More gifts than we could fit in our car.
Dollar dance money bulging from the silky drawstring bag.
All of it is a blur. But there is one moment from my wedding night that is clearer than a shiny coat of high gloss varnish. My new husband and I sat in the middle of a cushy bed at our cushy resort, holding hands and staring deep into each other’s eyes, ready to share what our dream life would be. A million bucks in the bank? A three-story villa in Cabo? Traveling the globe?
“Let’s live our life based on music and art,” he said.
“Okay!” I agreed. “And writing, too!”
Before we ever thought of getting married, we were both freestyle creatives—he, a painter and a musician and I, a crafter and a writer. Both our sets of parents warned us that our bohemian lifestyle might not hold up if we wanted to raise a family. A normal family, anyway. But it was as if we could peek into the future—we knew we were meant to not only carry on our artful ways, but transfer that energy to our kids as well.
Read Related: 7 Creative Gifts For Creative Kids
Now, 21 years later, I’m happy to report that we are still happily married and that we fulfilled that pledge! Our kids, now 20 and 18, not only inherited a bit of our artsy genes, but they’ve also learned to tap into their own special talents and passions. They’re both in college these days, and they approach everything with a creative and can-do attitude, from homework and group projects to problem-solving and self-expression. Our son helps us run our online business and our daughter launched her own craft website at 16. Whether it is with colors, critical thinking or technology, they embrace experimentation and then share their knowledge with friends and family. They’ve also scored a mean set of entrepreneurial skills and the confidence to take center stage or envision their name on a published book cover. Why? Because they’ve helped us work at it every day. They have seen that it is possible to live a life guided by love and passion.
Reading, writing and arithmetic are the staples of childhood learning, but I look at art and creativity as the glitter on top–that extra sparkle of life!
Here’s how you can infuse creativity into your child’s life:
Visit your local library with your child and look at the arts and crafts books and magazines. Talk it over and see what types of projects appeal to them. Sewing? Painting? Collaging? Choose something that he or she will be excited to try.
Set aside a couple of hours a week to make a project with your child. There are plenty of resources to find ideas (including those library books you’ve just checked out). If you don’t have a clue where to start, have no fear! Search the local community centers, museums, art associations, city programs and even craft stores for classes. Let your child lead the way, but use guidance to help complete a successful project. I teach many children’s workshops and I see three kinds of parents: those who sit their kid down at the table and then spend the rest of their time on their smartphone; those who hover over their child and tell them how to make their project; and those who sit by and participate as a partner. I’ve found the last one is always the best. I love to see parents bonding with their kids over art!
Create something functional, that they can use in daily life—such as decorating a tote bag, a small suitcase, sneakers, clothing, or a hat, etc. They will likely receive compliments and that will build confidence, as well as inspire others to create as well.
Don’t worry about buying fancy supplies. For example, visit the dollar store to pick up basic watercolors, brushes, and blank paper. Check out YouTube for easy watercolor painting techniques that you can try. It’s not the supplies that will make a lasting impression, but the art technique and sharing the experience with you. Let your child have fun “playing” with the paint and designs, but then help them and show them actual techniques, such as basic shading and color mixing. If you don’t know these techniques, then you can both learn together!
Teach your kids the proper use of tools, clean up, sharing and space. These are skills that will help them throughout their lives, especially in the workplace.
Encourage them to create or keep a journal of their favorite moment of each day. It can be one sentence and a picture – something to document their life from their perspective. If you can’t do it once a day, aim for once a week, or even once a month. This is a fun project because as your kids age, you can pull out the journals and reminisce. It’s a visual reminder to them that no matter how big or small, happy moments matter.
Let them be the photographer! Give children five-years-old and up an easy tutorial and let them snap pictures, create a scrapbook page or two based around the photos. You can also do this with video. Let them shoot footage and then use movie-editing software on your home computer to create a mini-film.
Create a creativity corner. This is not a play area in your child’s bedroom, but a space in your home for both of you to work together on creative projects. Teach your child to respect the area, keep it tidy, so it can always be there for them. Decorate a magical box to hold the supplies!
Hold a special “gallery opening” at your house for your kids’ artwork. Invite the neighbors and family. You can even work with other moms to make it a group show. If you know of a neighborhood gallery, you can hold it there, it will show your child how their work inspires and moves people.
DIY instead of BUY. Help your child decorate wrapping paper, make greeting cards, make party favors, create jewelry, and decorations instead of buying pre-made versions.
Teach them the art of recycling. There are many projects to be made from items we would normally toss out. Water bottle flowers, gum wrapper purses, bottlecap magnets, cereal box notebooks are just a start. This will encourage your child to reduce, reuse and recycle—and look at trash in a new way!
Buy a model car or dollhouse kit, help them read the instructions and create the project. This is a great way to teach them engineering basics, build confidence and encourage pride of ownership.
Take them to local art fairs and free outdoor concerts. Let them meet local artists so they’ll realize they can grow up to be an artist too!
Have them write a mini-zine. This is a fun project that is made from a sheet of typing paper. Simply fold it into pages, snip the top, decorate it, and you have an awesome little book. Make several copies to give to family or as party gifts. Check out the video below to see how to make one!
Kathy Cano-Murillo is a mommy, wifey, left-handed middle-child Sagittarian. She is the founder of Crafty Chica, and the author of the novels Waking Up in the Land of Glitter and Miss Scarlet’s School of Patternless Sewing.