Designated and Open Ended Creative Time

If you've followed us for a while then it's no surprise that nurturing our kids' creativity and interests is a priority and a huge part of our lives. I want them to hone their skills, perfect their crafts, and I want to nurture their innate talents. I'm always trying to find the best, most useful ways to accomplish this because the last thing that I want is for my “help” to be counterproductive.

I believe kids need space, time, and opportunities to explore their interests. They need a safe space for it to be okay that their interests change. They need someone to empower them to embrace their interests regardless of what anyone thinks. And they need time both structured and unstructured to be creative, to follow their interests, and dive in as far as they want to go for as long as they want.

While tech is embraced in our house and Minecraft, Roblox, YouTube, and FaceTime with friends has been a huge part of getting us through this last year it can also go from hobby, interest, and time filler to a crutch and a creativity blocker real quick. But I've found that throwing out a "Yo, you need to get off your iPad and go draw" doesn't work. And this is not because they're unwilling to listen and not because we’re not constantly evaluating and re-establishing healthy limits and boundaries but because if their inspiration isn't there forcing them to draw, write or whatever their current interest is will end up just being an exercise in futility. A waste of precious time that could be better spent elsewhere.

So over time I've hesitantly given up on pushing our kids to spend time on their interests. Holding back on the... Why don’t you go write, go draw, go sculpt, go paint...or whatever it is that they're into. Instead I create opportunities. For instance by asking that they get off their devices and listen to an audiobook or a podcast and do something creative. Completely their choice. They don't have to draw or write. They can make jewelry, sculpt, edit, animate, craft. The options are endless. So it forces the issue of the break from screens and helps redirect how they are spending their time. Yet it gives so much space to get those creative juices flowing. This doesn't always result in a creative flow. Often there's a lot of starts and stops and half done projects. But the time is open for them.

In a sense we both "win". I get to more productively guide screen breaks which helps to keep boredom at bay and they get to spend some time listening to something that interests them and finding something to keep their hands busy. Side note: I do believe that allowing space for boredom is absolutely necessary and some of the greatest things have come from boredom. But let's face it, at least around our house too much boredom can create a bundle of pent up energy. It can push a regular day to a chaotic place full of stress, tension, and anxiety. Sometimes we need to have tools to guide us through the boredom to help reduce everyone's stress and to help us keep the screens from becoming an unnecessary crutch.

So not only do we have designated creative times we also allow creative time to take precedence over most other things (within reason). So, if they’re working on a drawing and it's 11:30 I'm not going to make them turn off their lights, quit drawing, and go to sleep. I'll tell them that I'm going to bed and everyone in the house is sleeping and that if they’re going to stay up to finish drawing to please be sure to be courteous about the noise they make. Or if they’re in a writing flow and the ideas are coming I'm not going to make them stop to come eat. They’ll find a stopping spot they’re comfortable with and come eat when they’re hungry.

It's always the times that I've been questioning myself the most that I'm given gentle reminders that what we're doing is working and that the kids are alright. When I'm feeling like maybe we haven't made enough space for creativity or it feels like screens are winning they come and share a drawing or a passage or a sculpture with me that is so beautiful and so creative and completely self directed that I'm taken aback. I feel complete and pure joy and pride that they are really following their interests and it proves that when the time is right the creativity flows.

I want our kids to know that they really truly can do anything that they set their minds to and by creating space for both structured and open ended creativity I believe they learn how to put time, energy and dedication into what they want. They will know what healthy boundaries are and they will know that working through the hard stuff is not a choice but just another part of life.They can work on their arts, they can work on their academics, they can write for hours, they can game and edit for days. They can explore the path that excites them because it will make them into humans who are sure of themselves, who know what they like, what they want and who they are in this world.

I believe that we all want what's best for our kids and when times are tough and life gets crazy we'll probably always second guess if we're getting it right. More often than not though I like to think we're getting it right and when we slow down, we'll notice that our kids have been showing us this all along.