Friday, October 8, 2010

How to Encourage an Artistic and Creative Spirit in your Child...

        Cottonbabies, the creator of the Bumgenius line of clothdiapers has just come out with an incredibly beautiful set of Artist Series clothdiapers by artist Chelsea Perry. To celebrate their launch, the company has generously decided to host a giveaway in which two lucky winners are awarded one of each of the five Artist Series prints. In order to win, Cottonbabies has asked contestants to answer to the following question on their blog, "How do you encourage a creative, artistic spirit in your baby, toddler or young child? "

      Well my answer to that question starts with a book, ISH, by Peter Reynolds. 

"One spring morning,
Ramon had a wonderful feeling.
It was a feeling that even ish words
and ish drawings could not capture.
He decided NOT to capture it.
Instead, he simply savored it..."

OK. Not going to lie here, this "children's book" is just as much for us adults- if not more so, than our children and that's why it is so very important!

Ish, by Peter H. Reynolds is the beautiful story of Ramon- a child that overcomes his insecurities to live "ishfully ever after." There's something so amazing and pure about children- they are naturally confident, risk-takers, but it seems that our society jades them all too early pushing them to focus on what is the "right" way to do something rather than encouraging their age-appropriate approximations and creativity. 
The main character in the story,Ramon, thinks of himself as an artist until his older brother sees one of his paintings and bursts out laughing, "What is that?" From that day on Ramon starts focusing on getting it "right" rather than enjoying his art. Eventually he ends up giving up on drawing altogether until he visits his little sister's room to find that she has turned all of Ramon's trash "wrong" drawings into a crumpled art gallery on her walls. "That was suppose to be a vase of flowers," Ramon says, "but it doesn't look like one." "Well it looks vase-ISH! " she exclaims.
This one, simple children's book has become a parenting and life mantra of sorts for me. I remember reading it to my kindergartners for the first time a few years back and tearing up at the end. One of my students consoled me by saying, "It's ok Mrs. Sayers. You can make a vase-ish flower too!" Aw, the innocence and loveliness of childhood!
I first sat down with my Big Boy when he was two and read him the story. Of course he was too young to fully comprehend its message, but we immediately started talking about "ish-ish" things he could do. 
       You see, as most of my readers know, Big Boy was diagnosed with mild CP when he was nine months old. He is a very bright and creative little guy and has made tremnedous progress, but is still noticeably behind in his motor skills. This year, before starting preschool, we sat down and re-read ISH. My fear was that he would see other children capable of doing more than he could and become discouraged. We talked about the things he loves to do like color, create , and play, and how there was no one best way to do these things. We talked about how he was going to be trying many new things at school and that they would be hard at first. I explained that he might not get something "perfect," or "right," but that he can try his best to make it "ish." 
       The Ish mindset is applied daily in our home to help foster Big Boy and Little Man's creativity. One particular day, we sat down to do some painting with water color. I've never thought of myself as an artist, but with the ish mindset you can let go of your insecurities about making something that is "good" and/or "right" and embrace the beauty of discovery and trial.I'm a big believer in leading by example, and so I feel like it would be hypocritical to expect my children to be creative without fostering that skill in my own life.
Below you will see Big Boy paining his "Bus-ISH" art and the finished product. Please excuse the facial expression- we'll just say he's being 3 :) And below his art is a little something that I call "Flower-ISH." By no means perfect or right, but I sure had a blast painting it with my son :) I think all of us adults could use a good dose of ish in our lives!
Using the Ish mantra helps me to dare to develop my own creativity, therefore, encouraging my children to also embrace an artistic and creative spirit in their lives! 

DISCLOSURE: This post was written specifically for the contest posted by Cottonbabies on their blog. I wrote it in the hopes of winning their new Artist Series Diapers! 

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