As a person loves order, routine, symmetry and purpose, I have had to push myself to do crafts with my kids. I often hear moms comment on how they can't do glue or paint or glitter because... well, mess! I completely understand. My inner neatnik cringes with every craft time. But I do it (not every day!) because I know the kids have fun and they are learning. However, it's been a slow dawning for me that my idea of crafting and my children's ideas are vastly different!
I crave order, symmetry, purpose. My children want to muck, and mess, and venture here and there and all over my floor. I love a good craft kit that has an end product. They love a pile of junk. Go figure!
From time to time I steel myself and set out a "Creative Table" craft opportunity for the boys. Creative Table (#creativetable) stems from the Reggio Emilio approach of "provocation" (an open ended opportunity for expression), and was adapted by Tinkerlab as a project to invite children to creative play.
This week, I decided it was time once again for our Creative Table play, and I set out some winter and Christmas themed craft items. Admittedly, I overdid it - Creative Table should be a bit simpler, but in my frenzy for open-ended play I just... went overboard in the "purpose" department!
Then I made myself sit back and learn. I wanted to remind myself of all the benefits of open-ended crafting.
Here's what I learned from Creative Table time:
Creative Table play allowed my children to make independent decisions.
Therefore, they learned to "live with" their decisions. Without my intervention, my children never became upset at their outcomes.
If they didn't like the outcome, they had to problem-solve. In problem-solving, they often engaged in cooperative learning with each other. (They are six and four years old. The conversations I overheard blessed my heart!)
I think it goes over there.
Try this one.
I can help you.
That looks really good!
When peer help didn't work out, they had to seek a new solution (i.e.: Ask Mom!).
Therefore, they realized their limitations (help washing brushes and opening jars).
Sometimes the results were pleasantly surprising! Sometimes the results required them to start over. They never became discouraged, because there was no "expectation" from me to set them up for disappointment!
They were highly engaged with their work and sustained engagement for over an hour of play!
My children were entirely confident and pleased with their finished items. (Note: Creative Table doesn't require a completed project, but in their hour of play, my boys "finished" several items).
Let's not forget all the sensory experiences: glue, glitter, feathers, wood, ribbon, fabric.
And then the fine motor skills: painting, sequin placement, ribbon tying, taping, cutting.
So much learning there!
Creative Table just rocked my world!
Confession: When their play was over, I was wrecked inside. I could see how my inner control freak with the crafting has held my kids back. In my wildest educational dreams, there's no way I could have concocted a "lesson" or prescribed activity that would have accomplished all of the above.
I knew this. But I'd forgotten. I'd put my need for order above my children's need for discovery.
And my fear of mess and chaos? Well, as long as I didn't stare too hard at the materials, it wasn't so bad. At the end of their play, I quickly resorted leftover materials into bags and containers, threw out the paper plates and large construction paper placemats, and shook the tablecloth outside. Done and done.
I believe there will be more Creative Table invitations in our future. And I am unafraid!
For more open-ended creative play ideas check out:
- Create a Tinker Box for Kid Inventor's Day!
- Chocolate Playdough Cookie Shop Play Idea
- Get my FREE ebook of 101 Tech-Free Toddler Play ideas!
Julie Kieras is a former English teacher turned stay-at-home-mom. She is quietly amassing the world’s greatest little home library and enjoying life as a mom of two rambunctious boys. All while sharing ideas and tips for natural living and play on her family blog HappyStrongHome.com!
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Looking for even more creative inspiration to enjoy with your kids? Check out these other fun ideas:
Printed Flowers From Recycled Items
A weaving activity for little hands
Kids’ Project: Make Your Own Small World