouraging it.

Working in corporate, I've seen the differences and merits between being a critical thinker and a creative thinker.  Critical thinkers see the problems and logic.  Creative thinkers see the possibilities and surprising solutions.  All too often, you either have the latter or you don't.

A simple thing that seems to encourage creative thinking in our home is leaving behind some crafty stuff for open-ended play.  Our stuff always change but the only rule is that they're always accessible.

Closet organizer hung at a two-year old level.
The rest of the pockets held scissors, glue sticks, etc.

I stumbled upon this leave-behind solution because I wanted to encourage more fine motor skills even when I wasn't around to care for her myself.  She didn't develop fine motor early -  so I had noticed that doing grown-up led art easily frustrated her and she would give up, thinking she could not do it.

Structured art from her (non-Montessori) toddler school workbook.  These were obviously tricky for her.

It also didn't help that I was clueless how to play with a toddler. 
I thought coloring sheets were "it" and tried to teach her to paint inside the lines.  Very adult-led.
She was just two years old here.

In contrast, when she would create on her own she could do this for long minutes.
With intense concentration (nighttime was no exception)
Creating unnamed things
over and over with seeming purpose that only made sense to her

I was very careful not to ask "what's that?".  The question strangely deflated her.  Eventually as I discovered and read more about children and play, I found out that the best way to join in is to ask "tell me about it!". In my little Dove's case, so very very very casually.

"Wow, let me take a picture of your work".
I wasn't sure if I went overboard with excessive praise, but I desperately wanted her to gain more confidence.

Sometimes we would just quietly do random art side by side and I could model possibilities.

And sometimes I would be an observer pointing out something she did or throw ideas to keep going:
She either joins me in thinking "what if" aloud or firmly says we do it another way.  
I love these conversations.
It's even easy to do after work because there's not a lot of deliberate thought for me.

Since I noticed how they spark a lot of play, her open-ended craft things now take up  the prime shelf space in her room:
All sorts of paint, markers, scissors, glue, sponges, collage stuff, pipe cleaners, stickers, paper, sticks, clay.  

In the past year before she turned five, her creations are naturally more recognizable.  Best of all, she uses her imagination more often to "solve a problem".  

Here she is at her bed playscape, creating a real world of a story she had read.

I believe this is her "strawberry lake"

One time she wanted to wear her pink sneakers but they were left in school.

She ran to her room and emerged in these.

Recently my camera broke and she saw how sad I was.  
"I know mommy, we can make you a new one!"

She ran to her room and emerged with this.
She even explained that there was only one "M" sticker, so she flipped the "W" upside down.

I proudly brought it to take photos at the Leonardo Da Vinci exhibit at the Mind Museum:

Ladybug Girl clicks away at the Last Supper.
This exhibit was world class -- a million times better than their usual Mind Burst series, and a nice experience on encouraging creativity.

What else does creativity look like?  I found this shortlist helpful:
  • Synthesizes ideas in original and surprising ways.
  • Asks new questions to build upon an idea.
  • Brainstorms multiple ideas and solutions to problems.
  • Communicates ideas in new and innovative ways.
I'm not aiming for Leonardo da Vinci level here.
I just noticed that creative thinkers find a little more joy being in the world.  I'd like that for my little girl.

Okay that and a non-corporate career.  

Browse our gallery of leave-behind play here.

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