My kids like to create. We have a designated (lockable to the toddler but not the big girls) art cupboard full of pencils and paper and glue and scissors etc… but lately it’s been getting way out of control. It’s full of markers without lids, half used colour in books, a million tiny bits of crayon and awful lot of cut up paper.
Mess is not all bad. I know the art stuff is being used and loved, but it was getting to the point that we could no longer close the cupboard, or open it without a cascade of stuff falling to the floor. Something had to be done.
I wasn’t confident when I broached the subject with the girls but surprisingly they were very open to letting go of lots of junk, helped along by the promise of some new and exciting stuff we would then have room to add.
We sorted through markers and pencils and crayons, chucking anything that wasn’t in good working order (though we saved the crayons because one day we are going to recycle them!). We found two pairs of long lost scissors and found alternative storage for craft stuff we don’t use very often. Then the moment of truth arrived… time to chuck out the colouring in books.
My girls adore colouring in books. I don’t.
I have a bit of a thing against colouring books. I feel they contribute to the stifling of creativity. I’ve taught many kids who moaned that they ‘couldn’t draw’ or that their pictures didn’t ‘look right’ because they didn’t look like the ones in the book. They’d opt out of drawing their own pictures and instead ask for colouring in sheets so they could diligently colour between the lines (pity we never had any!). I’ve heard it from my own girls too, and it makes me cringe.
I want my kids, all kids, to enjoy the process of creating. To have a love of drawing, for the sake of drawing… not drawing for the sake of making a ‘perfect’ ‘adult-like’ representation of an item. I want their creativity to take over. Who cares if the cat’s head is ten times bigger than his body… that is part of being creative and expressing your ideas, and I love it all, big head or small. There is plenty of time to lament the fact that we ‘can’t draw’ when we are adults, after years of having our pictures not live up to those mass produced colouring in books.
Now don’t get me wrong… I’m, not saying colouring in books are the root of all evil. They can help refine fine motor control (though I can think of a hundred other ways to do that that doesn’t stifle creativity) and they are useful for long car trips or waiting rooms when we need a quick attention grabber. Plus, I’ll say again how much my girls LOVE them… which must mean they satisfy some need. I just really really wanted to encourage my girls to move away from that obsession so we tossed all but two!
We restocked the cupboard with a big basket of tools – pencils, markets, crayons, scissors, glue (which is all used up yet again) and small scraps of paper. We also made some little notebooks together. Some just simple blank A4 sheets stapled together with a coloured cover, other little ones with lined paper from an old note book. I also printed out some ‘handwriting lines’, some large graph paper and some dotted paper and made those into books. To satisfy that ‘colouring in’ need I printed out some pattern sheets – geometric patterns and mandalas…. the girls can colour to their hearts content without being influenced by ‘perfect drawings’.
The little books have been a HUGE hit… I am going to have to buy some more staples and printer ink and collect some more paper to make more. And this time I really will make more on a regular basis… not like last time when I forgot or got too busy or too lazy.
I wonder if our art cupboard will stay tidy now? Somehow I doubt it!