Love in the Suburbs

Waldorf mother of two precious boys, striving to live each day to the fullest with grace, creativity, and patience. I write about living, loving, engaging fully in family life, and making art and lasting memories through rich festivals and love of...

Sara is a winner of Top 25 Creative Moms - 2013

Where do you discover new kid-friendly crafts?

I often find amazing craft ideas on other blogs, but also in craft books and at our children’s Waldorf school. I watch carefully to see what crafts and art materials my children gravitate toward, and then I try to build upon that. The kids often lead the way. Story books can also be very inspiring. I let the seasons and festivals of the year shape our activities.

Inspiration can come from many sources, of course, especially the natural world. I keep my eyes open for artworks and projects that use my favorite materials: wool, wood, watercolor, wax, paper, felt, silk, cotton fabric, paint, and nature objects such as pine cones, seeds, moss, flowers, wheat, vines, feathers, and rocks. I feel that these materials are warm, inviting, abundant, inexpensive, and pure, and working with them has a soulful, nourishing quality that I love.

What's one creative product you would recommend to all moms?

I think I would recommend to all moms Stockmar modeling beeswax. It is completely safe, comes in many vibrant and subtle colors, is wonderful to touch and smell, feels great and soft in your hands when you work it, hardens when it’s cold, and is totally reusable. Anything you make out of modeling beeswax can be permanent or temporary, as you wish. Modeling with beeswax helps to strengthen the hands and develop fine motor skills. It can be made into sculptures, ornaments, toys, decoration on candles, and so much more. Furthermore, it's a wonderful thing to have on hand when conversing together as a family, for it gives little hands something to do while listening and engaging with others. It's also good for a child or adult who is nervous or uncomfortable to have in the hands; it works in the same way that "worry stones" or stress balls help some people. The only caution about beeswax is that you must check little pockets before children's clothes go through the wash/dryer.

How do you encourage your child to explore their creativity?

I try to say yes to my children's project requests. I’ve said yes to homemade quill pens and India ink, painting on canvas and on clothing, creating leather armor, and carving and wood-burning on wood—activities that most young children don’t get to do. We set aside as much time as we can to work on crafts together, and my children are never far from their sketchbooks, which they draw and write in every day.

When they are especially pleased with a piece of artwork, I frame it or display it prominently in our home and feature it on my blog. I listen when they read me a story they've written.

I pay close attention when my children want to teach me how to do something. Often they do have skills they've learned at their Waldorf school that are new to me. When adults pay attention and value their work, children gain confidence in their self-expression. I am careful about how I comment on their artwork or schoolwork. I ask questions to get them to tell me about it, and refrain from using any judging language such as "that's a good drawing" or "that's unusual."

I also try to model creativity and pursue my own creative goals. In the last few years I've greatly expanded my own crafting skills repertoire, and have started painting in oils, which has been a lifelong dream of mine. I think it's good for children to see their parents reaching to acquire new skills and grow in new creative directions. I hope that I am teaching them it is never too late to pick up a hobby, craft, or artistic or intellectual pursuit. I also hope that I'm showing them that art is a practice: you have to keep doing it, do it a thousand times, to find your way in it. I hope that I am modeling a kind of artistic discipline, but of course, I am still learning.

I try to ensure that my children have on hand the best materials I can afford to use whenever they’re feeling creative. Sometimes this means spending more for a high-quality item, but it's usually worth it. Allowing children to use "real" supplies shows them that you value their creative process and product, and make the whole experience more special. Also, using good supplies is a joy.

Finally, creativity comes in so many forms, not just in the visual, material, or performing arts. Cooking, building, gardening, inventing, scientific experimentation, athletics, and technology are all creative pursuits, in my opinion. Learning to think creatively is so important to happiness and success in life. So if my children choose to spend their time building in LEGO instead of painting or sewing with me, that's OK. They are pursuing their interests, and I approve.