I’ve been reading the Artist’s Way for Parents: Raising Creative Children through a book study at my church. In this book and its predecessor, The Artist’s Way, the author, Julia Cameron, asserts that making room in your life for creative expression is akin to connecting to your spirituality and realizing your true self. She notes that children are naturally creative beings and that our job, as parents, is to protect and foster this creativity to ensure that it lasts well beyond childhood.
One of the suggestions is to take your children on a “creative adventure” each week. When I first read the phrase, I thought, “I do this already.” But as I read on, I realize that while I spend time with my children “doing things” on a regular basis, there were a few key differences between what I was doing and what the author was suggesting.
Five minutes of forethought and pre-planning can turn a routine visit to the park into something more magical. For our first creative adventure, rather than go to our traditional playground, we invited friends to Audubon Park. I packed buckets for both Jack (3.5) and Cora (15 months) and when we got there, I followed their lead. They ended up noticing the duckweed on the pond and they then spent a good half hour filling their buckets with grass, rocks and acorns and dumping the contents on the duckweed to see what would happen. Jack and his friend then went off exploring. Even though my friend and I were 30 feet behind, I think they felt like they were in their own world and just ran, laughed, and hid from each other. A little planning and a lot of open space made this first outing definitely an adventure.
Our book suggests brainstorming your child’s interests as well as your own. I know I struggle with feeling guilty that I don’t actually WANT to get down and play fireman….again! The idea behind identifying your child’s interests is to see if there are overlaps with your own. You can then structure adventures that appeal to both of you. Jack’s interests are fire engines, fire fighters, and fire stations. Those don’t necessarily pop up on my list, but I do like history. I’ve walked by the New Orleans Fire Department Museum at Washington and Camp St. hundreds of times so I finally decided to explore what exactly this museum was and how we could visit. Turns out visits are by appointment only Monday through Friday 9:00-2:00, but are free and open to any interested group. I reached out to Firefighter Michael and scheduled a visit for Jack and Cora.
Once our visit was scheduled, Jack and I did a countdown. We also planned out a full morning around the visit. We’d start with the museum and then walk over to the Magazine St. fire station for a look at the trucks and to deliver some cookies. Then we’d go to a park for a picnic. The museum was a true gem. Located in an old fire station, there are old-timey fire engines downstairs and lots of fire memorabilia. Upstairs is designed for play with kid-sized boots, gear, and even a fire pole. There are also assorted toy fire trucks for unstructured play. Cora stuck with those and a random strand of Mardi Gras beads. Jack was excited to test out the 911 dispatch kit where he could practice calling 911 to report an emergency. This day was epic for my child!
Shake things up a little
With two kids and a pretty set routine, I think the “adventure” part can come from just a change in the normal routine. Jack had earned a free gelato coupon by participating in the New Orleans Public Library Summer Reading Program. Rather than go as a family, Jack and I went, just the two of us, one night at 8:30! It was way outside our normal routine, but, maybe as a result, Jack beamed the entire time. It was like a date for the two of us; the pace was relaxed and we got to people watch and just enjoy each other.
I highly recommend a weekly creative adventure. Some small changes make a normal morning or evening together more meaningful and fun for everyone!