Saturday, September 8, 2012

Monsters 'n Things

So, the subject of monsters came up today. Not in a scared way but because someone had remembered a picture of a monster eating ice cream. (By Sheri So, our favorite artist!)

Instantly, an art project idea was conceived. It sounds simple, I know... but as simple as it is, how many times do we do it?

Here were the rules:

1) Draw your own made-up monster, any way you want it.
2) First use printer paper with colored pencils to doodle and experiment.
3) When you know what you want, you can draw it on card stock in mom's markers (you know it's really special when you get to draw with mom's stuff!)
4) This one is for mom- no opinions. Unless, of course, your opinion is that your child's work is ingenious and you wouldn't change a thing.

I started by showing a few examples of what a monster could be, just to get them thinking. I could be a blob or a dragon- like monster. It could have funky hair or it could have scales or be fuzzy....
As they were drawing, I listened to them talk about their pictures. I realized that there was much more going on in their minds than what we see on paper. So I decided that I would have them explain the pictures and I would write it on the back of the paper.

This is a daddy dinosaur. He's picking up sand and putting it all over his head. Then he gets stuck in the mud.

A little dragon's dad is flying around one sunny day and finds a fire ruby (reference from My Little Pony) that has already been toasted. He gives it to the daughter. She eats it up and says, "thank you".

The man is handing diamonds to the monster because monsters love diamonds. It was roasted already because the man knows that monsters love diamonds that are hot. After he eats his snack he flies away. The monster is licking his lips because he know it's hot.

The baby monster is in a boat and blowing fire to bake cookies being held by a robot arm. There is a ball in the water. The one on the diving board was supposed to put soap in the river for a bath, but he fell asleep. The mom is blowing fire on the birds. She is holding a bowl. The bird will fall into the bowl and then they could eat it.

This one is hungry and he sees food.
I just like this one. No caption, though.
This was Max's. He was so excited to draw... I'm guessing because of the excitement from his sisters. He scribbled something for two minutes (or less) and proudly brought it over to me and laughed his head off.
Oh yeah. Moms and Dads, you've got to do one too! Don't worry- your kids will think it is fantastic no matter how artistic you are. This monster has a pouch with a zipper on it. He was taking a walk and found a gigantic ice cream cone on the sidewalk. The baby's hand is sticking out of his pouch and reaching for the ice cream.

While I was uploading the pictures, I searched articles about sparking creativity in children. I found this one and this one. 
What I gathered from these articles is that there should be times that parents give limited instructions about things like toys and crafts so that the children have room for their own ideas. In addition, children are encouraged to share the wonder of science and nature with parents that express interest in such things. For the most part, I appreciate the information in these articles.
I am wary of one suggestion to not give instructions or to make up new instructions on board games. I think that there are plenty of opportunities to foster creativity, but there is a time to follow instructions as well, so I guess it depends on the situation. I am finding that De Bono's book, Teach your Child How to Think, is helpful in learning different kinds of thinking. His example of six different hats, one being creative thinking and another being factual thinking, is easy for the children to understand.
In my experience, these are a few things that have fostered a creative spirit in my children:
Encouraging free time without electronics
Willingness to try something without knowing for sure how it will end up- recipes, crafts, science experiments, for example.
Allowing messes, within reason, if they are for building good thinking skills.
Enjoying differences in my children's thinking, and taking the perspective that no one is the smartest, but each has their own strengths and their own way of working things out.
Knowing their abilities and give them the freedom of some responsibility without constantly checking on them.
Kids create an environment where the parent can be silly and creative and terrific all at once. I love to take advantage of the opportunity to let my gaurd down and just have fun with it.
Later, in the absolutely fabulous weather that we had this evening, I heard them in the back yard. They had put a plastic football on the end of the shovel handle and jumped on the shovel, catapulting the ball into the air. Then, they would laugh hysterically and someone else would take their turn. Oh my goodness... it was a riot. 

Drawing monsters or catapulting footballs. I have the best job in the world.

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