The Creative Life with Kids


There’s never been an art material that I didn’t like.

When my husband and I recently teased out our family values in order to better focus on our priorities, it was no surprise when we each identified living a creative life as a guiding principle for our family. We both love to tinker with projects, we each work in creative fields, and we enjoy spending our free time in art galleries, film screenings, and soaking up the visual surprises offered by big cities. And we want this for our children; not just because we hope that they will enjoy art making or visiting museums, but because we believe that our children will be better equipped to navigate our quickly changing world if they are experienced with tools for thinking outside of the box.

While we’re constantly monitoring our small home for clutter, we decided that there will always a place for art materials in our home. The reality, of course, is that the nooks and crannies of our old house are packed, so I try to be judicious when considering a new pack of paper, interesting office supplies, or something completely random (food markers, anyone?) that catches my eye. But it’s hard because I love art materials so very much. Not only do they symbolize the potential of ideas, but they also challenge us to experience the world in a new way. And once we’ve worked with them, our problem-solving skills are forever changed.


Take this bagel scribbling activity, for example. I picked up these food coloring markers at our cooking shop with the idea that our mark-making preschooler could explore the dashes and circles she so enjoys in a new medium. Since she’s familiar with drawing on smooth 2-D surfaces like paper and chalk boards, this was a challenge to navigate the bumpy terrain of a bagel. It also turned into an exercise in selecting colors that would show up against the brown bagel crust (her first color choice of yellow was quickly dismissed for brighter red and darker blue).

You could get the same endpoint, of course, with magic markers and a chipboard egg carton, but then you wouldn’t be rewarded with a delicious edible art snack for all of your trouble.


Yesterday my daughter and husband came back from the grocery store, excited to tell me that they bought me a present! And wouldn’t you know that instead of flowers or chocolate (which would have also been nice, don’t get me wrong!), they brought me coffee filters! We tore through all of ours this weekend in a watercolor-painting-paper-cutting frenzy, and they knew I’d love to have more on hand for future experiments. Art materials don’t have to be elaborate or expensive. They just have to be readily available for those moments when our imaginations are ready to poke holes in their limitations and paint wild colors onto their surfaces.

What are your thoughts on living a creative life?

This post was happily shared with Play Academy @ Nurturestore and We Play


  1. I love your post! We live a very creative life here! Sometimes I think my daughter has too many art materials and experiences compared to other kids!

    In this time of standardized tests it is more important than ever to live a creative life! Our education system is not designed to produce creative people! Somehow I managed to escape public school and to come out O.K.—-thanks to art teachers and non arts teachers who promoted creativity in their classroom. I believe my immediate family had a huge influence on me to be creative—my Father especially. At 70 years old he continues to inspire me in the way he approaches life and the way he solves problems!!!

    I agree we need to have people that can “think outside the box” more than ever and living creatively helps to do this!

    • HI Melissa,
      Thanks for sharing your thoughts. When I see what’s happening in the public schools, I’m baffled as to how administrators and law-makers can support such an antiquated system that’s designed to school factory workers rather than independent thinkers. I just hope that when my children join the school system that we can find a creative alternative for their education. And if he had a hand in encouraging your creativity, your dad must be an amazing man!

      • Rachelle,

        My Father is an amazing man!

        I don’t think you will need to worry about your children! You are a creative thinker and artist and that will have a huge impact on their development! It already has!

        I’ve thought of homeschooling my daughter—-so we shall see. Some systems and schools are better than others so hopefully she will be fine if we choose public school. She has such a strong personality and already seems to be very different among her classmates in her preschool. She goes to a play based school-which I love. They may not always be super creative–but there are no worksheets!

        We have shipped all (most of ) of our factory jobs to other countries—so what is the need of producing factory workers? We are going to be left with unemployed people with no skills to expand their minds.

  2. I don’t know how to live any other way.

    That’s my only thought right now (I’m battling the flu, I think), but that pretty much sums it up.

    • I feel the same way, Amy. I guess it’s just in the soul. I hope you feel better soon. xo

    • Thanks for the kind words, Suzette 🙂 It means so much to hear you say that. xo

  3. I know, dan, I drool when I see the curricula at some of the creative schools around here! But, like you and Melissa, I’m pretty confident that my children will fare well in whatever context considering their generative and experiential home life. I know it’s an overused quote, but I’m reminded of Gandhi quote, “Be the change you want to see.” It often takes a lot of work, but it’s worth it in the end. I bet that Simone’s classmates will love that project. Oh, and the mess at home! Let me know if you solve that problem–it must be viral because it’s happening here too 🙂

  4. My husband and I are two artists. At least at home. We are moving for the 4th time in 10 years. Every time I realise that we have a lot of artist material. A lot when you live in an apartement, even If I try to minimize the amount. I prefere to live in a full house with a lot of artist material, than without. Books, are also very populous around here.
    I also like food coloring marker. I used it a while ago with my son to do that : http://buttonsinacupmama.blogspot.com/2011/01/bonhomme-de-neige-chocolat-guimauve.html (you can translate it with google translator, left sidebar)

    • Hi Venusia, We’ve also moved multiple times in the past ten years (6 times, I think!), and each time it’s been an exercise in paring down and making hard decisions. Artist materials and books are full of so many possibilities. These must be the things that keep artists going, fulfill our curiosities, and nourish our souls. Thanks for sharing the link — next time we’ll have to try marshmallows, for sure!

  5. Rachelle,
    Creativity is very important to me as well!
    When I’ve discussed goals for my work with my particular children with my supervisors, creative thinking has always been at the top. To me this means letting children use play materials in their own way, as well as lots of opportunities to be creative with art materials.And of course the messier the better usually! Process is always more important than a finished product isn’t it… I remember one of my favourite art activities as a child was papier mache projects, somehow the sensory muck inspired me, and freed my spirit!(However I also like helping children create projects such as the lovely flowers with coffee filers…I note your daughter also had many other uses for the filters which were fun!)

    I enjoyed this post – thinking about creativity is therapeutic!
    All the best!

    • I’m so glad this resonated with you, Brenda! Yes, yes, yes! For small children, I do believe that process far surpasses product in terms of importance. At least the adult’s idea of what the product should be, as the child may have their own idea of what they’re trying to accomplish, which may be very different from what an adult has in mind. We always have the most success when I have no expectations and we’re simply playing with materials. Let the chips fall as they may, as the saying goes…

  6. We looove food markers here! We use them to make faces on boiled eggs the most!!

      • yes, I agree!! we’ll have to try that in the next few weeks — so many eggs in our near futures!

  7. I just found your blog and LOVE it. My 6 year old son is a budding artist and I’m not creatively inclined, so your blog is a wealth of information to help stimulate my son’s creativity. As much as I want to live a more creative life, it’s just not part of my DNA naturally. I have to work at it. So any help I can get is great!

  8. Hi Tracey! I’m so glad you’re here. I feel the exact same way about introducing my children to music and dance — I know it’s important and I want them to be comfortable with these disciplines, but singing songs and breaking out in movement require me to give it a lot of focus and attention. It CAN be done, but it’s not always pretty 🙂

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