Get out of their way!

“Kids are born curious. Period…. If you’re a child, you are curious about your environment. You’re overturning rocks. You’re plucking leaves off of trees and petals off of flowers, looking inside, and you’re doing things that create disorder in the lives of the adults around you.

 

And so then so what do adults do? They say, “Don’t pluck the petals off the flowers. I just spent money on that. Don’t play with the egg. It might break. Don’t….” Everything is a don’t.”

The key point Neil deGrasse Tyson makes?

“Help them explore.”

Set out some binoculars or a magnifying glass or something as equally interesting.. and most importantly get out of their way and let them explore!

The best way to teach creativity?

I’m all about options and looking at things from different angles and perspectives. This is why when I saw this Ted talk by Raghava KK, it awakened an important realization for me in my quest to learn about ways to nurture creativity. The following statement (a screen capture) from Raghava’s talk, says it all:

Raghava KK on Creativity, http://keepingcreativityalive.com

Looking at situations, things and issues from different perspectives brings to light so much more information and IDEAS, thinking, and as Raghava points out biases. This next screen capture further intrigued my desire to teach perspectives:

Raghava KK's Ted Talk, Shake up your story, http://keepingcreativityalive.comIt’s so true, isn’t it? Understanding others’ perspectives equals empathy. So how do we teach perspectives to children? Here are some of my thoughts…

How to teach perspective:

  • Share stories, lots of stories about different places, different people and different experiences. Leave your bias out of the equation. Celebrate differences!
  • Observe the different styles that are out there. Different types of architecture, different forms of art and dance. Different types of music. Everyone has their own preferences. Recognize this and foster the attitude that we are all unique and value different things.
  • Practice looking at a situation from different angles. Again, this could be done through storytelling or through real life situations. As different people how they felt or reacted to a situation, compare notes and observe the similarities and differences.
  • Look at art, the more obscure or abstract the better and talk about what you think it is about. Notice how different people will see different things based on their own observations and experiences.
  • See how different people approached the same challenge using similar materials in different ways. Give a group of kids the same materials (for example recycled materials such as toilet paper rolls, cereal boxes, elastics, paper, tape etc.) and give them a challenge. The challenge could be to make something that floats, moves, flies, or whatever you decide.
  • Experience a different culture or community. This need not involve getting on an airplane, although it could. Maybe there’s a mennonite community nearby or a local community centre celebrating a cultural holiday that is different than your own.
  • “Give children books that teach them perspectives.” Raghava KK.  Select great books that are set in different places and that share different types of lifestyles than your own families. Books that show that there are many sides to a story.
  • Write a book together. This book can be about one event but told from the point of view of different characters.

I’m sure there are many other great ideas, please share your ideas in the comments!

What would you do… Part 2

Today’s Super Soul Sunday’s Big Question: “What would you do if you knew you wouldn’t fail?” is a timely follow up to my post last week where I left off asking “What would you do if you weren’t afraid?”

Oprah interviews Brené Brown, research professor who has “spent the last ten years studying vulnerability, courage, shame, and authenticity.” (Part one aired today, part two comes out next week.) You can see part of part one here. I only got to see the first bit this morning where she talked about perfectionism (guilty for that here!) and authenticity before my toddler spilt the smoothy concoction (that my five year old made her) all over her hair!

If you’re not one of the 8 million people that have seen Brené’s Ted talk, you can watch it here:

I love Brene Brown and since I love Manifestos, I have to share her Wholehearted Parenting Manifesto here.

DaringGreatly-ParentingManifesto-light-8x10-1

You can download a free 8×10 poster on her website. Check out the Daring Greatly Leadership Manifesto as well!

You can also follow her on Facebook. I’m in admiration of her and the important work she is doing and sharing. She’s one of those people you just can’t help being so happy for!

Don’t correct! …Oops, did I just correct you?

FRAJIL sign, Building confidence in kids, http://keepingcreativityalive.com

Like all parents in this world, I’m learning as I go along. In the early days of my first child’s craft projects I’d hover over her making sure that she did as she was ‘supposed to’.. putting the marshmallows on the lines just so and making sure the eyes went in the ‘right’ place. I’ve long tossed that approach out the window in favour for not just creativity’s sake but for the sake of confidence building.

Early on I realized that when I interfered or corrected, I was taking the joy out of the experience. A shift would occur in my child in which she would immediately lose interest. She’d give up her power and didn’t want to play anymore. She felt like she must have been doing it wrong, or worse couldn’t do it at all and didn’t want to even try. Think about when you are trying something for the first time and struggle a bit. If you had someone standing over your shoulder ready to intervene you’d probably lose your focus and motivation too. I know I would.

That’s why today I make every effort to stand back and observe. I resist the urge to assist by taking joy in watching discovery unfold.

The FRAJIL photo above.. let me tell you how that came to be… V’s aunt, a trained Montessori teacher (and Masters in Montessori Grad!) was over for a visit. Violet takes great joy in giving people gifts and especially to those she have an extra special place in her heart for, like Katie. Violet created a gift for Katie using the play dough we made the day before. To be honest, I can’t remember what it was.. I’m not sure I even got to see it before it went into this envelope. In fact, knowing V it was probably meant as a surprise for Katie to open when she got home! V sealed the envelope but made sure to announce to Katie: “you have to be very careful with this!”

I was only half listening at the time, but I think I piped up and said “You should put a sign on it that says FRAGILE.” V immediately ran over to her Art Station to grab a marker (looks like we need new markers!) and asked how do you spell FRAGILE? Katie, being the amazing teacher that she is, started sounding it out “FFFFF.” Violet listened carefully then put her head down to write the letter associated with each sound one after the next. Once she was done she proudly put her marker away and handed the gift to Katie who now had the reminder to be careful with her FRAJIL gift.

We, adults, sort of smiled at one another feeling proud of V’s interest and motivation to write. Without Katie in our lives I’m pretty sure I would have corrected V in the spelling of FRAGILE but I’m so glad that’s not the case. Being right about the spelling is so much less important than building the confidence in trying and sustaining the interest to learn. The correct spelling will come.

Open-ended Art

We’ve been all about open-ended art up until a recent trip to an art studio which has me thinking more about the value of both open ended art AND ‘art lessons’ or a more guided approach.  Here I want to talk about open ended art and reserve the ‘art lesson’ approach for a different post.

What is open-ended art anyway?

Open-ended art is having no expectations about the product; it’s all about the process. The focus then is not trying to achieve a predetermined outcome, but instead exploring materials and experimenting with the process of creation.  The final outcome might be based on an idea or it might be abstract.  Open ended art is all about free choice, discovery, problem solving and imagination!

“Art opportunities should be open-ended experiences, offered daily, so as to not stifle a child’s own creativity. Open-ended art is developmentally appropriate at all developmental levels and abilities. These opportunities build a child’s self-esteem, eagerness to learn, fine motor skills, and confidence!”   Source article.

The debate about open ended art versus lessons opens up a big discussion which has certainly been discussed at great length among art educators.  (This article over at Deep Space Sparkle discusses this topic from an art educator standpoint. The comments in that article are particularly insightful and exhibit the many varying viewpoints that exist.)  My goal here is to consider how, as a parent, I want to approach art making with my kids at home.

I’ll start with the top five PROS of open-ended art:

(I’ll tackle the pros of the ‘art lesson’ in another post)

  1. The child has the freedom to choose materials they are interested in exploring thus pretty well guaranteeing that the child will be engaged in the activity.
  2. The child comes up with the idea of what they will do (not restrained to working within limits that they may not like).  Again, keeping motivation high.
  3. Learning takes place as child experiments with materials in new ways. Discovering techniques and outcomes independently.
  4. Problem solving takes place as the child is deciding what to do next within the process. Having the freedom to adapt and making changes along the way.
  5. Child gains confidence from the pride of knowing that they created something by themselves! This in my opinion is all the pros wrapped up into the very best outcome!

What I’ve tended to do at home is provide arts and crafts materials and let V decide what she’s going to do with it.

Recently I put out watercolour paints and watercolour paper (along with some other random materials that she always has access to) imagining that she would make some sort of abstract drawings on the beautiful paper that we could later frame and put up around the house. Free original art! But she had a different idea. She pulled out a notepad and started painting whatever came to mind! For a while it was red stick figures…

I left her to create and she got really into this pattern of painting letters of the first initial of each of the names in our family along with a colourful pattern of stripes.

At times she got incredibly frustrated when the colours were blending because of too much water but with a quick little lesson on brush handing and some practice she learned to achieve what she was trying to accomplish. (I learned that there’s sometimes a time and place for a little lesson!)

The key learning for me in all of our open ended art explorations is that when the activity is guided by the child, the passion and inspiration is 100% there. Rashmie of Mommy Labs shares here experience in a blog post called Open-ended Art and Child-led Learning which includes this powerful quote:

A self-motivated soul can do wonders. There’s no limit to his/her creativity and passion.

It is through that post that I found Alissa at Creative with Kids’ fun tongue in cheek “10 Ways to Guarantee You Will Hate Doing Kids Crafts”. I can certainly relate to being guilty of a few items on this list! smirk

I’d love to hear your experiences with open-ended art in your home or classroom! What do you find works/doesn’t work?

 

Reading Aloud

We all know how important it is to read to our children. If you don’t then you need to read Why Reading Aloud to Our Children Will Change Their Lives Forever by Mem Fox. I just came across a wonderful interview in which Mem Fox discusses the importance of reading aloud to children and adults alike.

“Never stop reading aloud, no matter what the age group is, and read without teaching.”

In the interview, Mem Fox discusses the importance of reading aloud to kids, especially for parents.  For two reason this article and Mem’s work particularly resonates with me. One, my almost five year old is this (holding fingers a few inches apart) close to reading. When we read together I want so much to get her sounding out the words… but she’s just not interested and I know I need to refrain and just read and enjoy reading together.  This article reminds me that I shouldn’t try to teach my child to read.. “[parents] should never make the read-aloud into a teaching sesson.” It makes perfect sense really. We need to keep reading fun and enjoyable.

Which brings me to the next reason I’m drawn to this article which is that it reminds me that, like creativity, reading is not something that can be forced. As a parent, your share it (whether it’s reading or creating) and you model how wonderful it is to read and listen to stories or create things or whatever it is.  It’s all about enjoyment and having fun. Something I think as parents we all need to be reminded of. At least I know I do.

One last point of note about this article is when Fox says “the book is a pathway to the rest of the world, to a huge conversation about what’s going on in the child’s life.” This is so true. I’m looking forward to picking up her latest book “Tell Me About Your Day Today” as a way of encouraging my daughter to reflect on her day and share it with me. Thinking back, last year, we actually spent time each night at bedtime reflecting on what we did that day, then we each chose what our favourite part of our day was. I think we need to bring back that little ritual. It’s a nice way of recapping all that we did, discussing things that need attention and each having an opportunity to show gratitude for what it was that day that we appreciated most. A really nice way to end the day!

Mem Fox also gave the Keynote at the 2012 NAEYC Annual Conference in Atlanta last week where she shared why reading to children changes their whole life journey. That’s pretty profound!  I wish I was there! But, I did find notes from someone who was.

Creative Parenting

This Daily Groove is just what I needed to read on this Monday morning. Have to share this one…

Creativity involves exploring the unknown. So if you
want to *parent* creatively, you need to accept that
you often won’t have the comfort of knowing, in
advance, *how* it’s all going to work out.

In other words, creative parenting is what you might
call a “faith journey.” You’re constantly facing the
unknown and surrendering to it. When you surrender to
the unknown, you open a channel to inspiration and new
knowledge.

Today, if at some point your child’s desire seems
incompatible with yours, tell yourself that there must
be a way that both of you can feel satisfied, even
though you don’t yet know what that is.

“I don’t need to know how… I trust that a way will
be revealed.”

Remember that the most creative solutions often defy
logic!

Subscribing to this newsletter is one of the best things I’ve done!

Imagination vs. Reality

I drafted this post several months ago when Violet was just about three and a half. I still chuckle over this story…

Violet’s 3 year old imagination has been exploding lately. It’s fascinating to see her come up with all of these ideas.. only I’m realizing that with that comes a responsibility as the parent to maintain balance between what is make believe and what is real.

For example, the other day Violet decided she would plant some beans (jelly beans) in the garden to grow a giant bean stalk (a la Jack and the Beanstalk, we’ve been reading a lot of stories lately). In attempt to foster her imagination and creativity I asked her what would be at the top of the beanstalk? She firmly decided that there would not be a scary giant up there but instead there would be a princess named Ivy (a la The Princess and the Frog). Great! So I gave her the little pack of jelly beans. She ate a couple then made her way out to the back garden and threw the jelly beans down just like in the story! Pretty harmless right?

Well, a little while later Violet decided that she would be going to Dora’s house for the afternoon to attend a party. Cute right? I asked how she would get there and she told me that she planned on jumping into the tv… which she later edited and said that daddy would have to give her a great big push to get into the tv. She was pumped about the party in which she said there would be balloons (her favourite), cupcakes, presents etc. and that she would meet Dora’s mom and grandma. She proceeded to pack her backpack with her swimsuit and all sorts of things. She picked fresh flowers from a vase in our living room and put them into a gift bag and made her way down to the basement, where we have our big tv and tried to ‘jump in’. The disappointment that ensued all came to a head when she realized that ‘IT’S NOT WORKING!!!’ Oh the disappointment!  I certainly learned my lesson in leading her on too far without explaining the difference between imagination and reality.

I was sort of enjoying the innocence but it was time to explain the difference between make believe and real life and that the stories we read and see on tv are not real. Part of me didn’t want to squash that imaginary world – it was so refreshing.. but I can’t have my kid thinking she can bust into the tv either! 🙂