Our Guide To Getting Creative At Home
Sarah Wilson is the owner of Maker Monkey Workshop which offers a variety of at-home building kits for kids of all ages. As an artist, entrepreneur, and mom, Sarah is passionate about infusing children’s education with creativity and hands-on learning. We asked Sarah to share her favorite tips to help kids get creative at home.
Our virtual school year is off to a rough start. Then again, how could it not be? This is unchartered territory for teachers, students, and parents. I try to remind myself that this is only temporary, the curriculum is in place, and we have the support of his teachers and school. Besides, he’ll probably learn to read at some point before college, right?
Joking [read: crying] aside, as an artist and entrepreneur, I have an even greater concern: about how will this impact creative programming in schools. The creative side of this pandemic has showcased our quarantined passion for baking: banana bread, sour dough bread, and kale muffins. No? Is that just my house? Mmmkay. But how will this creative outlet cross over to the classroom when we are now all playing academic catch-up since March?
When my son started Elementary school two years ago, I saw a steep increase in homework and an even steeper decrease in creative projects. Even before this disruption in our routines and education, the majority of our school life we are assessed on test scores, report cards, and the number of honors classes we take.
I think what we learned during this time at home with our families is that there is more than one way to learn, and our kids are so much more interesting than we ever realized (when bogged down with the inane tasks of our day). And as it relates to school - you will not find the most interesting things about your children, the things that make them so uniquely them, on a report card. Those things – the truly ungradable things, if they are allowed to grow and thrive, will bring your child more happiness than anything.
“Realizing our creative potential is partly a question of finding our medium, of being in our element. Education should help us to achieve this, but too often it does not and too many people are instead displaced from their own true talents.” - Sir Ken Robinson
It’s my job as a parent to make sure that my kids have the same balance in their education. I realize now more than ever that it's my responsibility to make sure that my kids are exposed to all the beautiful creative, cultural, and physical experiences that the world has to offer, just as my parents did for me.
Not only do I want to support my own kids on their creative journeys, I want to help other families do the same. I started Maker Monkey Workshop with this goal in mind. Every DIY project is designed to teach kids how to use real tools, learn new skills, build confidence, and express their creativity in a completely unique way
Don’t worry, you don’t need an art degree or a woodshop in your garage to get your kids working more creatively at home. There are so many simple ways that we can show our kids the power of creativity, and it starts with welcoming it into our homes. Here’s what I mean:
- Dedicate a space to creative resources and supplies. This doesn’t have to be an entire room. It can be a box, a shelf, a cupboard, or a combination. Let’s call this our “Creativity Cupboard”. Having a dedicated space not only makes organization and clean-up easy, it helps make creativity part of your routine by having it readily available on a daily basis instead of only for special occasions. Sometimes an idea strikes like a bolt of lightning and your kids will know exactly where to run to gather what they need to bring their idea to life.
- Fill it up! Traditional supplies like paint, glue, and paper are great, but think outside the (crayon) box and start saving cardboard, bottle tops, containers, magazines etc. Not only are these materials free, they also teach kids how to be resourceful. Organize said materials in your Creativity Cupboard. You can get your kids involved by asking for ideas and having them help stock their cupboard with interesting materials.
- Give them a nudge. This is what the art teachers of Instagram would refer to as an “art prompt”. There are examples galore online, but it’s really as simple as selecting 3 or 4 different materials from your Creativity Cupboard and setting them up for your child to explore. I like to think of it as setting the table for a meal, but instead of food and utensils, I will neatly lay out a variety of materials and supplies to satisfy a creative appetite. Don’t overthink it. Remember, kids are way more imaginative than us most of the time!
- Resist the urge to complain about the mess. This is a tough one! If it really drives you nuts, take it outside, lay out an old sheet, or just hide the paint. Take a deep breath and remind yourself is that all of these creative messes are clues about who your child is and how he or she thinks. These messes are signs that our children feel safe in expressing themselves freely which builds confidence and character. And then, make those little buggers clean up. You can call it a P.E. ;-)
And when you’re ready to take your Creativity Cupboard to the next level, you can try one of my building projects ;) By putting real tools in kids’ hands, my hope is that we can spark curiosity and uncover their creative talents outside the classroom walls. With these skills and this knowledge, they can imagine, invent, and innovate. They’ll experiment, they’ll fail, they’ll succeed. And because they will do this without being tested or evaluated, they will earn a sense of pride and confidence instead of a grade.
Creativity may be underrepresented in some schools, but as parents, we can make sure that our children understand that it is not to be undervalued. After all, with creativity comes problem-solving, critical thinking, and many other skills that our kids will need to thrive in any career. Let’s create a place for our children where curiosity is rewarded, and confidence is built. I can’t think of a better skill set for today’s world than that.