One of the best things you can do for your kids…

Allow time for unstructured play, you never now what will come of it!


Sometimes it’s true, it’s best to do nothing. Don’t plan a play date, don’t set up an activity or schedule an outing.  Scheduling free time for unstructured play is one of the best things you can do.

The beauty of allowing free time for unstructured play for your children is you never know what is going to come of it!  It’s fun to see where their curiosities will take them.

Today V decided that it was Mr. Dragon’s birthday! Who knew?!  He was turning 7! She got to work straight away deciding what she needed to do to pull off a party in such short notice! She set out a plan: get party hats out, make a birthday party sign and prepare loot bags. In fact she even found an activity to be played ‘at the party’!

Before getting the party hats, she had to determine how many she would need which involved counting all her animal friends. I asked if she included herself and her sister in the number she had come to which led her to recount all her friends plus herself and her sister.

Next she pulled out the paper and pencil crayons and delegated the sign making to me! She coloured it in and stuck it to the wall with tape.  Then share thoughtfully prepared the loot bags for each of her guests and guarded them so that her sister would get into them!

Children’s play flourishes when we ‘let it’ rather than ‘make it’ happen.

Simplicity Parenting: Using the Extraordinary Power of Less to Raise Calmer, Happier, and More Secure Kids by Kim John Payne, M.Ed.

The party was a great success! Judging by the picture, I think it’s safe to say a good time was had by all!

What happens at your home when you allow time for unstructured play?

420 Characters: A Celebration of Creative Writing

Creative writing exercise 420 Characters,

Did you write short stories as a child? Do you write them anymore? If not, why not?

Writing is a powerfully liberating experience. One that allows you to express yourself, express an experience real or imagined and/or share a story. Writing, creative writing, makes me a little nervous, I’ll admit. But when you allow yourself to get in the ‘mode’ where you really consider your words, get descriptive and even a little poetic I actually find it to be a lot of fun.

I was recently invited to join a group called 420 Characters. 420 Characters is a creative writing group on Facebook where members write short stories using 420 characters or less to fit in a single facebook status entry. The goal is to reach 420 characters in a story, to reach 420 members in the group or to collect 420 stories.

It was a couple of weeks before I tried my hand at writing a story. Initially I thought I would just read along and comment, but one morning after reading some new entries inspiration struck. An idea came and I quickly worked at expressing my idea, choosing my words carefully and ensuring that the story met the 420 character limit.

My story is based on my passion, what drives this blog.

Here it is:

Born to explore, investigate, learn.
Naturally curious, inquisitive,
Processing information constantly.
Making things, making connections.
Uninhibited experiments, intuitive markings,
The evolution of a true artist happens naturally.
Let it happen. Watch. Enjoy. Nurture.
Cultivate curious little minds into creatively confident adults.

The best gift you could give your child.

420 Characters was started by Suzi Poland, an artist and writer in Australia who is passionate about capturing moments of the everyday and celebrating them through drawing, painting, photography, textiles, illustration, and short stories. Anyone is welcome to submit a story.  You can learn more about 420 Characters and how to join here.

The above photograph shows a story that Violet drew and dictated when she was four.

Up until now my writing practice has gone as far as journalling, writing here on this blog and the occasional morning pages but I’m reminded through 420 Characters that writing is a wonderful form of expression. One that I’m going to try to practice more often. What about you, do you practice creative writing?

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,

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, https://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!

Video: Thoughts on the Creative Career

“If you want to be something start being it. If you want to be a writer you should be writing. Not tomorrow, but today. If you want to be an artist you should be drawing and painting.. Not tomorrow. Today. If you want to be a stand up comic, write jokes and figure out somewhere to stand up and tell them.”

So well said I don’t really have anything to add.

Just want to highlight some key points:

  • If you’re not doing that thing, ask yourself why?
  • Realize your rhythm.. sometimes you can take on big questions, large problems, other times work on small solvable problems.
  • You should consume a lot of things that you like.
  • You should get your work in front of other people.
  • If you want to do something you should just do it… Make it a choice. Choose to do that. If you want to write, write!

Around this time last year I posted his video An Invocation for Beginners. You can see more of Ze Frank’s videos on his website.

Is there something you want to be but not doing it? A running? A yogi? An artist? What do you need to start doing today?

Creativity Week Day 1: Divergent Thinking

Divergent Thinking with Kids: Brainstorming Ideas!

With World Creativity & Innovation week upon us I’ve been thinking of ways to celebrate!  Being creative on cue can sometimes feel overwhelming so I took a step back and decided to hold a good old fashioned brainstorm session with my girls to come up with ways that we can be creative this week!

I love brainstorming! If you love making lists you’ll love it too. Brainstorming is one way of practicing divergent thinking: a way of generating several possible solutions to a problem. To be clear, divergent thinking is a technique for thinking; brainstorming is a tool used to think divergently.

Divergent thinking is a thought process or method used to generate creative ideas by exploring many possible solutions.

Me: “We’re going to brainstorm ideas!” V: “What’s a brainstorm?”

Explaining how to brainstorm to a five year old is tricky. I kept it simple and explained that we would be coming up with a lot of ideas and we would choose our favourites later so we don’t need to decide if we like them or not just yet.

The General Rules of Brainstorming

The four general rules of brainstorming established by Alex Osborn, a pioneer of Creative Problem Solving and brainstorming sessions, (taken from Wikipedia) are:

  1. Focus on quantity. The more ideas the better. “Quantity breeds quality.”
  2. Withhold criticism.  Defer judgment of ideas so that participants feel free to generate unusual ideas. Focus on adding ideas, not evaluating them.
  3. Welcome wild and unusual ideas. Think big. Think differently. New ways of thinking is encouraged and could provide better solutions so don’t hold back.
  4. Combine and improve ideas. Build on ideas by combining to form a better single idea or simply add to what has already been provided.

Okay, our experience…

We kept the problem simple: “What are some creative activities we could work on this week?” The way the question is phrased is important. Having typed that out I just realized that had I phrased it “In what ways might we celebrate Creativity Week?” our ideas would likely have gone in a completely different direction! … Throw a party! Make a cake! I’ll have to give that further thought next time.

I went into this with the best of intentions. Having worked in a creative field and having attended a CPSI conference I recognize the value of practicing divergent thinking and I figure it’s never too early to practice this with my daughters. Well.. they had a different idea about what they wanted to do…

E was enthralled with the brainstorming ‘tools’… Okay, she’s only two... 🙂

… and I lost V when she decided to start working on her creative idea… 🙂

.. but I carried on with the brainstorm and V jumped in from time to time approving or disapproving of ideas (we need to work on withholding judgement!) and adding some of her own. (The squiggled post it notes are the ideas she chose to write herself. When I asked her what they said she replied: “You just can’t read my writing, can you??”)

That was our first family brainstorm! I’m sure the first of many to come.

In what ways might you celebrate Creativity & Innovation week?


Building Self Awareness and Confidence

Building Confidence in Kids,

Through my contemplations about what it means to be creative I keep going back to one thing: Confidence. Having the confidence to try new things, to explore and to create.

I’ve been thinking a lot about things I can do to help my little ones build confidence.

A few days ago I came across a link to a blog article titled “Would you let your baby do this?” Intrigued I clicked through and read the article and of course watched the video. It really caused me to pause and think about my own parenting style and how I would have handled myself in that situation.

Then I was in that situation. A day or two later I was at the park with my girls. E went for the climbing wall and I decided that rather than help her climb the wall as I had the week before I would watch closely… and on a whim I decided to video tape the experience.

“I did it!”

This video absolutely captures for me what Janet Lansbury’s article is all about: allowing children the opportunity to practice their gross motor skills without interfering and observing the benefits!

What struck me the most as this was taking place is that E asked for help remembering that I had helped her before. She had developed a bit of dependency and thought she needed the help. I let her climb and she asked again “Mommy Help Evelyn.” Again I didn’t  say anything but I watched closely, not touching her.  (The part where the camera moves was me carefully watching to make sure I was there to catch her if she fell, but I didn’t touch her and she made it to the top!) In this moment she realized she could do it! I can watch this over and over and over again.

This video was her first solo attempt. After reaching the top, she went down the slide and practiced her climbing an additional 3 times, each time proclaiming “See! I did it!” with great pride and confidence!

Building confidence is a practice.

I share this experience here because it was a great reminder to me that sometimes it’s best to stand back (but not too far back in this case!) and observe. To let children practice, fall, explore, try, concentrate, make decisions, question and find their own answers because when they do the reward is so much greater than if I had helped her climb the wall.

This experience also demonstrated for me that helping our children doesn’t always help them. I’m just glad that I realized this soon enough that she didn’t not try because she didn’t think she could do it herself.

I have come to understand that creativity has everything to do with confidence. Building confidence is a practice that needs nurturing. It can be lost and found again. Artist Kelly Rae Roberts thoughtfully talks about this on her blog and offers ideas for inviting confidence back into your life.

Thank you Janet Lansbury for sharing your article again highlighting the benefits of RIE parenting and reminding me to stand back sometimes.

 Photo credit: ‘ I can because I think I can’ letterpress print by Print and Be Merry.

A Celebration of Artful Memories!

Giveaway Winner,

Thank you to everyone who entered The Artful Parent book giveaway! Congratulation to Kristal, our giveaway winner!

When I asked you to leave a comment sharing your favourite childhood artful moment I didn’t realize what a great collection of inspiring stories I would hear. I loved reading each and every one of your artful experiences! I felt as though I was able to get a glimpse into your childhood memories; moments that I could tell you hold dear to you.

Many of your memories included engaging with nature and exploring. Several recounted stories of mothers and fathers leading by example with their own creative endeavours and creating opportunities for art making. So many great ideas came out of this that I want to highlight them here.

Favourite Artful Memories:

  • Decorating cookies with mom in the kitchen!
  • Treasure hunt through the trails collecting treasures and natural materials to including making a home-made books with stories about the walk.
  • Stamping using potatoes.
  • Making cards using pressed flowers.
  • Designing wrapping paper by painting or stamping brown parchment paper.
  • Sewing costumes using mom’s extra fabric and setting up a backyard circus to perform in!
  • Body tracing on giant sheets of paper and making paper clothes to dress the life sized you!
  • Making God’s Eyes using sticks from the insides of cactus trees and yarn.. going back to the 70’s!
  • Weaving a mat from newspapers inspired by an ‘Encycolpedia of Crafts’ book.

What has really come through is that all of these artful experiences were born out of the following…

  • Allowing children the freedom to decide what they want to do and give them the space and tools to do it. Example: Jake’s daughter creating a book from scratch called “My Book of School”. He shares Mia’s story here.

IDWIL - artful moment,

  • Providing children with not only a space to create but one that suits their needs. Megan’s bright red family art table with legs cut down to ‘kids size’ is the perfect example of that!
  • Inviting children to engage in a creative project like making the centrepiece for the living room table for a special occasion.
  • Prompting children with an idea (like taking found materials) and providing the freedom to explore and express themselves.
  • Modelling creativity such as seeing a parent sew, knit/crochet, dance, build etc.
  • Encouraging creativity.
  • Celebrating creativity.  Two great examples were shared: 1) celebrating and encouraging a children’s work by covering a wall with her creations and 2) honouring a child’s home-made tree ornament by bringing it out and hanging it on the Christmas tree every year!
  • Spending time with mom and dad whether it be in the kitchen, at the craft table or in nature. This came through as the warmest and dearest family creative memories!

A wonderful artist friend of mine coincidentally posted this beautiful photograph of her artist mother making art with her in her studio today. With her permission I’m sharing it here because apart from the fact that everything in this photo is beautiful, including the colouring and composition, I was struck by what a fantastic example this is of sharing creativity! Most definitely an artful memory captured perfectly!

Thank you for sharing your stories! It was so much fun to welcome new visitors here and I especially LOVED hearing about all of your artful moments from your childhoods and artful moments in the present with your own children!

The Artful Parent Book Review + Giveaway!

The Artful Parent Blog Tour - Canadian Stop with Keeping Creativity Alive, The Artful Parent Book Review + Giveaway. Enter this weekend (April 5-8th, 2013) for a chance to win a copy!!!

Welcome to the Canadian stop of The Artful Parent Book Blog Tour!

I’m happy to announce that I’m hosting my first ever giveaway!  I couldn’t have arranged for a more appropriate item to feature; this book is true to my own passion for art and creativity and sharing all of that with my family as Jean Van’t Hul does with hers!  I have a copy to giveaway to one lucky person. Keep reading to find out how you can enter for a chance to win!

I’ve been following The Artful Parent blog for several years now as a source of great inspiration and ideas for art exploration with kids at home. Jean Van’t Hul, THE Artful Parent, has provided parents, teachers and caregivers a vast amount of project ideas over the years and her new book encompasses over 60 of her arts based activities!

I can go on and on telling you why I think this is an amazing book, and I will 😉 but there is one sentence that sums up why I think this book is so great and it’s in the Acknowledgements:

To my mom… for providing the freedom to be creative during childhood, and to my grandmother… for being a kindred spirit, the first real artist I knew, and a continuing inspiration.

Reading this almost had me in tears (acknowledgement tributes often have that effect on me!) I think because I can relate to it with my own family experience and because to me this book is all about providing children the freedom to be creative (so special) and providing inspiration by example (so important)!

The Artful Parent Book Review + Giveaway. Enter this weekend (April 5-8th, 2013) for a chance to win a copy!!!

The Artful Parent: Simple Ways to Fill Your Family’s Life with Art & Creativity is a resource for artful activities but what I really love is that it goes beyond the actual project ideas.  This book is a guide to all parents – those who consider themselves artful or not – and provides basically everything you need to know about how to encourage creativity through art with children.

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard people say “I’m not crafty at all!” or take my friend who upon seeing this book at my house said “The Artful Parent.. I’m so NOT an Artful Parent!” But this book speaks to all.. whether you think you’re artful or not and provides guidance as to how to “[Say] Yes to Art”!

The Forward, written by Mary Ann F. Kohl reminds us that being artful is a choice and how “living artfully will be the finest choice you’ve ever made for your family, next to reading books at bedtime and putting nutritious meals on the table.”

The Artful Parent is a tool that encourages thinking and will help you raise creative, productive thinkers and doers. – Mary Ann F. Kohl

Kohl ends the Forward with the following invitation: “Join us and become an artful parent, giving your family the gift of a lifetime of creativity.” This book gives parents the tools to do just that and THAT is why I love it so much!

Before I move on to share an activity we tried, I want to highlight these lists of “Do’s and Don’ts for Talking about Children’s Art” found in the chapter: “Encouraging Your Budding Artist.”

The Artful Parent Book Review + Giveaway. Enter this weekend (April 5-8th, 2013) for a chance to win a copy!!!

I share this because it’s so important to consider the ways that we talk to children about their art. How we respond can make or break a child’s interest in creating and has a huge impact on their intrinsic motivation for art and ultimately their confidence.

“Do Say This… Nothing. (When in doubt, zip your lips.)”

Ha. Love it! So true. Sometimes it’s best to just observe.

Okay, our ‘Artful Activity’ experience…

I asked V to flip through the book and select which activity she’d like to try…

The Artful Parent Book Review + Giveaway. Enter this weekend (April 5-8th, 2013) for a chance to win a copy!!!

She chose Artful Activity 14: Clay Pinch Pot Nest with Eggs and Bird. Lucky for me I had the materials I needed on hand.. yup, I’m an Artful parent.. why else would I have clay on hand?!

The Artful Parent Book Review + Giveaway. Enter this weekend (April 5-8th, 2013) for a chance to win a copy!!!

The book provides a range of activities which explore different materials accompanied by project examples so that families can collect the materials and either follow the instructions directly or simply use the activity as inspiration. The latter is what interested V. She wanted to get her hands dirty like Maia’s (in the picture) but she had her own ideas about what she wanted to make. She randomly chose to make a turtle!

V: “But I don’t know what a turtle looks like?!”  So we looked up ‘turtle‘ on google images, she chose one as her model (a cartoon version!) and got off creating! Our clay (being a bit old) was tough, so I watered it down and tried softening it by throwing it against the table to get the air pockets out. Once our clay was ready she created the shell body and was set to attach the head, legs and tail.

This was a good opportunity to teach her about scoring when attaching clay parts so that the pieces would have something to hold on to. Using the scoring tool (a fork or pencil would work just as well) she carved a cross hatch design on the surfaces of the clay to be attached and wet them both a tiny bit, then gently squeezed the adjoining pieces together.

Artful Activity: Clay building with Kids,

I went off to do something else and came back to her getting really fancy with decorating her turtle’s shell…

Artful Activity: Clay building with kids,

Apparently she decided this would be a leatherback sea turtle!

Artful Activity: Working with Clay,

Although we’ve had the clay in our cupboard since before Christmas, it took a little bit of inspiration to remind us to pull it out and make something. The Artful Parent book is FULL of inspiration!

Win a copy of The Artful Parent Book!

I’m excited that I have a copy to giveaway!

To enter for a chance to win leave a comment here sharing your favourite artful memory as a child!  I’d also love to hear how you parent artfully already or what you would like to improve upon in that area. Simple as that!

Giveaway details: You must have a Canadian or U.S. address to win. Deadline for entries is Monday April 8th, 2013, 11pm EST, one day before the book is officially released! Please include your email address so I can reach you if you win! Winner will be chosen randomly.

For additional chances to win you can:

Each time you do one of the above, leave a comment here letting me know. Good luck!

Thank you for reading and supporting Keeping Creativity Alive! I hope that I will have more opportunities to offer giveaways to you in the future as well!

* Disclosure: I received two copies of The Artful Parent book – one to review (and keep) and one to giveaway! All opinions expressed are my own.

Follow The Artful Parent Blog Tour

March 18 – Tinkerlab – activity demonstration + giveaway

March 25 – Handmade Charlotte – feature post

March 26 – Playful Learning – activity demonstration

March 28 – Nurture Store – feature post + giveaway

March 30 – Make and Takes – feature post

April 1 – Red Ted Art – book review + giveaway

April 2 – Kids Activity Blog – interview + giveaway

April 3 – Pink and Green Mama – feature post

April 4 – Peas & Carrots Studio – interview

April 8 – Not Just Cute – feature post

April 9 – Creative with Kids – interview

April 10 – Imagination Tree – book review

April 11 – Let’s Lasso the Moon – parent & child book review

April 14 – Teach Preschool – activity demonstration + review + giveaway



Thank you to everyone entered The Artful Parent book giveaway!

Congratulations to our winner, Kristal! I hope this book inspires many artful memories for your family! I’ll be in touch via email!

The Artful Parent Book Giveaway!

I’m so excited to share that I have a copy of the yet to be released book: The Artful Parent: Simple Ways to Fill Your Family’s Life with Art & Creativity to give away to one lucky reader!

The Artful Parent - Giveaway!

I received 2 copies in the mail – one to keep and one to give – and I just have to say that it’s a BEAUTIFUL book! I can’t wait to read it cover to cover and try some of the projects! Look for my post this coming Friday, April 5th for a review of the book and for details on how you can enter for a chance to win a free copy!