Discourage Perfection (yes I said it)

Discourage Perfection (Yes I Said It) | As adults we usually want to do EVERYTHING perfectly, and it's easy to fall into the habit of doing this with our children. But Neesha's here to explain that's not always the best way to teach your kids art.

Today I’m thrilled to say that we’ve got the very first guest post on Magic in the Mess. I met Neesha in April Bowles-Olin’s Sunday Society and I got really excited to hear about her latest project, which is an art journal for young children. I knew our core values were very similar and since I’m planning to add guests posts to Magic in the Mess in 2017, I took a jump and asked Neesha to be my first guest and she graciously accepted!

After becoming a mama to my two littles, and also teaching art classes, I saw first hand how naturally creative children can be. I am always fascinated by the way kids tap into a fearless zone of creativity. How they color outside the lines. How they choose their materials and use them in the most imaginative ways. Somewhere in our growing years we were taught that everything had to have a place, space, name, purpose…etc. Sometimes that works, but not in Art. It doesn’t necessarily fit into a tidy box. Creativity is completely subjective. Rules and methods are always being broken and part of the fun is experimenting with the process and letting that imagination free. In fact, one of my favorite artists (Pablo Picasso) has said this so well: “Every child is an artist, the problem is staying an artist when you grow up.”

Discourage Perfection (Yes I Said It) | As adults we usually want to do EVERYTHING perfectly, and it's easy to fall into the habit of doing this with our children. But Neesha's here to explain that's not always the best way to teach your kids art.

My art classes for younger kids inevitably end up with a couple of parents who (although well meaning) don’t understand that creativity needs room to breathe. It cannot be dictated. Often I’ll see their child check in with their grownup about nearly every decision… “Which color should I use?” “Where on the paper should I make this mark?” “Is my work good?” “Is it done?” “If you take a picture on your phone then that means you like it?” “If you don’t, did I fail?”

And then there are the kids who try desperately to be themselves and make their work their own and again, their parent is hovering over them. “No, do it like this.” “Use this color.” “Oh I like that, good job.”

The problem with trying to control the art process and “approving it”, especially for very young kids, is that you’re teaching them that your judgement matters more than their creative experience. They are learning early on that they cannot trust their own instincts. Creating art is a time to play. It’s a time for expression. There is not a right and wrong. There is no perfect. And certainly your child’s art process shouldn’t be dictated by anyone else, including you. To those parents, I’m asking you to be like Elsa, and let it go. Put down the phone taking pictures of only the “pretty” work. Avoid making creative decisions for them. And definitely allow them the space they need to figure out the process themselves. You will see your child blossom.

You can take it one step further and connect with your child about their work with comments like these: “How did you choose these colors?” (vs. “Nice job.”); “I see you chose to make wavy lines here.” (vs. “I like those wavy lines.”); or “Can you tell me about this picture?” (vs. “What is that?”). Taking out the “right/wrong” or “good/bad” from their efforts really puts the focus on what’s most important their creative process.

Making art is so much more than producing a pretty picture. Your little one will be selecting colors, shapes, materials and more. These decisions might seem insignificant, but these are the seeds to growing a confident child who has no fear or pressure to be perfect. Have you noticed some children give up doing something the first time if it’s not “right.” And then there are other children who keep going even if they “fail” the first time. They keep trying. They know that “failing” is only part of the process and they have the inner grit and confidence that they can figure it out.

Making art is so much more than producing a pretty picture! Click To Tweet

This is the heart of the creative process allowing the unknown to unfold naturally. Being comfortable in not knowing the answer and still forging ahead. Allowing that inspired part of the brain to follow an inner compass is a life skill all children need. It takes time to learn creative and critical thinking skills, and it takes support from you to develop.

Letting go of perfection is letting in authentic growth. Some of the most magical things about creating art are the “mistakes” and happy accidents that occur. It is a gift to be able to enjoy the process and truly be present in the moment. Let yourself and your child experience this wonder and connection. Art for me is rarely about the end result; the joy truly is in the journey.

bio_pic_neeshaAbout the author:

Hello! My name is Neesha Merani and I’m a mama to two littles, an art teacher, kids book illustrator and creative biz owner. I currently design & dream over at Paper Wand ; my little space, where I share my creativity, whimsical gifts and DIY projects.

Teach your child that creativity = LIFE

Teach your child that creativity = LIFE | What if, instead of teaching our kids how to see the world how WE see it, we learned to see it how THEY see it?

As we’ve discussed before, most people have pre-conceived notions of what creativity looks like. They put creativity inside of a box, and unfortunately most people leave it there. And it sits on some mental shelf, wasting away and collecting dust, until the rainy day when they decide to pull it out.

And that’s how our children see us… we don’t raise them as creative beings, because they’re not raised BY creative beings. They see adult life the way we train them to… an endless series of backaches, headaches, footaches, and heartaches. Adult life is “boring” and we train them to dread it. Rather than allow them to experience the world as a place of endless possibility, we teach them that artists are sad starving souls with no real aspirations for their life. We teach them that dreams are for suckers and children, and that if you want to be a “real” adult, you have to get a pathetic, soul-sucking job, and enslave yourself to the clock for the next 40 years of your life… and all for a pittance of a retirement.

And the payoff for not living until you’re 60? Good question… it’s not like most of our grandma’s and grandpa’s are out living the glamorous life either. We spend 40 years wearing down our body, mind, and soul… and at retirement, many people are simply to tired to go and enjoy life… or too broke. What a legacy.

But what if we taught our children to ignore the limitations that society will try to put on them? What if we taught them that creativity should be a lifestyle, not an afterthought? What if we taught them that you’re never too old to learn something new or exciting?

What if we stopped waiting until we’re closer to death than birth, to actually begin living?

My son looks at the grit and dust in the tinted back window of an unwashed red Durango, and he doesn’t see the path carved by the wipers. He sees a rainbow, and he thinks the car is magical, and he asks why our car doesn’t have a rainbow.

Children don’t see rubber bands, or cardboard boxes. They see weapons, and boats. They don’t see clean white walls, they see a bare canvas waiting to be filled (much to Mommy’s dismay!). They don’t see Mom’s really comfortable boots… they see pirate boots, or cowboy boots, or even firefighter boots.

They live in a world that is un-restrained in it’s concepts… they’re not bound by the realistic constraints of color, or style, or even function. An item is what they say it is, no more no less. If older sister has a toy that looks like a phone, little brother will turn a shoe, a teddy bear, or even a potato into his phone. They just don’t care.

What if instead of teaching children to experience the world the way most adults do, we adults learned to experience the world the way most children do?

How to Find Magic in a Sink of Dishes

How to Find Magic in a Sink of Dishes - Have you ever been faced by an exceptionally mundane task? Did you know there's some good that come out of that task? Click to see how even a sink of dishes (or a pile of laundry) can boost your creativity.

When I was very young, I loved to wash the dishes.

I don’t know if it was the novelty, or the bubbles, or the “big-kid” feeling of helping my Mom with the chores. But somewhere along the way, the enchantment faded, and it became boring. (And every Mom loves hearing that word, right?)

Our first dishwasher was a thrill to me, and I loathed any dish that couldn’t fit into the dishwasher. Stock pot? Ugh. Crock pot? Seriously. Cast iron skillet? Whose dumb idea was this? Oh whoops. Sorry Mom.

Every once in a while, our dishwasher would break down, and the kids would have to wash dishes again. By hand. Booooo. But as I got older (or maybe more mature, hehe), I realized that there was something magical that would happen while I was washing… my mind was free to wander. As my hands traced familiar paths with the sudsy washcloth, I could daydream.

I had to start setting a notebook, pen, and towel behind me when I washed dishes, because I’d get some of my best ideas then… snippets of song lyrics, ideas for a story, answers to questions I’d been pondering on. Later on, I’d discover the same thing could happen in the shower, or while I was ironing (yes I love ironing!), or folding laundry. Any simple tasks that allowed me to go on autopilot, were great for brainstorming.

Today’s culture values busyness, and we pride ourselves in not having any downtime. But when our minds are constantly going, there’s not much time to let our subconscious go to work. Those moments of clarity come upon waking up, or when we’re in the shower, because those are the rare moments we’re not busy.

So today, instead of being frustrated at the mountain of laundry… look at it as an opportunity. What can you brainstorm while you fold? Have a pen & paper on hand… you may be surprised at the ideas that will come to mind. 🙂

70+ Ways to be More Creative

70+ Ways to be More Creative | Have you ever felt like you weren't very creative? Or maybe you just want to be MORE creative? Click through to see over 70 ways you can up your creative game!How many times have you heard someone say, “oh I’m not creative… but I wish I was” or “I’m not creative, but my mom/dad/uncle/sister is”?

If you’re anything like me, you’re torn between feeling sorry for them, and wanting to shake them. We’ve put creativity into a tiny, narrow box. If you were to ask someone what creativity is, they’d likely say something like painting, or photography, or writing. Maybe they’d say all 3. But they’re missing out on the big picture… creativity comes in tons of forms… some obvious, and some not so obvious.

For example, if you sit down with your family’s favorite recipes, and you create a menu plan for the next week… you’ve used creative function. Did you put together an outfit and earned you rave compliments? You used creativity! Ever had a child inform you that their teddy bear is a pirate? Or that their pencil is a booger gun? (yes kids are gross!) Or that the box you’ve tried to throw away 6 times is their space shuttle? Creativity!

So those are some of the less obvious ways. But what about the obvious ones?

Spring Flowers

Visual

Photography

  • Landscape
  • Portrait
  • Wedding
  • Macro
  • Product
  • Stock
  • Underwater
  • Photojournalism

Painting

  • Watercolor
  • Oil
  • Acrylic
  • Pastel
  • Fresco/Mural
  • Gouache
  • Encaustic

Designing

  • Interiors
  • Theater/movie sets
  • Typeface/font
  • Drawing
  • Jewelry
  • Costume
  • Tattoos

Musical

  • Songwriting
  • Singing
  • Music production
  • Sound engineer
  • Album design

Writing

  • Blogs
  • Books
  • Articles
  • Screenplays
  • Poems

CrochetTimeline

Fiber arts

  • Knitting
  • Crocheting
  • Spinning
  • Weaving
  • Textile design
  • Batiking/Hand-dying
  • Basketry
  • Beadwork
  • Sewing
  • Quilting
  • Embroidery
  • Applique

Paper crafting

  • Paper making
  • Card making
  • Stamping
  • Quilling
  • Scrapbooking
  • Paper flowers
  • Decoupage
  • Origami
  • Paper mache

Hands-On/Outside the Box

  • Acting
  • Sculpting
  • Woodworking
  • Pottery
  • Florist
  • Cooking
  • Gardening
  • Puttering on cars
  • Food stylist
  • Hair stylist
  • Nail artist
  • Makeup artist
  • Metalworking/Forging
  • Leatherworking
  • Architect
  • Toy design
  • Glass blowing
  • Teaching

For Type-A people who think they’re not creative

Planning/Directing

  • Animation director
  • Play producer
  • Event planning
  • Wedding planning
  • Film director
  • Museum director

Editing

  • Copy editor
  • Music editor
  • Screenplay editor
  • Book editor
  • Photo editor
  • Video editor

NeonPencilsLarge

As you can see there is a lot that falls under “creativity”. And this is by no means everything, and there are crossovers between these lists. I included the “type-A” list, because there are things that are considered to be non-creative fields that I consider to be very creative. And there are several on the “outside the box” list that fall in this territory as well. My husband is in mechanical maintenance. Grease monkeys aren’t usually considered to be creative, but I think the ability to look at something and understand how it’s all put together, and how to fix it, and how to improve it is extremely creative.

Architecture is considered an extremely left-brained sort of field… it’s very analytical, and required immense precision when drawing up blueprints and schematics. But the ability to dream up a building concept, and put it down on paper in a way that makes sense for builders is extremely creative also! Some of the finest minds of the Renaissance were strong in fields that are considered to “left brained” and fields that are considered “right brained”, because back then, no one sat children down and told them creativity was narrowly defined. No one told young apprentices that if they were a creative type, they couldn’t do anything mathematical or scientific. And no one told scientists that they couldn’t create.

Imagine telling Leonardo, that because he was a brilliant inventor, that he shouldn’t be capable of drawing or painting. It would never happen, because we know that’s ridiculous. But when it comes to our creativity, we put these sorts of restraints on ourselves. Oh I’m not creative… I’m an accountant, lawyer, doctor, etc.

Nonsense! Get out there and explore… you may be surprised what undiscovered talents you have.

What’s something you’ve always wanted to try?

How to Encourage More Imaginative Play

How to Encourage More Imaginative Play | Pablo Picasso famously pointed out that an artist is simply a child that's never grown up. But how do we keep our kids from losing their creative edge? Click through to read more...If you’ve ever watched Alton Brown in any of his TV cooking shows (or read his books/social media/blog), you may probably have heard Alton Brown discuss his love of multi-taskers (and his distaste for “unitaskers”) in cooking implements.

For example (one I harassed my husband about the other day, ha!) those bear claw meat shredders. They’re big, bulky, and do the same thing you could do with 2 forks or a KitchenAid.

A KitchenAid on the other hand is a multi-tasker. It has a beater attachment, whisk attachment, juicer attachment, food processor attachment, various pasta making attachments, and much more.

When it comes to toys I’m a big fan of toys that encourage imaginative play. These are the multi-taskers of the toy world. Imagine for a moment, the humble cardboard box of so many parenting jokes. And in truth, there’s more reality to it than we want to admit. On Christmas morning, half the fun comes from playing with the wrapping paper all over the floor. Mom & Dad may get a new washing machine, but Junior just got a new space ship, a jail for his misbehaving teddy bear, a boat to explore the piratey sea, and fort to hideout from his stinky sisters. At least until his stinky sisters try to take over the box for their own nefarious purposes.

joseph-scrunched

So what kind of toys do I look for to encourage imaginative play?

Toys that encourage physical development (including hand-eye coordination)

  • Gardening tools
  • Wagons/Bikes/Scooters
  • Jump ropes
  • Swings
  • Jungle gym
  • See-saw
  • Jacks
  • Pick-up sticks

Toys that encourage creative/imaginative development

  • Scarves
  • Puppets
  • Musical instruments
  • Dress-up clothes/accessories
  • Play dough
  • Art supplies
  • Stuffed animals/dolls
  • Cars/trucks/animals
  • Marble runs
  • Blocks/Legos/Lincoln logs

Toys that encourage sensory development

  • Sandbox
  • Bubbles
  • Play dough
  • Musical instruments
  • Tangle Jr
  • Finger paints
  • Koosh balls

julian-reading

Toys that encourage intellectual development

  • Puzzles
  • K’nex
  • Pattern blocks
  • Books (okay not technically a toy, but still important!)
  • Bop It/Simon Says
  • Peg board game (like at Cracker Barrel)
  • Blokus board game
  • Just about anything GeoSafari
  • Etch a Sketch

You may have noticed that there’s some definite cross over between some of these. For example, many of the playground equipment items fall under sensory development, as well as physical. Several of the intellectual can also be under creative. And this list is far from comprehensive… you can find a range of ideas by searching for STEM/STEAM toys (Science/Tech/Engineering/(Art)/Math), Melissa & Doug toys, Montessori toys, Waldorf toys, etc.

When I was a kid, humble sheets were turned into forts, castles, pirate ships, clothing, and tepees. Anything was possible! My boys regularly come ask me to turn their blankets into capes, so they can be pirates or superheroes (I’m noticing a generational pirate obsession… arrrrgggh!), and the girls love to be princess or superheroes as well.

 

What was your favorite creative toy when you were a kid? Share it in the comments below!

Don’t Pressure Your Kids to Live Out Your Dreams

Don't Pressure Your Kids to Live Out Your Dreams | I get it, you've got big dreams for your kids... but there's a possibility they don't share those dreams... what to do?

On a 13 on Thursday post, I created a list of 13 ways to build creativity in your children, and decided that it would make for a great series! This is the 3rd post, based on the 3rd item on the list (creating an art box). Click here to see all of them!

It happens to the best of us, but this one is huge. It starts with a dream you had as a child, or young adult… a dream that never came to fruition. And maybe it’s legitimately too late for you to pursue it (can’t be a child prodigy past a certain age), or maybe society has told you that you shouldn’t pursue it (guess how many artists have been told that?!)… but either way, you’ve given up.

But then you had a kid (or 5!)…

And suddenly a spark of hope returns. You couldn’t be a world class athlete/child prodigy/famous singer/dancer in the New York City Ballet… but your kid could! Right?

Maybe.

But if they do, it should be their choice right? 

Lest you think I’m just picking on you, I’m so guilty of this too… I sing. A lot. I’ve sang for charity functions, I’ve sang on the radio, I’ve sang for my church… I even tried to record a demo once, but as it turns out singing with wood dust in the air vents isn’t easy. Note to self: Don’t record when the studio has been under the construction…

Anyway… I sing. So naturally, I assumed that all of my offspring would not only be musically inclined, but incredibly gifted (because your kids are supposed to be even better than you!). Not so much. At least at the moment. While there’s plenty of time for something to develop, one of my children is frequently so off-key I wonder if she’s heard the same song we did. And that may change later… or it may never change. And that’s okay.

But it took time for me to come to that realization… I was super aggravated that I couldn’t get her to sing the tune correctly, or clap on beat, or anything. But the fact is, if that’s not her gifting, her gifting lies elsewhere, and by focusing on that skill set, I’m potentially robbing her of her true greatness, and I don’t want that to be my legacy.

So hang in there… your kids may not be doing the things you wanted to do when you were a kid, but that just means they have their own special place in the world. And you, yes you have the very special honor of helping them find out what that is.