Thursday, September 22, 2011

Making Things With and For My Kids

I am an artist.  Now that I am a mother of two creative little souls I devote much of my creative energy into making things with and for my kids.
The year following my first child’s birth I found ways to continue my art making.  I threw pottery in my garage during naptimes and hired teens from my church to play with him while I glazed.  I painted murals with my son strapped to me in a baby carrier.  He loved grabbing my brushes and watching each colorful brush stroke.  I tried trimming pots once with him in a carrier on my back.  No, that did not work, but I’m not sorry I tried it. 
When my second child was born I decided ceramics just wasn’t working.  Clay required too much attention and so I turned to my sewing machine and paint brush instead.  They were much less messy and I could work in little creative spurts while my boys napped and played nearby. 
I designed and made a fabric playhouse for my son’s first birthday.  He also got a toy kitchen from his grandparents which got me thinking about making play food.  I had worked at a children’s museum the year prior to his birth, so I pulled from that experience along with a textile sculpture class I’d taken in college.   I took actual food and dissected it, making patterns from it and shrinking it to fit my miniature chef and his kitchen.  My husband would come home from a long day at work and I would present him with the product of my day, “Tah dah!  Miniature paella!  Complete with little shrimp and rice made from embroidery floss.  Check out how it fits in the little frying pan!”
The time I had spent making manipulative activities at the museum combined with watching my little ones play and interact with their toys got me really thinking about toys.  Many toys on the store shelves could “play” just fine on their own without a child doing a thing.  I was hungry to find toys that were only as good as the imagination of the child playing with them.  Joan Almon founding director of the Alliance for Childhood says “A good toy is 95% child and 5% toy.”   I couldn’t agree more.  I gravitated towards simple wooden toys.   Toys like blocks and wooden train sets that could be set up and changed and become anything the kids wanted them to become.  I wanted toys that were a catalyst for their imaginations not simply things that entertained them. 
I also wanted them to learn things in a way that they enjoyed so much that they didn’t even notice that they were learning.  When designing my playhouse I brainstormed with a friend of mine, who also happens to be a teacher, I wanted to paint trees on the playhouse with apples you could pick.  Why not make them out of different colors and have matching colored barrels for the kids to sort them?  I had a barn on one side of the playhouse with a basket of a dozen eggs that you could hide and then the kids could find them and collect them.  Why not write numbers on the eggs and have the kids put them in numerical order?  Each idea that became fleshed out with multiple ways to play and learn was so exciting to me.  I couldn’t wait to make the sketches in my sketch book into real tangible objects and start playing with my boys! 
So that’s how I got started and now I hope to share some of my ideas and start some conversations about other ways that parents can encourage their little ones.  By creating opportunities for play that foster creative thinking and problem solving, we as parents can have a positive impact on the next generation.

No comments:

Post a Comment