Let Them Create! (Getting Creative Instead of Reproducing Cookie Cutter Crafts)

We’re all stuck at home right now, and it’s the perfect opportunity to set up some creative habits – for the kids!

We’ve set up a project table (so that we can have our kitchen table for eating and to keep the main messes in the living room) and each day we’re giving the kids a new prompt, play or project. More on those below.

First, the ground rules about being creative in our home:

Creative activities must be open, to some extent. No cookie cutter crap.

Now that we have that out of the way, here’s how we’re making it work:

  1. We decide the night before what the next day’s activity will be. We try to give them a mix of art play, art prompts and art projects.
  2. We set out the materials the night before. This helps to make it easier to just do it in the morning.
  3. We’re being flexible. We’ve noticed that the Project Table has become an expectation, which is amazing. But, they are starting expect new entertainment. To balance this, we’re now exploring leaving out paper and crayons some mornings, and giving them their prompt/play/project in the afternoon.
  4. We’re giving them limited materials most days. They don’t need ALLTHECRAFTSUPPLIES. They don’t need pipe cleaners, pompoms, glitter, glue, glitter glue, paint, brushes, paper in every colour, cardstock in every colour, tape, popsicle sticks … all at once. Too much choice leads to an inability to MAKE a choice for most people, and leads to a mess that becomes so jumbled you can’t save the unused pieces. We’re giving them a few things each day, and so far there have been no complaints. They haven’t even noticed, to be honest.
  5. Some days there’s an elaborate invitation, like when we set up robots and robot books. They were pretty quick to figure out what to do. Some days, we tell them what the general plan is, like “You’re making robot trading cards. They’ll be like your Pokemon cards, but with robots you make out of these cut up shapes.”

What is an Art Prompt VS Art Play VS an Art Project?

ART PROMPTS are simple prompts. They’re intended to give SOME direction, but they are open to interpretation. There is no end goal in mind. For example: design a robot; make patterns; find some art supplies in nature and make something with them.

This prompt is invitational. The open books, materials and various robot figures/toys help give some ideas or directions, but aren’t closed or specific in how the activity needs to end.

ART PLAY is WIDE OPEN. It’s a chance to explore and experiment. For example: a box of supplies with NO prompt or plan; chalk and a chalk table; texture rubbings; stamping.

Limited materials in this Art Play help kids work on fine motor skills (scissors, stickers, pencil grip).

ART PROJECTS are more focused. They’re sort of like art prompts with a more detailed end goal. That said, if you’re focused on creativity like we are, please don’t give your child a model to follow or have there be only one way for the project to work out. That’s fun for a photo opp, but it kind of sucks in every other regard. Art projects might include: make a leprechaun home (or a home for any fairy, creature or animal you can think of/that your kid is into); make a town (lay out a bunch of paper and make it so that they can play with their cars on it later); robot trading cards (or trading cards for anything their/your heart can dream up, like monsters, animals, people who live in the house …); book making.

Projects don’t need big instructions and shouldn’t have step-by-step procedures. They are more focused, but should still be open to interpretation and exploration by the kids.

Art projects are the most comfortable for most of us to come up with, because we feel that if we can imagine the end result, there’s a better path. It makes us feel better in regards to guessing how long an activity might take, and we might be able to prompt or push a bit more in terms of “I think you could add something else before you are finished.” Which is great. It’s important for kids to start and finish things. BUT. BUT BUT BUT. They also need as much – or MORE – time to explore and experiment, which is why ART PLAY and ART PROMPTS are crucial. And during those, your voice as the voice of an expert really needs to be off. Ask questions, prompt if they’re losing steam but do it in an open way (like: “I see you did this; what else could you do to make this special?”) but do not offer your Very Important Parental Advice. That is creativity-inhibiting. I’m serious.

In the end, you want a healthy mix of all 3 types of creative endeavours. You could cycle through, so they get each every third day, or you could ask them if they have a preference for the next day. Kids, especially kids who have been explicitly allowed to be creative, are actually good at coming up with prompt, play and project ideas. This can help alleviate some of the pressure of something new each day, or each week, or each however-often-you-plan-on-doing-this.

How To Find Ideas:

  • TV and movies
  • picture books
  • memories – old school activities life nature rubbings for texture are not bad because they’re old; they’re awesome and you can absolutely use these kinds of activities
  • Pinterest, sometimes: Pinterest has a lot of beautiful photos that often don’t work out, and offers a ton of cliche, closed activities, but you can use those as starting points, for sure!
  • Your craft supply bin/box/closet/room
  • The recycling bin
  • My instagram: @patrickguindonart – I’ve got a highlight for this, and during the Coronavirus isolation, I’m sharing daily in my stories

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