Written by guest author Maura Ammenheuser on the topic "Let them be creative":
I am not remotely crafty. As a kid I loved crayons, markers, stickers and my Spirograph. (Does anyone else remember Spirographs?). But I never got into anything involving sewing, cross-stitch, excessive gluing, papier mache, macrame or recycling household objects to make potholders and picture frames.
My daughter definitely has an artsy streak and I want to encourage her creativity, though without necessarily getting into the glitter glue up to my eyeballs myself. Possibly my most brilliant parenting purchase ever was an enormous roll of white butcher paper, bought from a teachers' supply store. When my kids are bored, or they have friends visiting who are getting antsy, and I am waaaaaayy too lazy to take them all outside for picnics or baseball contests or whatever, I cover my kitchen table with a giant piece of the paper. Everyone gets to dive into our bucket (an empty 5-gallon ice cream container, and please no comments on the five gallons of ice cream) of crayons, markers and colored pencils. I'm amazed at how happily kids of both genders and many ages will peacefully share the stretch of paper to doodle. Another fun, relatively mess-free activity is laying big sheets of the paper on the floor. The kids trace each other's bodies, then fill in their own silhouette with crayons. They draw silly faces on themselves, wild clothing, brightly-colored fingernails, etc. When my friends' kids are here, I send them home afterward with their life-sized self-portraits, like oversized party favors.
The paper came in a 1,000-foot roll. I think I paid about $60 for it. That was at least four years ago and we still have some left on the roll The only caveat; when the roll was new it was very heavy and difficult to move around. Some teachers' supply shops may sell them in smaller rolls but I'm not sure about that.
My daughter also loves to sing, dance, change her clothes repeatedly all day and "decorate" her hair with as many clips, barrettes and headbands as she can fit on her noggin at once. Santa brought her a karaoke machine this Christmas, which is a huge hit. I indulge her desire to make a lot of sparkly noise (to a certain point) because she is happy and busy expressing herself. I also stopped trying to edit the clothes she chooses for school. As long as she's not too hot, too cold or violating the dress code, anything goes. (Yesterday's outfit: a sky-blue top covered with silvery sequins, a pale green-and-pink floral skirt, knee socks and chunky black shoes).
Our son has a vivid imagination that he feeds with regular doses of "Star Wars" -- the movies, the books, the plastic light sabers. He makes long lists of his favorite characters, inventories the planets mentioned in the series, grills us about arcane "SW" trivia and builds oodles of starships from Legos. Sometimes we pull the plug on all of it and insist he read or watch something different just so The Force doesn't melt his brain. But usually I let him wander off to far galaxies in his head. My daughter needs to emote; my son needs to breathe noisily like Darth Vader. To each his own brand of creativity.