“Creative isn’t the way I think, it’s the way I live.” – Paul Sandip (Quoted from Chapter 6 of The Artful Parent)
A few weeks ago, I walked into a teacher training. One of the other teachers had put a pile of small canvas coffee bags with intriguing logos in the middle of our sign-in table. She told us to take as many bags as we’d like because she drank gallons of the coffee and hated to throw the things away. The logos fascinated me and I said something to another teacher about making a collage or a small hanging quilt out of them. He looked at me like I was batty.
“Ok. You’re creative,” he said. I read in his words that he didn’t think he was creative. That creative was something you were or were not. And this was from a teacher I had just heard talking about the amazing ways he found to connect with students using new technologies.
I often think that people are afraid to own their creativity. I wonder sometimes if they faced too much criticism and have never recovered. Watching my son navigate junior high, I can see how the cold water of peers could douse the creative spark. It may be safer for people to duck their heads and proclaim that they aren’t creative.
While I’ve spent my share of time ducking my own head, I am hoping my own children won’t need to. Recently, I found The Artful Parent: Simple Ways to Fill Your Family’s Life with Art and Creativity by Jean Van’t Hul. This book offered me ways to help my kids begin creating and, even better, tuck creativity into the fabric of their lives.
The Artful Parent walks parents through the process of setting up a space, preparing children to create and then gives over 60 projects to work on with children. The projects range from simple enough for an 18 month old to engaging for school aged children. Van’t Hul begins her book with a discussion of why art is important to her as a person and a parent. She has a strong background in the arts and a guiding belief that art makes the world a better place. The book goes on to give clear instructions on setting up an art space, and then getting children started in creating.
Interwoven between art projects, several other contributors with strong artistic backgrounds write pieces of inspiration and practical information. Many of them have written books of their own and have years of professional practice in the arts as well as impressive degrees.
Van’t Hul knows her topic and the projects were easy for me to understand. The photographs alone are worth the $15.37 I paid for the book. Light and beautiful children fill the pages to illustrate the projects the author describes. My 2 year old son loved the pictures,too. The first night I was flipping through the book, he latched onto the picture of the cars in paint from ‘Artful Activity 29: Action Painting with Cars.’ He insisted that we put the book in his dresser drawer near his bed for the night so we would be sure to do that project in the morning.
The writing is clear and full of examples that help me understand how to do the projects with my children. I am eager to begin making art materials like puffy paint out of kitchen ingredients.
In my family, I also have the unique joy and challenge of two boys aged 2 and 13. My 13 year old wasn’t immediately attracted to the bright colors and young children pictured in this book. However, as we started setting things up for his younger brother with an easel and other materials, the mood inspired him to pull out his own pens. He began sharing with me the doodles from his notebooks. In a brief message to me about her eBook, Jean Van’t Hul, suggested we try Zentangle. My oldest took to this and began creating more often while looking for places to share more of his art.
In truth, I forgot those canvas bags at the meeting. I’ll need to ask the coffee-loving teacher to bring me more. But I find such joy in thinking of ways to create that I don’t always need to do the project. My life magically improves with just a thought of what I might do with some old coffee bags.
Meanwhile, I’m planning to buy copies of the book for my other friends with young children. Spreading her book around feels like helping the world to be a more beautiful place full of people who recognize their own creative abilities.