Paper, Paste, and Pudding Paint

“Do you want to come and watch us fly our kites?” Mary, age five, excitedly invited as Connie, Candice, and she started out the door. She had just constructed three kites by gluing two pieces of paper together for each kite and cutting out “almost” diamond shapes. Each kite was completed by tying a string through a hole in the middle. Three little girls, too small for regular kites, happily ran all afternoon with their handmade kites trailing in the wind.

“Mommie! Lookie what I made. It’s a circle thing, and I look like a clown!” three-year-old Connie expressively exclaimed. She had simply cut an irregular-shaped circle from the center of a colored piece of paper. Pulling it over her head, it fit much like a clown’s collar.

As parents, one of our primary goals has been to develop our children’s creativity. It gives us pleasure to watch the girls’ enthusiasm as they work on new ideas. We find joy in seeing their skills increase and their ideas multiply. We have followed three basic principles in stimulating the creativity in our children: (1) provide an abundant variety of materials for the children to use, (2) carefully demonstrate a variety of uses for each material and instruct the children on how to use them, and (3) give the children ready access to the materials and freedom to manipulate them on their own.

A convenient storage area provides ready access to the available materials and aids in cleaning up. We have reserved an enclosed shelf to store our girls’ basic supplies and the miscellaneous treasures they collect. Materials are always available for the girls to use, even when I am too busy to assemble the needed items. I find this also encourages the girls to work independently and to rely on their own ideas.

Paper in its many varieties is a favorite with our girls. In addition to creating kites and funny clown collars, they have tailored their own sandals—using their feet as patterns—and designed one-dimensional bird houses from five-inch paper squares with a hole in the middle.

Our girls also love to create with water colors, chalk, crayons, felt-tipped markers, tempera, and pudding fingerpaint. I use my husband’s old shirts, buttoned up the back, as smocks to protect their clothing. Before turning them loose to work on their own, I always demonstrate the basic technique of using each medium. For example, to successfully watercolor, the girls needed to learn to wet their brush both before and after placing their brush on the colored square.

As soon as my children master the basic techniques of each medium and learn to use them in the designated work area, they are allowed to experiment without my hovering supervision. An intermittent peek assures me the rules are being followed without infringing on their freedom.

Because our girls love to paint, my husband, Wayne, constructed a double easel using some scrap lumber we had collected. Our standard paper is used computer printout sheets. In warm weather I set the easel up outside where I can clean up with a hose. Wayne also built a child-sized picnic table big enough to seat six. This gives the girls a convenient place of their own to work, with extra space to accommodate a few friends.

Both Mary and Connie have their own box of material, buttons, pins, needles, thread, and glue to work with. Mary’s ideas often take her from three hours to three days to complete. Her creations include clothes for her dolls, curtains for a cardboard puppet stage, hand puppets, finger puppets, and a “LOVE” wall hanging for her Aunt Gay. Connie wraps and stitches swaddling clothes on her doll; ties fancy bows; designs and sews hats, tents, houses, scarves; and much more. One year, watching me sew Christmas ornaments, they joined in, using felt scraps and sequins, to create their own. They were eager to see that no visitor missed their unique addition to our tree.

They still need me to thread needles and knot thread. My patience is required to undo a series of misplaced stitches that pucker the treasured item. They need me to soothe their frustrated cries when pricked accidentally with the needle. Occasionally, instructions on how to sew a basic basting stitch need to be repeated and redemonstrated. But the glow in their eyes and their radiant smiles when they bring in a finished article makes my time well spent.

Because of their ages, most of our girls’ satisfaction comes during the actual exploration of the various media. To show approval of their creations we allow the girls to choose which will hang by their beds. The remaining masterpieces are either mailed to grandmas and friends or carefully secured in a three-ring binder.

Discovering “what I can do” is a basic drive for a child. Parents can expand their children’s abilities and talents by supplying a variety of materials accompanied with instructions on the basic skills necessary to use each medium. The children’s knowledge and abilities will continually increase as they freely explore emerging ideas. And parents will share the enthusiasm and joy their children experience when an idea develops into an original creation. Genan T. Anderson, Wright-Patterson AFB

Water Fights and Star Watches

To add variety to our family’s routine, we occasionally plan a big activity. These activities have provided an opportunity for growth and a chance to discover each other and the world around us. These are six of our favorite activities:

The Family Water Fight

For one family activity, we bought a large package of water balloons. The children filled them with water from the garden hose and carefully placed them in several buckets, balloons bursting in the process. They had as much fun in this stage as they did during the contest.

To assure safety and fairness, we set the following rules: all balloons were to remain outside; the balloons were to be divided equally; no one could throw balloons at any one person more than a set number of times; and everyone had to help clean up afterward.

Then we had a hilarious half hour of home front fun—seven people hiding behind bushes and fences, or slinking carefully around the corner of the house, only to back into an ambush.

A silly activity? Perhaps. But that water contest helped us to enjoy each other as friends, and to enjoy our association as a family.

The Family Slumber Party

We planned this activity for an evening when no one had to go to school or work the next day. We all brought our sleeping bags into the family room while dad built a fire in the fireplace. We roasted marshmallows and popped corn by the firelight. We sang camp songs and took turns telling “most” stories (most embarrassing experience, most spiritual experience, etc.)—all the ingredients for a successful campout carried on within the walls of our own home.

Star Watch

One summer we read in the newspaper about a display of comets. The article said that the best time to view the comets would be around midnight that night.

We all dragged our sleeping bags out onto the patio, and lay together gazing at the sky and speculating about stars. The children were intrigued with the idea that some of the stars they saw might no longer exist.

We explained how many light years had passed away since the stars’ light had begun its journey to us. We talked of God and his immeasurable creations. It was a time of closeness and learning.

Historical Family Outing

While examining our genealogy, we discovered a family connection with some members of the Donner Party. At the time we were living in San Jose, California, so we planned a weekend trip to the Donner Memorial. Together we examined the relics in the museum. Each name on the metal plaque we saw there meant something to us; after having read the histories, we were able to recall something significant about each person.

This experience triggered our curiosity, and we went on additional excursions. We explored some of the missions, forts, and museums of California, and we gained an appreciation for the early settlers of our state. Names of streets, rivers, and public buildings gained significance as we learned about them.

Now we live in another state and look forward to discovering a different historical heritage.

Autumn Picnic

One spicy autumn day while living in Seattle, Washington, we went for a drive to Snoqualmie Falls. Although we had often gone there before, this time we found piles of dry leaves in the picnic area. The children tumbled and laughed and burrowed into the piles, loving their crisp smell and their crinkly sound.

This was the first of what has become our autumn picnic tradition.

We always take sandwiches, crunchy apples, cheese, and boiled raisin cake.

It has become our farewell-to-summer activity.

Family Art Experience

This activity was inspired by an announcement about a children’s art contest in the paper. I bought materials, and for several successive family home evenings we experimented with various materials and ideas. Our best creations were entered in the contest.

All year we collect ideas for art work. We save exceptional school art projects, visit exhibits, and keep a file of the ideas. Every year we spend several family home evenings preparing the entries. In addition to the fun we have, we have gained a greater appreciation for art composition and technique. These activities have been a source of togetherness and fun for our family. They create lasting memories which bind us closer together, and they keep us learning and growing. Betty Jan Murphy, Tucson, Arizona.

Photography by Michael M. McConkie