Art, Creative Play

When to follow and when to fly free!

The other day, I was working with a teen group and they were putting together pages for a family history type of memory book.  The leader of the group had meticulously created some really lovely pages, and then provided the materials to make each page to exact precision.

One of the teenagers, 16 years, asked if she could make the pages however she wanted to instead of following the prescribed design.  Now, normally, I would say, “Sure, create!”  But in this case, when the leader had gone to so much trouble, I told the girl that she needed to follow the pattern.  It may not be creative but she could learn some new designs and techniques as well as showing appreciation to one who had gone to so much trouble.

However, there are times when we need to allow our kids the freedom of creativity, especially when they are younger (birth to early grade school ages)!  I read an opinion piece yesterday by Erin Stewart about this, and I quote  a section of it to illustrate my point.

“While attending my daughter’s weekly art class, I noticed the mom next to me getting increasingly frustrated. Her 18-month-old daughter was apparently not smearing the paint just right or placing the foam stickers where she wanted, because this mom kept uttering statements such as, “I’ve had it with this project,” and “No that’s not right. I am so over this.”

Watching this mom lose it over finger paints made me sad for her daughter, who was too scared to do her own art project. I’m no mother of the year, but in this instance I felt glad that my own daughter’s painting was just how it should be — a complete mess.

I hadn’t meddled in her finger painting skills or guided her foam sticker placement. Her painting looked like the work of a 3-year-old. It was messy, creative and unrecognizable as anything.”

The full peice can be found here.

Guess what – at early ages, children just won’t “do it right”.  They need to explore and practice.

For example, my two year old and I were walking home from taking my 5 year old to school.  She wanted to push the stroller for a while.  Now THAT takes time and patience –  waiting for a two year old to push a stroller… and stop to look at the flower… ants… tree… get the stroller straight, etc, etc.

The point is, that there are times when we need to practice, times when we need to explore, and times when we need to learn.  The trick is to have patience with ourselves and with others when they are in a different stage than we are.

5 thoughts on “When to follow and when to fly free!”

  1. This is something that I have to work on all the time with James. I have to remember that he needs to experience things to learn, even though having me just do it would save time/the mess/headaches etc etc. However, I have found him to be quite surprising when I’ve let him go on his own…he likes to close all the doors in the whole house. No door can be left open!

  2. As a teacher, I often struggle with when to be ‘perfect’ and when to allow creativity. I have concluded that I will give creative license, unless it has to be precise (like a map). My rules are that it has to be neat and I have to be able to read words when they are present. Otherwise, I really let them go for it.

    I have found that the things that they create are so much more amazing than anything I could have come up with in the first place!

  3. That is a great “rule of thumb” Mel, because there are some things that just HAVE to be done correctly, but the creativity is vital to learning as well. BTW, nice to hear from you! 🙂 It was nice running into you the other day!

    Joyce, I HATE movies when they don’t close the doors. I have a job offer for James… 🙂

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