I have recently noticed that my daughter likes to spend time creating her own objects and accessories for her imaginative play. It started with paper cutting. She learned how to cut paper when she was about 2 years old and at the beginning she just liked to practice this skill but now she uses it actively and creatively to make little presents for her wooden animals out of paper and washi tape.
She also loves to prepared them food, like these spaghetti with corns.
For this she used some of my precious organic yarn that was not really designed to become spaghetti, but a jacket for her. I guess that when creativity flows, you just need to use whatever resource you can find :) This was a sign for me that she needed more space and materials for her creative ideas.
I should stress out that my daughter doesn't enjoy crafting things according to instructions or doing a pre-thought process leading her from A to Z. To be honest, I have never tried to suggest her such activities because I know her personality. She sometimes asks me to show her how to do something she sees me doing (like sewing a button for example) but most of the times, she wants to put her own ideas into practice.
I see two ways of encouraging creativity and imagination in children: by modeling it in our own lives and by preparing the environment and offering our children the resources to follow their own creativity and imagination. By ressources, I don't mean expensive art and crafts supplies. I think that loose parts (especially natural or recycled objects) are the best resources.
So recently I have made space on her imaginative play/ loose-parts space and added some craft supplies on her shelf. Now bottom shelf is for her craft supplies and the upper shelf for her wooden animals and little figurines. That means that half of her "play resources" are designed for imaginative play but made by someone else and half are "raw" and she can create whatever she wants with them.
Endless possibilities for open-ended play...
On the crafts and handiwork shelf (bottom shelf) she can find (from left to the right in the picture above):
- fabrics - I usually give her all the offcut from my own handiworks
- yarn and ribbons- offcuts from my handiworks and ribbons from gifts and bouquets
- washi tape: different styles
- papers- different colors, sizes and styles: wrapping paper, silk paper, colored paper, ...
- wooden studs and a bid needle that is usually used for sewing wool
- scissors (child-size)
- threading frame (Grimm's Fadenspannrahmen)
We have also recently decided to give her an old compact camera that we didn't use anymore and she loves taking pictures of her toys and basically anything she sees. And I love to see the world through her eyes. I'm always excited when she invites me to see her pictures. I think that this is a wonderful way to encourage creativity in young children so if you have an old camera, consider giving it to your little one.
Crafts and handiwork are naturally woven in the fabric of her imaginative play. But before she started showing interest into crafting objects for her imaginative play, we had some crafts materials in our art space. We still have some of them in our art-space at the moment. At least once a week, we take the time to go in our workshop and each of us works on her own projects. I do my own handiwork and she does her. So I would say that at the moment crafts are...
- daily interwoven in imaginative play
- a weekly date with creativity
Recently we also had a wonderful opportunity to see handiwork done by passionate craftsmen and -women. While visiting the shop of a little wool factory in the Austrian mountains, a family business since three generations, my daughter was spontaneously invited by the owners to see how the carpets are hand-made on traditional wooden weaving looms. They also offered her some wool offcuts from the carpets and a sample of their wool colors made of felted balls. She was very impressed by this experience. Back home she asked me to show her how to weave the wool and we put on the wall the samples of the colored wool. This was not only a beautiful and inspirational example of how passionate people follow their love of handiwork but also a great sensorial experience. The colors are beautiful and the names are so poetical: kiwi, pistachio, lime, cinnamon, mimosa... They offer a series of sensorial experience: not only the color but also the feel, the texture and the evocation of an image or a smell.