Your child did NOT make that art. I’m sorry, but no preschooler much less toddler I know makes crafts with teeny tiny tiny cotton balls stuck in exactly the right places so they are recognizable “snow angels,” or perfectly cut construction paper flowers wrapped with a pipe-cleaner to make a “bouquet.” YOU made that! Admit it..
You wanted it to look good. You wanted something not to be a mess. You wanted to have a feeling of control in a haze of process-not-product day-to-day moments that feel like they never end. You just wanted one tiny space without a mess of glue, paint, glitter, poop or smeared dinner on it. I understand. I do. More on this later.* However, making that craft look good is for you, not them. Here’s what’s good for them.
3 tips for making a creative, skill building activities for your child under 5:
- Have fun getting materials around the house and just make a space for creativity: cotton balls, cereal, feathers, play dough, material for gluing, construction paper, beads (if your child is not into swallowing small objects). Choose a space that is ok to get messy.
- Be engaged with the process with your child. Parallel play beside them. They will want to engage in creative activities if you are engaging! And you making something of your own will prevent your overdeveloped-adult-Superego from directing (aka shaming) your child how to make something the “right” way.
- If you are going to comment, comment on the process “Oh you are using lots of blue there…” or “It looks like you are enjoying smooshing the yarn into the glue…” or “Ooh! Tell me about it! Is there a story?” Kids are naturally creative and right-brained. They also naturally want to connect with their caregivers don’t turn this natural desire into needing to perform or please. It’s ok if the sky is purple for them right now or the pile of yarn is “a beach.” Believe me. Those are not the kids I see later in my office when they are adults struggling with depression and anxiety. The ones I see are the ones who needed to do things “right” to please someone. In the process, they had to abandon what was most essential to their psychological and emotional development: their own creativity, identity, and self.
I actually had a really good time making an almost recognizable picture with my preschooler today. A sun, rainbow, and trees! And skill-building small manipulatives with coloring and then pasting the Cheerios! My preschooler created a “treasure chest” with a “beach towel for the boat to land.”
When I noticed part of me thinking “that doesn’t look like a beach towel” and “I could help you make that treasure chest look so much better” I paused, and said to that Pinterest-Mom-with-the-perfect-blog part of myself:
*“Thank you for sharing, but it’s not your towel and it’s not your treasure chest. Would you like to make your own? Here are some materials…”