Creating With Kids: 4 Ways That Work For Us


Welcome to the August Carnival of Natural Parenting: Creating With Kids

This post was written for inclusion in the monthly Carnival of Natural Parenting hosted by Hobo Mama and Code Name: Mama. This month our participants have shared how they make messes and masterpieces with children. Please read to the end to find a list of links to the other carnival participants.


The joy of creating is something that has always been a part of my life : from paintings, crafts, forts and stories as a kid to nature art, pottery and poetry as a young adult to encaustic painting, cooking, photography , blogging and home projects as a (slightly) older adult.  As time goes on my interests and the ways I express my creativity has changed, and sometimes (particularly during new motherhood) my desire to create — at least in the ways I want to — has been put on the back burner when time, sleep and motivation run low.

But this passion for creating things is one of those things that I really want to pass on to my kids.  Not that they need all that much help — I think creating is one of those things that make us human, and kids are absolutely natural born creators!  I do think as a parent I can help facilitate the creative process with my kids by introducing ideas and different mediums, creating spaces that encourage their efforts, joining with them to do creative projects together, and celebrating their ideas, their process (not just the end result!!!), and helping them recognize the accomplishment they feel when they succeed in making something cool.

In the spirit of all that, here are a few ways I create together with my kids!

Crafting Together: Felt Mobiles

Elsie hard at work on her space mobile

For the months leading up to Emma’s birthday, she and I were in discussion about some of the details of the big event.  Once she decided she wanted a party at home, she came up with a craft project all on her own:  she wanted to make mobiles.  We had no mobiles in our house and I’ve always wanted some, so I was totally game!

She initially envisioned them made out of paper, but I guided her towards something a bit more sturdy: felt.  Since I knew her peers (and sisters, ha) might need a bit more direction in terms of what to do in the alloted amount of time, I gauged her interest in a couple of themes and ended up with two:  space and sea life.  I cut out 6-7  shapes for each theme out of different colored felt, bagged them and passed them out with a spread of items to decorate (mainly glitter glue and sticker jewels — we were going for easy here!) during the party.  Then we — meaning the adults, ha– tied them to sticks (grapevine from my parents garden) with simple thread.

My girls really enjoyed this project and the end results are pretty awesome!  I will admit that as a party activity the tying part was WAY too hands on and time consuming, and one I hadn’t really thought through ahead of time.  Ah well!  As a project at home, this is pretty cool, though.  Here are the two versions we made:  the space one  on the left is more simple, the sea life on the right, more complicated with the second tiers!


Making Octopus Stew

Outdoor Creative Play: Mud Pie Kitchen

A lot of our creative endeavors tend to happen indoors, as the weather here in Seattle has a way of keeping us in more than I’d prefer for a good 9 months of the year.  This summer, I introduced a new activity to our backyard (thanks to Pinterest for the amazing inspiration!) to get some stories and creating going in the great outdoors.  Our mud pie kitchen started out fairly mama-driven (as in I thought up the idea, picked out the supplies, created the space and had to encourage the kids to use it) but as times goes by, my girls are starting to gravitate to it all on their own.  Hooray!  Tonight Emma was directing a story about making octopus stew, and Elsie and Delia both were eager participants.

Celebrate the Process: The Progression of a Project

Water play "cleanup" after messy art. Win win!

When I set up art projects or activities for the girls, I try to allow space and time (and a open mind on my part) to let my kids take it where they want to go. They often may start out the straightforward way I envision, but soon morph it into something their own — using the tools in an unexpected way, incorporating different tools, toys or materials, or changing the project altogether.  As I have blogged about before, I try to run with it, and think of ways to make what they want to do work for me as well as them.

Often, this kind of creating starts with them exploring an art medium one way, eventually leading to a messier more hands-on approach, and then ends up with some kind of water play instigated by me that aids us all in clean-up.  Win-win-win!  The trick is figuring out how to let go of your own vision, accept theirs and manage it in a way that works for you all (by creating a space where mess is okay, providing materials or a location that helps contain the chaos, and setting limits when necessary, depending on your comfort level).   One recent example of this was when I set Elsie and Delia up to paint outside on an easel on our porch.  When tempera paints somehow ended up all over the deck (surprise surprise), Lonnie brought out a tub of water and some washcloths and they then went to town washing it all away.  Sometimes the clean up can be as fun as the actual “art”!

Creating Little Spaces of Beauty

One thing I am seeing more and more of as my kids grow is their own desire to create or decorate spaces of their own.  This past year Emma has really started wanting to display her pictures more;  she has taped pictures above our bed (which was otherwise a big blank wall, waiting for something, anything to be hung on it, ha ha), as well as Elsie’s and Delia’s.  I try to celebrate all of my girls’ art by hanging them on the walls in our kitchen on display wires, and I love the idea of inspiration walls and little art and writing nooks, as well; I am working towards creating simple spaces throughout our home with a few beautiful things to inspire, as well as some (but too many!) tools or toys set out or easily accessible, to get the creative juices flowing.

A few carnivals ago I remember seeing a windowsill nature display on Living Montessori Now that seemed like such a great idea!  I soon copied that in our living room and I just love the little collections and groupings that happen there, both with natural objects and small toys, often kid-collected and initiated. Delia is currently in a HUGE flower phase — she loves picking flowers!  Today, Lonnie helped her get a vase after her picking and she was so proud of her bouquet of sweet peas — which she put in her bedroom to enjoy.

There are so many ways to create with kids;  creativity does not necessarily mean fancy, involved projects, and perfect, beautiful results (though beauty is in the eye of the beholder — I think most kid art is beautiful, myself!!!).  My advice:  gather some good, inexpensive supplies, set up some activities (or dedicated little spaces, if space allows) and let your kids give it a whirl!  You can dive in with them, or just participate by watching and encouraging them in their own explorations.  Let go of those expectations, and just enjoy the creative process — the fun is in the doing, and the doing together.

How do you nurture creativity and creation in your household? What projects or creative methods have been working for you lately?  Do you have a special little nook or space for your kids to play or create in?  I want to see it!



Carnival of Natural Parenting -- Hobo Mama and Code Name: MamaVisit Hobo Mama and Code Name: Mama to find out how you can participate in the next Carnival of Natural Parenting!

Please take time to read the submissions by the other carnival participants:


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10 comments to Creating With Kids: 4 Ways That Work For Us

  • How inspiring! I look forward to having some more messy fun with my girls!

  • “The trick is figuring out how to let go of your own vision, accept theirs and manage it in a way that works for you all.” – Amen mama! This is one of those on-the-job learning things that I’m still getting the hang of, but we’re working on it. I’ve especially focused on not imposing my vision on whatever Kieran is doing. We both enjoy everything so much more when he goes at his own pace and doesn’t feel pressure to do something my way.

  • These are such fabulous ideas! You are one of the most creative mamas I know. You’re inspiring me to think of ways to display art that can be easily changed out. Right now we’re just doing the fridge, but it would be nice to have something up on our walls, too. I’m a little jealous of your yard, because I’m realizing how much nicer it would be to have a place where mess is OK. We’ve got all beige carpeting and no outdoor space, bleh. Oh, well, there’s always sand-digging on the beach!

  • The mobiles are beautiful, and I love the idea of creating the little spaces of beauty! That might be a project that I can do sooner rather than later with my one year old.

  • What an inspirational post – thanks so much. I LOVE your windowsill and your mobiles are beautiful. I definitely think we can use the windowsill idea!

  • Wonderful! I love the idea of having special little “beauty spots” – definitely something I’d like to try (somehow!). And your mud pie kitchen is just fab: my boy Earthly would adore this. I think we might have to think of a way to fabricate one on our bit of towpath!

  • I love how you “celebrate the process” and turn messes and clean-up into additional creative outlets. You’re right about some of the challenges with this: setting limits when necessary and finding your own comfort level. This is an area I’m still working on since we have very little space to begin with. It’s encouraging to see that it’s working for you. Thanks for the inspiration!

  • Awesome ideas! I was a mud pie fanatic as a child – would have LOVED a mud pie kitchen! And I love your mobiles, attitude of celebrating the process, and spaces of beauty. Thanks so much for linking to my post, too! :)

  • […] Creating With Kids: 4 Ways That Work For Us — See how Kristin at Intrepid Murmurings nurtures creativity with her kids through craft projects, outdoor creative play, celebrating the creative process, and setting up “little spaces of beauty.” […]

  • […] Creating With Kids: 4 Ways That Work For Us — See how Kristin at Intrepid Murmurings nurtures creativity with her kids through craft projects, outdoor creative play, celebrating the creative process, and setting up “little spaces of beauty.” […]

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