Creating the Creative House

Last week I wrote about letting go and allowing your child’s creativity to flourish.  The question many parents have is “How do we set this up?”  After all, most of us like our houses to be compartmentalized and we try to push our children’s things – especially the messy things – into one area that we don’t always have to look at.  The problem is that our children rarely want to engage in messy, fun, creative play in one small spot and they rarely want to be alone to do it.  They want it to be everywhere and be creative with everyone.  As such, here are some recommendations about how to allow your child to be creative in as many different ways as possible without driving you insane.

Set up the “no” rooms instead of “yes” rooms

Go through and pick the few places in the house where messy play is a big no.  The hope here is to keep them minimal so the kids can remember.  If children feel they have enough space to play and be creative, they will be better (not perfect) at keeping their play to those spaces.  Make sure the kids know why these rooms are off-limits and for younger children, a “no mess” sign may be a good idea to have up at any entrance to these rooms.

Chalkboard paint

One of the easiest ways to bring creative play into various rooms is the use of chalkboard paint.  By allowing children to have an open wall they can be totally and completely creative with, it opens up tons of possibilities.  It also removes the need to get out something to draw on or play games on (like hang man or tic tac toe), making spontaneous play and art doable.  Just have a container of chalk (or chalk markers) close by and away they go.  You can do more than one wall in the house if you’re up for it, creating a play wall in their room and in a family area.

Only buy washable paint

NEVER get stuck with something you can’t wash out.  Crayola’s lines of paints are washable off any surface and this means that while there may be a mess to clean up, it won’t be a mess that is impossible to clean up.  The same principle applies to markers as well.

Set up your main art station in a family area

Kids usually don’t want to be alone.  They love to be surrounded by family, especially if they are only children (or the age gap between kids prohibits them playing together, as in the case of having a baby).  When they’re older, they’ll likely retreat to their room for privacy and alone time, but when they’re younger, they simply want to be a part of everything.  This means that if you can set up the open-concept art station (with all the tools visible and accessible to them) in a shared family area, they are more likely to use it.  If they have to ask you to go with them somewhere, they will be less likely to get creative.

Make clean up easy

The key to not being driven insane by the mess that comes with creativity is to make sure that the area can be cleaned easily and with the help of the little person who made it.  This is where having an open-concept layout for art really works well.  I strongly recommend one of these storage containers where everything is easily viewable and can be quickly dumped back into the right place:

art container storage

It’s also important to remember that while expecting a child to help clean up is reasonable, it is not inherently reasonable to expect a young child to do a perfect cleaning job.  Setting out who does what for clean-up can relieve some of the stress we experience when looking at a big mess and cleaning together often gets little ones motivated.

Take part

The more you enjoy being artistic and creative with your child, the more your child will enjoy it.  Don’t dictate what your child should do, but simply decide to go along with them and create what you will, whether it’s a painting, a sculpture, a drawing, and so on.  When your child can enjoy art time with you, s/he’s more likely to enjoy it independently as well.

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