Being: Conscious, mortal existence; life.
Every month we welcome two families, two people, two voices to share their stories in whatever way they chose. We hope that you find joy in their daily lives, and their simple habit of just being.
While chatting on the phone recently, I felt three year old Beatrix tapping me on the arm, wanting to show me what she had just created. In her hands was a folded piece of paper that she had drawn on, added a googly eye, and two legs. The legs she fashioned from dragon tongue beans, a pile of which I had left sitting on the kitchen table. Bea explained that it was a monster. My friend on the other end of the phone asked me, “How do you do that? How do you make art accessible like that for your kids, because mine don’t just make things as spontaneously as yours do.”
The truth is, that I am not exactly sure what the answer is to that question. Over the years I have spent countless hours gathering materials and planning arts and crafts projects for my children. As time has passed, and my family has grown, I have found myself less able to keep up, and more hopeful that my children will take the lessons they’ve learned and the freedom that I give them to create, and do just that: on their own.
The home I share with my family of eight is small. There is no designated space for art; most happens at our kitchen table, although when the weather permits, I love to keep painting, beyond using watercolors, outdoors. This is better for all. I’ve also learned that by keeping things easily accessible, I make my life easier, and my children are happy as well.
We have a large cabinet that sits behind our kitchen table. It stores many things, but on the shelf that is eye level for my 3 and 6 year old, I store the art supplies that I want within their reach. These supplies might include various types of paper, small blank notecards (my favorite canvas for young artists- small is fun,) children’s craft and how to draw books, colored pencils, crayons, and watercolors. Scissors are stored in a high drawer because I have one who is keen on cutting her own hair, but those would typically be a nice addition. I also keep glue sticks, and even a couple of hot glue guns in the cabinet.
For my fiber enthusiasts, there is a basket filled with balls of wool yarn, roving, and thin pencil roving which is great for braiding and making into jewelry. This basket sits on the bottom shelf of our cabinet.
I emailed my friend a few days later asking her what she’d like to know more about, were I to write about this topic. I am not sure what I was hoping she would ask, maybe something fun and easy such as, “Can you share your favorite affordable art supplies?” But, what she asked is how the clean up end of things happens, “Do my kids clean up after themselves?”
I hate to say so, but the short answer is “not always.” The long answer is that my older ones typically do, with a reminder from me necessary at times, and my younger children need help, sometimes a lot of it. To keep cleanup to a minimum I store paint smocks (thrifted men’s shirts with collar removed and sleeves cut short- these are worn backwards and work very well,) an old sheet to cover the table with, and hand towels to spread beneath individual painting projects in the cabinet along with our art supplies. My children know to use these things, and they usually do. But the truth is that having a small house full of creative types, it’s messy at times…er…most of the time. I haven’t figured out a way to live the way we do and keep things neat, but I can live with that (most of the time.) If my kids are afraid of upsetting me with creative messes, there may not be any. That’s not my goal. In the creative department my goal is that my children feel free to create, and that they learn to do so within reasonable limits, while respecting those around them. This includes learning to clean up their messes, and with time they will. Remember your three year old will be turning twelve before you know it, and he or she will most likely be very good at cleaning up after themselves (with occasional reminders) at that point. In the meantime, gently guide your little ones. The countless messes that will be made along the way are a sign of living life rather than managing it, and that’s a good thing.
So, if you find yourself contemplating arts, crafts, and your children, I would suggest that you first make a decision about where you want most art to happen, equip the area, and then let go as much as you are able. Consider your tolerance level for mess, and try to take one step beyond it. You’ll survive, and you children will feel the freedom they need to nurture the creative side that we all share.
This month we happily welcome Ginny Sheller as a guest in our Being series here on the blog. A mother of six, Ginny keeps her own beautiful blog, Small Things, where she shares her thoughts on everything from knitting and gardening, to homeschooling her six children and keeping bees on the side.
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