When I look back at childhood photos of my cousins and I, a few things stand out. First off, everyone had the same haircut. This was true whether you were a girl or a boy. Also, all the clothes (especially the wide-legged bellbottoms with impossibly huge flower patterns) were handmade.
My husband’s youth pictures have a similar theme, right down to the colourful flared pants. I suppose our mothers (and fathers) had more time on their hands — back in the pre-plugged-in era. Either that or they had no choice. After all, when we were kids, times were lean.
Whatever the motivation, I know that growing up with a jack-of-all-trades dad who built a large sailing ship in our front yard and an artist mom, who crafted teddy bears out of discarded winter jackets, provided me with a can-do attitude that shaped who I am today.
At our house, there are plenty of opportunities for creative exploration. Art projects can be found in every space and art supplies are always available. On any given day, my daughter can wander through rooms to find in-progress paintings on canvas, stones ready to be assembled into sculptures and watercolour paper with images painted using coffee.
Storytelling is also big at our house. Jantje is a master raconteur who can whip up fantastic tales faster than she can grab for a storybook. Geoff’s colourful childhood provided him with several strange-yet-true memories that are ready-made legends. (Case in point: The Tough Old Trout.) I, on the other hand, tend to go over the events of the day (with a few choice embellishments), whenever my daughter asks me for a spur-of-the-moment story. I’ve done this from the time she was born.
It’s amazing how exciting the words, “and then, the bird flew right over the house” sound to a baby or toddler, when you speak with enthusiasm. I once went on for 20 minutes about a golden metallic balloon that escaped from the supermarket (true story) because, “it wanted to see the world”. And don’t even get me started on the squirrel that hurried and scurried to find a place to hide his nuts. It’s a story I concocted after watching wildlife in the park when my daughter was still an infant and it’s a tale she still asks for to this day.
We may not sew our own bellbottom trousers or stuff our own teddy bears, but we do paint our own wall decorations, write our own stories and ferment our own yogurt. My girl regularly regales her dad, nana and I, with fables inspired by everyday happenings, often accompanied by a drawing on her easel. And we can’t go for a walk without her stopping to make sculptures out of rocks or searching for sticks to use as paintbrushes.
By growing up in a house of artists, surrounded by art, I know my daughter is developing a “can-do” attitude in an age where ready-made toys and clothes are so accessible (and affordable). While looking through magazines, she often points to objects and says, “We can make one of those mommy.” And whether the picture she is looking at is a simple paper collage or a 40-foot sailboat, my answer is always the same, “Yes, honey, we can.”
So how can you bring art into your child’s life? In my next post I will give you some tips.