Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Summer Days

My teaching at the university ended a few weeks ago, but for my six year old, summer began this week.  We are already busy with swimming lessons, cheerleading for her and gymnastics for her two year old sister, and ballet/tap doesn’t end for a few more weeks (recital day will be here soon).  We have lots of plans at home too: some lessons about our Catholic faith, learning to write in cursive, practicing math, random art and science projects, taking long walks, jump roping, hula hooping, and playing with friends.  Then there’s the house stuff: cleaning out closets, separating clothing and toys to give to charity, reorganizing the things we are keeping.

I also like to give my children unstructured play time, both in and out of doors.  When I was a child, I was usually on my own for my summer time entertainment; I spent a lot time outdoors in our yard or with the neighborhood kids.  Times have changed; most of us don’t believe it is safe to let our children roam about the neighborhood without supervision.  However, I think it is important to let children direct their own play time, so my kids are free to roam the house or backyard and make up their own games or activities for at least a little while every day.  During this play time, computer or video games are not allowed, and neither is the television.  This is time for imaginative play, or thinking up new games.

One of the reasons I like unstructured play is that it promotes creativity.  Maybe I am a poet today because I developed creative skills through unstructured play as a child.  One of my brothers is a painter and the other is a structural design engineer, but neither of our parents participate in the arts.  My maternal grandmother often expressed wonder at my ability to put words together into poems.  I told her it was a gift from God.  That gift was nurtured during my childhood in a very simple way by letting me direct my own play.  

One of my favorite ways to encourage creativity in my children is to let them loose with art materials and see what they design.  We have an art box that we started a few years ago after seeing them at friends’ houses.  It contains all kinds of art supplies and tools: papers, stickers, beads, yarn, glitter, etc.  We get it out whenever we need things for a specific project, but also for unstructured art time.  My daughters use their imaginations and find new ways to combine materials.  

Sometimes, they go wild and really push the limits of their creative thinking; other times, they just draw or use stickers.   

Either way, they are having fun and nurturing their imaginations.  As a creative person myself, I hope they will also use their creativity as adults, but even if they don’t, I know they’ll benefit from learning to think in non-linear ways.

Want to start your own art box?  Chances are, you have lots of stuff already: crayons, markers, papers of many colors, stickers, cardboard (paper towel rolls are great), cotton balls, etc.  Buy other stuff when you find it on sale, and add leftover materials from other projects.  Viola: art box!  We keep pencil boxes of basic materials (crayons, scissors, glue, markers) in several rooms in the house, within reach so my daughters can create whenever inspiration strikes.

Read this post to learn how we use items from the art box for a craft project.

I have attached this post to Laura’s Fantastic Ideas for Summer Fun Link up over at Come Together Kids.  This on-going link up already has over 200 ideas for summer projects and activities.  I know I’ll be going over often to find inspiration for creative time with my children; I hope you find something fun when you visit.

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