Left to themselves, children will find ways on their own to engage their creative minds. They don't really need instruction books with project ideas or patterns. Young ones can figure out creative fun on their own. Even while doing work.
Shucking corn is merry work for most children. But on her own outside, our 9-year-old made her corn husking task even more delightful. First, she presented me prettily wrapped maize, with husks tied around (photo above, right). Sweetly beautiful. Like she was handing me a gift. And she was—she had offered to do this chore and then surprised me beyond expectation.
Much later, I came upon our outdoor grill prep table. I began glowing with a growing grin. One that radiates from a mother seeing something her child has done for the first time; a smile that comes from a mother relishing a special moment. There, I fell upon our child's corn creations, above. There was such beauty and care in her work. The brown paper bag, packed like a gift, was tied with a husk. I admired her braided and rolled husks, and two stoic corn husk dolls leaning against our home. I thought about how her handwork echoed play pioneer girls once engaged in, living on the prairie in early America.
But mostly I thought about what we're doing right here—Our slow-paced life with plenty of unstructured time for creating; my philosophy that children need not be presented with art projects with instructions, just materials to explore and experiment with with paper, paint, collage, clay...even corn husks; and our children's creative self-reliance on entertainment from books, pretend play, outdoor play and art play.
Our children tell me they are grateful they don't play any video games or watch televison all day. They are glad they have so many interests—learning skills like origami, knitting, bird house building, fashion design, drawing, coin and rock collecting, learning Japanese, and sewing instead. It's wonderful to hear them tell me that. So wonderful. But to see it here in it's culmination on the table, to see the result of this choice in parenting in the beautiful corn husk creations brought joy to this mother's heart. Because so many choices are made as a parent. So very many. And in this one, I joyfully see here we made the right one for our family.
giving children opportunities to make work into play
one. Washing dishes, the car or toys with a tub of bubbly suds will occupy a child while offering plenty of bubble fun for popping and swishing.
two. Dusting or sweeping the floor blesses a fairytale-loving child with the joy of pretending to be Cinderella, a maid, or even a pretend 'dust fairy'. Initiate the idea, then let your young one do the imagining.
three. Setting the table can be extra fun for a child if they are encouraged to pretend they are setting up for a grand feast in a castle, a lavish party, or a fancy restaurant. Perhaps they will bring in flowers they picked for a centerpiece, decorate fancy placements, or be allowed to use the very best silver and dishes for the special pretend occasion.
four. Provide plenty of unstructured time. When jobs need to be done quickly, it's not conducive to the lovely lolly-gagging of an imaginative child. Playing while working takes more time than if you had quickly done the job yourself. Begin a chore extra early if your little sidekick will be assisting. Patience and time will foster creative play.
five. And don't forget. Expect a bigger mess to clean up when your child is done helping (or 'helping'). Remember (while you're cleaning up that bubbly mess of water on the floor from our first suggestion); your young one is learning home-keeping from you, bonding with you, helping you—
and is running away with creative imagination with you. ©heather cahoon • wordplayhouse®
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