Friday, September 5, 2014

Creativity Now!

The Kid has dropped his nap. Like, completely. An afternoon nap means he chooses not to can't fall asleep until 11pm. No amount of reasoning ("oh my god, kid, when you're a grownup, you'll wish you got to take a nap!") is changing this fact.

We've implemented "rest time" most days, which means we still get a story or two or three and a snuggle, and then he plays alone in his room for a varying amount of time so that we all get a break. Depending on what he chooses to play, this can be anywhere from 20 minutes to an hour, so if I want to get anything done, I have to prioritize tasks like a madwoman. Or just go on the internet for 20 minutes. That's good, too. (Of course, my learning how to prioritize tasks is a topic for a whole 'nother post! The transition to stay-at-home-mom is a delightful yet weird one.)

And so I'm absolutely thrilled that The Kid's exploratory creative play phase is intersecting with this need to stay awake all day. The fact that he can play by himself in his room is wonderful, and he has fun in his garage with his creatively named trucks, Garbage-y, Cement-y, Excy (the excavator), and Bully (the bulldozer--we'll save the "bully" talk for a later time). He's also converted his closet into a tow truck, which essentially means that he drags a bunch of toys into his closet and hangs out for a while.

The emerging desire to create is also coming out in a newfound attention to art projects and storytelling. And this is where we're both starting to learn how to accept each others' creative ideas and run with them.
I'm apparently so much better at this with my students than I am with my kid. A few years ago, I realized that if I was going to effectively teach K-1-ers, I had to learn how to do art projects myself, so I figured out how to do, assign, and teach elementary visual art projects. I was expert at using emerging creativity language: flexibility, fluency, originality, and elaboration. Of course, even though the projects my students were doing were about the process of creating, there was still an outcome--a character design, a cultural exploration, a review of the day's lesson, an original scene or play--and so I find myself struggling a little bit with providing open-ended projects for The Kid. I recognize that he needs time to explore materials and create abstractly, but it's hard for me to live in the moment and not focus on what it's going to be.

I'm working on it by cutting out shapes for a project and letting him glue them wherever he wants, and letting him choose colors and materials for whatever he wants to do. So, we'll "make a face," and he'll direct me on what papers he wants to use, and what shapes I should cut. I am working on the confidence to have him cut his own shapes! (He does use the scissors frequently, but of course he doesn't have the fine motor skills to cut actual shapes yet.) Painting and drawing abstractly are much more comfortable worlds to live in, though I'm also working on the impulse to ask "What's that?" I find myself asking much more frequently, "Can you tell me about what you're making?"*

The Kid is perfectly comfortable with being "The Foreman," as he is sometimes in his construction sites. (Hey, he's aiming for a management position!) But where I'm learning how to be accepting of his visual creativity, he's doing the same with my verbal creativity.
He's also exploring the world of storytelling, and wants us to make up our own stories, usually about construction trucks. As if he doesn't have a million books about construction trucks. But anyway. We're more than happy to--his favorite right now is one I made up about a team of trucks who build a road up and down a mountain--but he gets really upset if we don't tell a story exactly the way he wants. So, a story I tell about a dump truck with a head cold (yep) might lead to a tantrum if I don't include a mechanic helping the dump truck feel better. (I was really proud of the excavator who brought chicken soup, personally.)

I've tried telling him that if he wants a story told exactly the way he wants, he should try telling the story himself, but he's not into telling his own stories yet. Yesterday, we had to have a long talk about how different people are creative in different ways, and the only one who can tell a story the way he wants it is him.

And then I realized the same is true for my acceptance of his art projects. If he doesn't make things exactly the way I think he should, it's okay. And desirable. And necessary.

*NOTE: The Artful Parent has been a great resource recently for directing my creative language, as well as helping me find projects to do with The Kid.