I thought about naming this post “Engaging Kids in Summer Creativity,” since this blog is primarily about raising and educating kids intentionally, but why should they get all the fun? I want in too. Summer is the perfect time for kids and parents alike to flex creative muscles and explore things you may not have time for during the busy school year. And of course there’s all that sage advice about practicing what you preach, etc. If you want kids to make healthy choices, then you have to model that good behavior. But really, I just want in. And you should too.
So that’s Rule Number One in the Ridenhour Creativity Engagement Rule Book. If you want to engage your kids, find room in your own life to engage in some kind of creative endeavor. Do this activity with your child, or alongside, or even separate, but make time for it. You don’t have to be a painter or a musician. Maybe you like gardening. Or scrapbooking. Or cooking. Or maybe you just like to take walks in the neighborhood (and yes, I would argue that being a part of creativity too, depending on how you experience it). Whatever you find fulfilling.
Rule Number Two: Facilitate activity brainstorming without telling your child what to do. If a child is bored, and the parents are quick to give a solution, then the child never learns how to deal with the boredom themselves. Learning how to come up with ideas is an essential part of the creative process. This doesn’t mean you can’t be involved; grab your nearest white board (you have several handy, yes?) and announce a Creative Brainstorming Session. Then both of you can write ideas on the board. This kind of activity trains your child how to address their own boredom. Seeing all those options will help too. Perhaps they’ll even want to keep the list to refer back too. For many years, our family has set out a list of summer goals each May. Popular items on the list include bike rides, picnics, and game playing. Husband-Jamie always has “writing time” (he’s a novelist) on the list. Ian has “play lots of music.” I usually have exercise (I’m terrible at follow-through on that one) and gardening. And Eva often lists sleepovers and lego time. You get the idea. We keep the list visible all summer, referring back, checking things off, and adding new stuff.
Rule Number Three: Provide free time. I’m all for camps – they expose kids to a wide variety of activities, ideas, and other kids, and they are especially helpful for dual-income families. However, if the child is enrolled in camps with no break, she will never have the opportunity to pursue her own ideas and activities. There are countless studies and blogs and opinion columns about the hyper-scheduling of today’s children. I’m not going to go there, but I do think balance is key.
Rule Number Four: Host your child’s friends. Sometimes it’s just easier and more fun to engage in creative activities if you do it with a buddy. Eva recently attended a duct tape art camp (see? I do like camps!), and was instantly hooked. Her friend Leah attended with her and gave Eva a collection of colorful duct tape for her birthday. Now they make creations together, and Eva teaches her other friends how to make stuff too. Ian has several groups of friends that fulfill different creative needs. There is one group who will play Magic the Gathering and other trading card games with him for hours (and hours). Another plays music with him – actually he’s in two kid bands right now. Over the last week, Ian’s band Hex Radio has practically lived at our house rehearsing, gigging, recording, playing, and shooting their first music video (I’ve included it at the bottom of this post). It’s so fun to see all these conglomerations – to hear the excitement in their voices and experience all the wonderful things they come up with.
Rule Number Five: Procure appropriate supplies. This does two things: 1) it provides the practical tools needed for the creative activity, and 2) it validates your child’s interest. It cracks me up after all these years, but when I took Eva out to buy even more duct tape the other day, she kept squeezing my hand and told me how much she appreciated my buying her more. It was so sweet. Ian’s hobby is more expensive – recording equipment and software, composing software, a computer to run it all, drumsticks, etc. – but they are essential to helping him grow as a musician, so for us anyway, they are necessary expenses. Both kids know we value their ideas, because we invest both time and resources to support them.
Rule Number Six: Validate your child’s idea. This goes beyond just buying supplies. If your child takes on a particular project, then treat the process with respect. Is Eva a prodigy duct tape artist? No. Will she be making this art for more than even a few months? Probably not. Is there anything particularly special about the art she’s making? Honestly, not really. It’s cute, but what I’m interested more in is the excitement she has about it. She’s also willing to experiment with it. She started to make a duct tape dress and realized she didn’t have the skills to complete such an advanced project. She took the big panel of tape she made and decided to turn it into a bike pouch. When the straps didn’t work out so well, she began brainstorming on new latching solutions. She’s having a blast, thinking outside the box, enjoying her friends, and just hosted a duct tape art sale in the front yard. Pretty awesome.
Rule Number Seven: If you can, keep your eye out for opportunities for your child to take their creative project to a more professional level. This may just be having the duct tape art sale on the front lawn (her idea by the way), but it could also be a community event. For example, earlier this month I stumbled across a flyer inviting kids to have a booth for a day at the local mall, selling their wares. I brought the flier home for Eva, who used the opportunity to promote her books (she sold 8 copies!). The reason this step is important is to back up Rule Number Six. When your kids see you believing in them and in their ideas, it’s magic, pure and simple.
What creative endeavors are you and your kids taking on this summer?
And oh, yeah – as promised, here’s Hex Radio’s new music video, “Common Lies.”