Tuesday, 9 August 2011

The Rules of Creativity: Learning to Create with the "Non-Creative"

Welcome to the August Carnival of Natural Parenting: Creating With Kids
This post was written for inclusion in the monthly Carnival of Natural Parenting hosted by Hobo Mama and Code Name: Mama. This month our participants have shared how they make messes and masterpieces with children. Please read to the end to find a list of links to the other carnival participants.


"Creativity is intelligence having fun." 
Albert Einstein 

As a haphazard kind of creative type myself, one of the things I looked forward to immensely as a new mum was the inevitable moments of messy play and crafty fun that I was sure would be a daily occurrence. Unfortunately boy Earthly had other ideas. I've written elsewhere about some of his personality traits, particularly as a baby, but suffice to say he was (and remains) a highly sensitive soul who likes things to be just so.

Whenever I tried to engage him in some painting or other crafty activity, he got just a teensy bit upset. And naturally, after a few such incidents, I got just a little upset too. I struggled so much to connect with this little person who simply wanted to sit and organise his crayons rather than attempt some wild scribbles; to sieve earth repeatedly through his fingers rather than digging pits and burying seeds; to refuse point-blank to put his hands anywhere near a tray of paint. Who was this little person and where did he come from?!

When he was a few months old, we were overjoyed to find that he really enjoyed one activity in particular: baking. I guess it appeals to his sense of order and method (despite us being completely haphazard in the kitchen as elsewhere, never measuring anything!) along with his great love of food of course. So we have managed a few baking sessions together, which is generally really good fun, right up until the point when the items need to go into the oven. He's learned recently that things need to "cook" but before now he seemed to think we were just denying him a lovely treat by putting it away!

Such is his love of baking (and eating) that when I tried to get both kids involved in a footprint plaque for Father's Day, boy Earthly screamed the place down when I attempted to get him to make his mark. And when I went to press his sister's foot into the clay, it elicited the same reaction. Having seen me rolling out this brown, dough-like stuff, he seemed to think we were making cookies or something and naturally got quite upset about the abuse of said cookie dough!

Kids are such great teachers. They teach us (if we allow them) to remain open minded. Before boy Earthly came along I rather scorned those who couldn't live with abandon and just have a stab at something, even if they'd never tried it before. I laughed at my mum for measuring pasta, and failed to understand people who followed recipes. But with my little boy's apparent orderliness I have had to swallow my judgment and learn anew about different approaches to creativity.

I know many, many people who believe they are "not the creative sort" because they do not naturally fall into that subset of personalities who are comfortable playing with possibilities. But the last thing I want is for my little boy to believe himself limited - or for anyone else to believe it either. Here's the thing, people. ANYone can be creative (seen Ratatouille?!). It's just a matter of different approaches. While some people may have an innate ability to absorb the 'rules' in order to bend them, others have to really work at it and explore, examine and extrapolate. The role as educator (and therefore my role as a mum) is to allow the freedom in which to do this. For creativity, in essence, is play. And play cannot be forced!

So whilst I watch my son methodically passing water between his measuring cups in the bath (over and over and over and over), I must remember this: in his explorations (however mundane they may seem to me) he is still learning. And quite often the things he finds out are in fact, quite new to us as adults. Like figuring out how to open child safety caps (before he learned that caps usually just unscrew). So given that freedom, and a little exposure to different possibilities, I hope that he will find his creative self and be both comfortable and confident with it. It's a good lesson for all of us - particularly those of you who feel they "aren't the creative type" - to let go, have a go and HAVE FUN!

Carnival of Natural Parenting -- Hobo Mama and Code Name: MamaVisit Hobo Mama and Code Name: Mama to find out how you can participate in the next Carnival of Natural Parenting!
Please take time to read the submissions by the other carnival participants:
  • Family Draw Time Art ShowKate Wicker shares art (and inspiration!) from her family's cherished tradition of family draw time.
  • The Rules of Creativity: Learning to Create with the "Non-Creative" — Zoe at Give an Earthly shares how she learned to accept her "non-creative" child and claims that anyone, child or adult, can be creative given the right handling and environment.
  • Creating With Kids: 4 Ways That Work For Us — See how Kristin at Intrepid Murmurings nurtures creativity with her kids through craft projects, outdoor creative play, celebrating the creative process, and setting up "little spaces of beauty."
  • Creating memories, not things — Mrs. Green from Little Green Blog reflects on life with a ten year old and how 'creating together' has evolved from 'things' to memories.
  • The Gift of Creation — It may be hot, but Kellie at Our Mindful Life is already thinking about winter.
  • Hidden Talents — Sylvia at MaMammalia describes how providing the opportunity for creativity sometimes means learning to look for hidden talents in unusual places.
  • Creating Joy — CatholicMommy at Working to be Worthy shares how she and her one year-old son create joy for their community.
  • How to do Crafts with Kids — Gaby from Tmuffin guest posts at Natural Parents Network and describes how to keep things simple when doing crafts with kids for magical (easy-to-clean, and tantrum-free) results.
  • Sugar & Spice & Baking on the Kitchen Floor — Carrie at Love Notes Mama enjoys making a mess in the kitchen with her daughter.
  • Young Scientist Makes Purple Potion — Hannah at Wild Parenting loves being a lab assistant for the young scientist in her life.
  • Making a butterfly house — Lauren at Hobo Mama demonstrates the proper way to build a wooden butterfly house with a preschooler.
  • Nurturing Creativity — Amyables at Toddler In Tow shares the enjoyment she feels in nurturing the creativity of her children.
  • Home School Music - Sparking A New Generation Of Musicians — Based on her musical background, Chante at My Natural Motherhood Journey talks about how she creates with and teaches music to her children.
  • Creating (im)perfectly TogetherMudpiemama shares some of the highlights of a summer spent building everything from ships to hoops but most of a lesson on letting go of perfection.
  • Family Soccer Kick Around — When her children wanted to play soccer, Mandy at Living Peacefully with Children helped organize something that would work for her family.
  • Creating Memories Together on Skype — Deb Chitwood at Living Montessori Now tells how you can create memories online with adult children or anyone who lives in another city or country.


  1. What a wise perspective for us to have! Your descriptions of his behavior kept making me laugh — it really would seem like you were just taking the food away when you put it in the oven, and the ickiness of pressing feet in the "dough" — how funny! Maybe he's destined to be something of a scientist, a creative calling in its own way. :)

  2. Dionna @ Code Name: Mama9 August 2011 at 13:51

    "For creativity, in essence, is play. And play cannot be forced!" Oh how true! What an insightful thought, and one that hadn't really occurred to me. I sometimes get frustrated when Kieran shows absolutely no interest in some of the creative ideas I've come up with, but if it's not fun, then what good will it be?

  3. The quote Dionna pulled out struck me as well as did the wonderful Einstein quote you open your beautiful post with (I'm going to borrow that one!). One of the challenges as a mom to three very different girls is discovering how each one expresses their creativity. All children are creative, but how they give that creativity life can be very different.

    We love to bake, too, and as you said, children are very good teachers. Once upon a time we'd don our pretty aprons and perfectionist, neurotic me would find myself barking orders, "Not that much flour!" "No, don't lick that!" "Stop! Do it this way!" But I realized I was robbing myself and my children of the joy of creating in the kitchen and just spending time together. My children have taught me I can bake and cook with them—but only as an entirely separate activity from doing it myself and my way. Now when we gather in the kitchen, I try to make an effort to relinquish all expectations of the finished product (and to ignore the flying flour and sticky hands). My children’s enjoyment - rather than perfectly shaped cookies or moist scones - is the product I hope to cook up.

    At any rate, I so enjoyed your post and the way you weave words together. Thanks for sharing!


  4. Imogen @ Alternative Mama9 August 2011 at 18:59

    Your boy sounds a lot like mine :) Monkey loves to bake, too, and although he is starting to enjoy some arty activities he would still rather make colorful piles with the glitter than stick it on the page.

    Thank you for this lovely post. I really love the way you write.

  5. I love how your unconditional loving and compassion shines through in your parenting. Sometimes I look at my daughter and wonder how on EARTH she can be mine LOL! It's lovely that you are using humour as a great way to accept differences and are simply accepting and loving your kids as they are. Thanks for a lovely post :)

  6. Sylvia@MaMammalia9 August 2011 at 21:16

    It sounds to me like boy Earthly is creative in his own right. Particular, yes, but also creative...he sees things in a way that many of us don't. He is fortunate to have a mother who doesn't judge him and who supports his quirky and amusing play!

  7. I so believe that all humans are born creative -- it's a human trait to want to play with, shape, mold and manipulate our world -- but people do it in so very different ways! I am much more an "art" type person, creating things, making messes, traditional crafts are fun for me. My husband is much more a "tinkerer", and always has been. He likes to examine things, slowly and carefully, take them apart and put them together, and build and construct. I think this is a very common difference between the genders -- though of course both boys and girls can enjoy both realms! You might be interested in Teacher Tom's blog, where he has a series about "boy art" in his preschool -- creative projects and experiences that tend to lure the boys, in particular, in more than others...

  8. You put this so well. And maybe boy Earthly's way of being creative IS his measured exploration of the world. Scientists are creative, but they have to be so methodical about their discoveries to keep track of what they are discovering. I come from a world where creativity = chaos and I also "rather scorned those who couldn't live with abandon and just have a stab at something, even if they'd never tried it before." Your post puts what creativity is into perspective: it's about your focus and your passion, no matter how that comes across.


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...