Oh Momma -the guilt of it all! You’ve been inundated with parenting advice meant to nourish the physical, mental, emotional and spiritual growth of your child. And within that information is a fabulous array of advice for supporting your child’s play, imagination and creativity. After all, play is the child’s work. Not only is it their way to process and make sense of the world, it is their way to discover, explore, and develop their passions and gifts.
And you get to be the support system for that. Uh huh. Some days you’re just darn happy you actually fed your kids. But the guilt weighs heavy when you haven’t played on the floor with them, when you let them watch more than the recommended time of TV or perhaps you haven’t had family story time every night, let alone in the past month.
Now we get to find a kinder and gentler way for you to acknowledge and support your child’s creativity. Less is More. These ideas are simple to implement… so simple you’ll almost feel guilty. But please don’t. We’re trying to reduce that load for you.
1. Simple words. Huge value. Remember hearing these words as a child? “Stop playing, it’s time for lunch.” “Oh it’s just your imagination.” “That’s not going to make you a living.”
Now there are ways to respond that acknowledge creative play, thoughts and ideas. “Let’s fuel that body of yours with food so you can keep on playing.” “Time to get back to playing now!” “All the great discoverers in the world had good imaginations, too.” “Are you having fun, honey?”
If you do blurt out something unsupportive when your child has creatively redone the couch in yellow paint… well, you’re human. Later you can acknowledge the creative aspect as well as the value of involving you prior to painting things like couches.
2. Support your child’s natural inclinations. It’s the path of least resistance. More than that, it inspires your child to feel safe exploring what they love. Consider the little girls who want to play princess and yes, with a prince who shows up to save the day. We want our daughters to be independent, strong and able to change a tire with one hand. But by discouraging, even in quiet ways, the little girl who loves to play princess, she begins to doubt her choices, passion, imagination, and her natural gravitation towards what she loves.
So if your daughter wants to play princess, or your son only wants to play with cars, you don’t have to feel like you must redirect them. They are developing some aspect of themselves that is important, even if we aren’t quite sure what that is. You are supporting their development more by letting them play their way. Isn’t that a relief?
3. The Line Doodle. Some children like colouring books and that’s okay. Do offer them a variety of blank paper and drawing tools, but know that showing up to a blank page can be as intimidating to a child as it is to an adult. You can get things started by squiggling a random line on the page and saying “What could you turn this into, I wonder?
4. “What if…” questions. Whisper “what if” questions in a conspiring way to capture your child’s interest. Excellent places to do this are while out shopping, when in waiting rooms, and at group activities not conducive to creative play. Just ask the question. No follow through is required, although a round of shared storytelling might evolve!
What if you imagined switching Grandpa’s nose with baby cousin’s nose?
What if this store sold rocket ships?
What if all of the people waiting for the doctor were animals/dinosaurs/cars? What if all the vegetables had personalities? I wonder what they’d say.
5. Playing with your child is valuable and sometimes boring. You catch yourself wanting to be doing just about anything else but! Remember what you loved to do as a child and choose to play that with your child. Savour it like going to a spa, and value it like serving a dinner of 5 vegetables that your children actually ate. You loved etch-a-sketch? Do that. If you have only one etch-a-sketch, and find yourself not wanting to share with your child.. well, at least they get to see that you value play and creativity!
If you loved to make forts, make forts. If you loved imagining wondrous adventures while playing in nature, see if you can bring that spirit back on your outdoor walks. If story time really is your favourite thing, make it the ONE thing that you decide to do regularly.
Here’s one more ‘what if’. What if you told yourself, “Wow, I’m a great parent” while you curled up with a good book at the end of a much less guilt ridden day? Imagine how good that could feel.
by Janet L. Whitehead ©2010
Certified Professional Life Coach and Creativity Coach.