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Children, Creativity, and Decorating Your Own Cathedral.

When Bethe Almeras sent me her post Decorating Your Own Cathedral, I had no idea it would spark such a response! But it reinforces what I believe- that there's a lot to do for children if you provide them with nothing.

I love the analogy of cathedral - you should see the architectural “scenes” our 4 year old has set up all over the house- EVERYTHING is a staged scene with animals grouped with furniture and blankets to create a finished piece…

But along with creativity I think we should also mention the lack of “stimulation” can be a critical ingredient. Or what people today think of as “nothing.”

Our 4 & 6 year old have very little access to tv (general rule is tv only if you have a fever), and no video games. They do not know what Saturday morning cartoons are.

So, for example, today, on a Saturday, they have spent hours constructing an elaborate “set” of tiny dolls, My Little Ponies (all purchased, recycled, from Thrift Stores), our furniture, blankets, plants (sigh, my prized orchid has ponies and unicorns on it…)…
which resulted in one huge scene filled with minute detail of micro-interactions that created a whole.

Would they have the attention span to achieve that amount of detail if they sat their childhood away in front of tv?

Similarly, their afternoons are spent in the backyard with no entertainment except for what they can make or find. Endless days of hunting caterpillars, digging holes… sometimes I watch them, dogs by their side, just slowly pace the yard, looking… And then they come to me with questions, and learn.

As I drove to kindergarten yesterday, the preschooler piped happily as we passed signs of spring: “Forsythia! Grapefruit pears! (That’s what she calls Bradford pears) Cherry trees! Pine tree-Pine tree-Pine tree-Pine tree-Pine tree… Grapefruit pear!”

And I thought about children who can’t identify a tree.
To identify a tree takes observation, study, pondering its differences to then settle on a species’ traits that match what you see.

So creativity, yes!
But I also think that much creativity comes from the stillness of settled quiet, which then allows thoughts to gather, form, then spark something new.

(Not to go off topic but I also wanted to say… sorry for being so verbose! This is why I should be relegated to Twitter, at least then I have to stick to 140 characters…)

P.s. Regarding Charrise’s comment on “teaching kids fear”- our children also know what black widows and copperheads look like, that they always need to be with the pack because of the coyotes, to bring your whistle in the field during hunting season so when you hear a shotgun blast you can let ‘em know you’re there (and to NEVER walk the woods then!)…

How has reality affected them?
Practical and aware of real life issues, yes.

Fearful, they are not.

In fact, only one of them has had a nightmare, once.
Whereas most parenting books have chapters on “when nightmares begin.”
Could it be the incidence of nightmares increased in children with the exposure to tv and video games?

Even when my children see tv now, the Heffalumps in Winnie The Pooh make them turn away- *that’s* scary to them.

Reality? Yes, it’s scary in a different way- but they are secure in their pack, that their pack is there protecting them, and, with their knowledge of real scary things, feel in control to prevent that bad thing from occurring.

Hence freeing them to hunt caterpillars and dig worms with their dogs for hours.




At 4/22/09, 5:33 PM , Blogger balmeras said...

I LOVE this post. And concur, lack of stimulation is KEY. Did you know the stick made the Toy Hall of Fame this year. That's right -- the stick. No plastic or packaging, but plenty of imagination. 1000 different uses on any given day. That, my friend, is the good stuff.

Cheers to happy, messy, MUDDY kids! And we grown-ups, too.

Bethe @balmeras

At 4/23/09, 9:57 AM , Blogger Passive Solar Prefab Homes said...

Thanks for your comment- and great timing- we spent Earth Day helping, with our 4 & 6 year old, to pick up trash along the river- GREAT experience for them to see the litter and that they could do something about it. They took in all the people, working together, and felt satisfied and happy over their adventure.

"What did you like about it?"
"We liked cleaning and walking along the river."

And another new generation starts making a difference.

So they don't just not watch tv... they're too *BUSY* *DOING* stuff- asking about how trees are made and flowers pollinating and why the river is how it is- and seeing it up close, touching and understanding it.

My kindergartner came home today obsessed about a play he saw at his school- where children watched too much tv & turned into couch potatoes- he thought it was hilarious.

I asked him, "Well, what do YOU do after school each day?"
"I play."

And it is as simple as that.


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