Although it’s been on my Amazon Think List (check it out before I buy), for a while, I finally had the presence of mind to request The Creative Family: How to Encourage Imagination and Nurture Family Connections by Amanda Blake Soule from our local library. Naturally, our fairly small library didn’t have it, but one several counties over did, and luckily, you can transfer books pretty easily. It’s a good thing to do if you’re not in a hurry to get something. Enough about the library…
I first found the book through buying another book, Richard Louv’s Last Child in the Woods: Saving Our Children From Nature-Deficit Disorder (fantastic book, will review this one someday, too). The folks at Amazon, they think they know me so well. Oh, you bought this? We’ll just be you’d be interested in this one, too. Other people who bought that book were. Trust us. You’ll see. And I guess they were right, this time.
From the book cover: In The Creative Family you’ll learn how to –
- Have more fun with fewer toys
- Create unique works of art to display, share, and give
- Share the tradition of handmade crafts
- Explore the wonders of nature with your children
- Make every holiday handmade
- Connect as a family through everyday celebrations
Instantly intrigued on how I can figure out how to encourage a happy and by choice un-pluggedness and a love of making and doing things in the Littlest Brooks-Livingston(s) someday, I read most of the book in an evening, though I found myself returning to it for days. And then I renewed it for another three weeks from the library. Time to migrate this one to the “buy” list.
The book begins with laying the groundwork for understanding why doing creative, imaginative things with your kids is important. It didn’t take any convincing on my part – I came from a creative family that was always doing, always making, always going, always seeing – and I know the benefits firsthand. I’ve also seen from the little preschoolers I work with each week for Doodlebug Club – no matter how long I work to prepare a project that should, if they follow directions, turn into a wonderful refrigerator-worthy piece of art, often, the kids just see the project differently. They’ve taught me that seeing the end result differently – and even arriving at that different end result in an unsuspected way – well, it’s okay (hard as it is for my Virgo brain to allow that to be typed). Good preparation for parenthood, I’m told. Probably so.
The Creative Family is full of ideas – actual plans for projects, a guide for reducing your kids’ toys to the essentials (and a guide for determining what those essentials are), suggestions for making toys from natural materials, descriptions of games and activities for family game nights – all sorts of stuff.
How to turn a t-shirt into kid’s pants. source
Turn a child’s drawing into an embroidery pattern, then make a pillow out of it. source
A significant message throughout the book is learning to teach your family to live in the moment and to be mindful of the natural world around you. Teaching our kids to appreciate nature is high on our list of priorities, and we’ll probably do a “nature table,” like Soule depicts above (source). Actually, *A* and I do this already – often, when we’re outside and see an especially interesting leaf or a feather or rock, we’ll bring it home and leave it on a table we pass by regularly. We’ve got a bowl full of acorns we picked up last fall that’s there, too.
I remember doing this as a kid – not as part of a nature table or anything, but as a way to bring a little bit of the outdoorsy things that I loved so much into my own in-the-house spaces. My parents, siblings, all of us have a little collecting smooth river rocks from places we always want to remember. When I was in high school, I started a little collection of jars containing sand or dirt from significant places I’ve been (sand from a kiva from Mesa Verde National Park, from beneath the Golden Gate Bridge, tiny pebbles from a rocky shoreline in Nova Scotia…)
As a freshman, when I moved into my dorm room on a tremendously hot August day, thinking about being 3 hours away from my family for the first time, I found this in my room when my parents left after helping me move in:
My mom found this heart-shaped rock and made me a reminder – of the good time we had on our trip, yes, but also of how much they love me. Good ol’ Mom.
Well, back to The Creative Family, which it turns out we already are, and have been since the beginning. While we do several of these things already, I really enjoyed the ideas in this book and found lots extra to plan on incorporating in our daily routine with our kids. I also found lots to do to encourage creativity with just *A* and me. Because as Soule puts it, “The most important, and perhaps most obvious, factor in nurturing your children’s creative lives is to model a creative life yourself.”
Through reading the book, I also discovered the author’s blog, Soulemama. I feel like I’ve come late to a party – apparently she’s been at this for nearly a decade. The lifestyle reflected in The Creative Family and in Soule’s subsequent books, and on her blog – she, her husband, and their five kids live on a farm in Maine and she knits and sews and “un-schools” – is equal parts enviable, fascinating, and mystifying. It’s also sort of a family version of what *A* and I have always called “granola,” a descriptor which we’ve never meant in any kind of derogatory way, however urbandictionary.com defines it.
*A* and I will certainly be checking out her other books, and her blog. And mapping out plans for increasing our own granola-ness in Dad- and Mom-tivities.