Creativity Takes Time

English: Keyskills Centre toy piano model BG01...

Da, dum, dum – Da, dum, dum – Da, dum, dum, dum, dum, Da, Da – dum, dum, Da – aaaah I feel my brain  being  slaughtered by my 9 year old at the piano. Try, try, try – getting it right… error – oops and so we start Waltzing Matilda again and again and again…. Hour after hour, day after day. On occasion I can let it play, other times I walk away, sometimes I encourage “outside time”, and often I declare “silence!” to the furthest corner of the property!

When however I’m in a quieter frame of mind I know that this is all part of the creative and educational process. By choosing the same piece and working it out himself and playing it over and over he’s not only learning to play Waltzing Matilda but he’s  learning about music, sound, the piano itself, composition, endurance and so many other skills but mostly he’s expanding his ability to create. No, he’s not creating his own new piece but he’s looking at a well structured piece of music, breaking it down and, although he doesn’t realise it, he’s learning from this how music works and how to place different sounds together to create beautiful pieces of music.

We teach children to never copy and yet how did all the great masters learn their skill? They were apprentices to other great artist, composers or writers. Unfortunately our children don’t always have direct access to masters but the internet does provide us with a wealth of excellence from which we can work.

I recently watched a You Tube video entitled Deadlines where children were asked to reproduce a creative artwork using a clock face as the centre of the picture. They were only given 10 seconds in which to complete the task. In this time they all managed to draw the clock face only. However, when they were given 10 minutes they produced some great pictures. The concept being that “creativity takes time.” This very simple video had a powerful effect on the way I see human activity. When I see children “wasting time” on “fiddling around” on instruments, drawing endlessly, kicking the ball back and forth, back and forth. This is often not simply messing around but instead brain connections, thought processes and creative understanding are being established through these seemingly pointless and repetitive activities.

First day of school. Little girl with a blue c...

As parents we so often focus on the end product, on excellence from the start and our child progressing forward. However these are times that they need to be able to simply be. To simply make mistakes – some of which are intentional to understand why that doesn’t work or fit together. In order for them to be truly creative we need to allow them the space and time to work things out for themselves. We also need to realise that as humans creativity is often not about the end product but about the process. So as we head into the New Year and our children are tempted to spend every minute after school engaged in a constructive, organised sport or activity we need to step up and say enough. It’s up to us to ensure our children have time to fiddle on the piano, scribble hundreds of cars or to pick flowers and arrange them on the table for dinner.

As I sat and listened to my son play some beautiful Christmas carols, and watched him beam with pride at what he’d figured out, I knew every off note and my head banging moments were so worth it!

Encouraging Creativity at Home

Chalk

I’ll never forget the day when my first born was about 2 years old and he grabbed some wet red chalk that we had been using on paper and headed for the chalk board. The words,”Don’t you dare write on the chalk board with that chalk!” flew out my mouth. As they did so I couldn’t help but notice the obserdity at what I was saying. The reasoning was that wet, red chalk is a mission to clean up BUT he was exploring and discovering and learning and here I was qualified remedial teacher and all standing in his way.

8 years later I daily make it my aim to make our home as “free” as possible. Don’t get me wrong we have very clear boundaries but when it comes to creativity, exploring and learning our rules are simple – “No one is to get hurt (this includes any verbal nastiness, nothing gets broken and you clean up your mess.” Wow these new boundaries freed me as Mom and my kids to be kids they were revolutionary!

However we do still try to create other circumstances which encourage creativity and here are a few easy ideas that you can simply slip into your daily life.

  • Make up stories together. As you drive along and see an old lady and her dog. Who are they? Where are they going? What secrets do they have?
  • As you walk along create new and weird animals and plants.
  • At bedtime create new lands filled with wonderful creatures and characters. We used to live in a place called Albert Falls that had a huge dam. Lord Dad created a whole world for our knights around the Giant Chicken of Albert Falls. They have so many adventures and character ranging from the chicken to a toe called Joe!  It’s all crazy, silly but the boys are learning to create stories and think beyond their daily reality.Create an imaginary play area while the children are asleep. So when they wake they find the dining room table has been transformed by a blanket slung over it, and it filled with pillows and books into a mysterious hide out.
  • Let children be creative with their food. For snack time you can give them pieces of fruit and toothpicks and see what creatures they can make with them. Or use a sieve to spread icing sugar on a table and let them use their fingers to “draw” in it.
  • Provide them with a variety of instruments – even if they are homemade – and let them explore with sound.
  • Let them mix different things such as mud, pasta and flour together. Take some time to make some gloop – this is such fun that my 14yr old even wants to stay home from school to play with it.
  • Don’t always tell or explain things, let them figure things out for themselves.
  • Give them different bath toys – some that sink and some that float, add food colouring to their bath water – but only a little as it can give them a rash. If you feeling very brave and don’t mind scrubbing it clean as it may stain let them draw in the bath with chalk.
  • Make gifts, wrapping paper and cards rather than relying on purchased ones.
  • Plan outings and events together.
  • Let them arrange flowers to set on the table.

The lists are endless so the best thing to remember is to try and step back – give them space to think and explore and discover for themselves and this is the essence of creativity being sparked in their minds. The only real limitation being us providing our children with the freedom and time to create.

 

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Play Dough Recipe

We just love play dough and I have found the most amazing recipe that keeps in the fridge for months.

We keep each colour in a separate packet for as long as possible but eventually it all ends up mixed together and then it’s time for a new batch! Play dough is used for rolling and cutting activities which are fantastic for fine-motor and large motor development. We sometimes use it to make baskets or snakes and the kids love rolling it between their hands. Other times it is whipped out to be used in a maths activity or as food for the dolls. This last week my older son even used it to balance the nose of his glider he’d made for a science experiment.

The little ones love using it but it isn’t unusual to notice one of the older children hi-jack the activity. This is one easy to make, cheap educational product that you can make readily available to your child at any time. Have Fun

Play Dough Recipe
from Jackie French’s book “Natural Solutions”
2 cups flour
1 cup salt
4 Tablespoons cream of tartar
2 cups water
2 Tablespoons veg oil food colouring

Add all ingrdients – except food colouring – into a pan. (You can add a few drops of Dettol, eucalyptus or tea-tree oil to make it last longer) Stir until smooth over a low heat. Once thick like dough, take off and leave to cool. Divide into balls and add food colouring to each ball and knead in. Keep in the fridge in an airtight container and throw out any bits that become discoloured or smell.

My 7yr old make a viking ship!

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