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Planned Discoveries for Creative Kids

Daisy Yellow is a blog about adding creativity to your life in small ways every day. So remember to include your kids in those creative tangents.

ponytail holders | mandala

Often when you ask a kid whether they want to "play spies" or "clean toys" they'll say no. But when they stumble upon a scene of things that just-might-possibly-go-together, their minds start churning with possibilities. When my kids were little, I'd leave "scenes to stumble upon" or "groupings" of objects on tables or the floor, with an idea in mind (i.e. spy ware: pretend to be a spy or detective) but didn't mention the grouping, my idea or intention. The key was to let them find these treasures on their own and let them create whatever they wished from the components. 

Planned discoveries.

These are kid magnets. Try placing a few "discoveries" around your house, under the dining room table, on trays or side tables or even beds.

You are the ultimate judge of safety so select things that make sense for your kids' ages/capabilities. {beware of choking hazards}:

  • <spy ware> old cell phone, blank notebook, pen, sunglasses, old keys, stick-notes, flash light, hat, binoculars, calculator, magnifying glass
  • <cleaning toys> plastic toys, bowl of soapy water (use baby shampoo), spray bottle of soapy water, old toothbrush, sponge, cotton balls, little towels to dry the toys {good for the back porch}
  • <make a city> tiny cardboard boxes (i.e. from makeup or soap packaging), tiny plastic boxes, matchbox cars, huge piece of cardboard with a wide curvy road drawn on it, markers, stickers
  • <classification> empty egg carton, a variety of pasta shapes or beads in plastic cups
  • <vet's office> 6 stuffed animals, anything that looks like doctor gear, small chairs, a box of band aids, blank notebook on clip-board, pen, clock, old telephone, stool, calculator, pretend cash register, old computer keyboard, chalk board or white board, scarves, little blankets, little notebooks to write "prescriptions," pillows, aprons or old oxford shirts to wear {a favorite}
  • <still life art> set up a scene on a placemat with a variety of simple shapes (i.e. a vase, pretty box, a pear), a blank drawing pad, colored pencils or watercolors
  • <stamp art> huge piece of butcher paper or postal paper taped to a table, stamps, ink pads, baby wipes {you can use this as gift wrapping paper}
  • <restaurant> plastic dishes or tea set, play dough, measuring spoons, slotted spoons, kitchen gadgets, lined notebook, markers, sand timer, aprons, serving trays
  • <rock band> metal pots to bang, wooden spoons, whistles, harmonica, dry pasta in a plastic container to shake, sheet music clipped to cardboard {to pretend to read}
  • <puzzle chaos> 5 different wooden jigsaw puzzles, all of the puzzle pieces in one big pile, a few pieces put back in the puzzles
  • <ball collection> take the pillows off the couch, place plastic containers, halloween candy buckets, buckets, baskets on the couch. next to the couch, a box or small and medium sized soft balls to throw into the baskets from a chair across from the couch
  • <doll city> with a sharpie, draw a pretend road on a huge piece of posterboard (get it at a craft store), add empty doll houses, open and facing the road, basket of dolls, basket of doll furniture, large legos to build more stuff for the city
  • <roads> wooden blocks or large legos constructed in two lines (to form a path), or in mazes, basket of matchbox cars or little dolls to carry or drive through the maze
  • <animal land> neatly line the walls of a small hallway with a huge number of stuffed animals, or lean them along the front or back of a large couch. the kids are often surprised to see their animals in a new place. they might put them in rainbow order, have a lunch date with them, or categorize by type of animal
  • <tea party> at the dining room table, set the table with a plastic tea party set, placemats, plastic place settings, stuffed animals in each seat
  • <toilet paper bowling> in a hallway, stack a bunch of toilet paper rolls built into pyramids, bucket of big rubber balls a few feet away {perfect for the day you go to the store and get t.p.}
  • <scientist> a magnifying glass, prism, flashlight, notebook + pencil, tiny stones, leaves, flowers, petals, gem stones, acorns, monopoly houses, dice, each on little plastic dish or all on a big tray as if a science project is underway
  • <library> a stack of kid books in a basket. index cards with book names on each card, a date stamp, old calendar, removable tape, cloth grocery bags, old computer keyboard {even pre-readers like this one}
  • <gift wrap> a box of rubber stamps, stamping ink pads, and a table covered with butcher block paper or postal paper (brown or white non-glossy paper sold in large rolls). {the result will be gift wrap!}

The key is not to mention the scenes you've set up, and you can set up more than one!

If your kids ask what the group of things is for, or whether they can use them, you could just mention a few possibiliies for the things but not push them to play. Their curiosity will be the guide. 

Now that my daughters are 10 and 12, and I look back on all of the little scenes I used to set up... I can definitely say that engaging kids in creative endeavors is a very, very good thing. I wish more moms would take a deep breath {in their busy and over-scheduled days} and envision the world from their children's perspective. I wish more moms of young children would try to redirect behaviour instead of jumping immediately to punishment and yelling. I adamantly believe in focusing on positive reinforcement, redirection and distraction rather than negative punishment. I learned that up-front, proactive stuff could make the difference between a good and a bad day for everyone.

So take a deep breath and plan ahead for tomorrow's wonder.

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Reader Comments (13)

definitely bookmarking this post! so many good ideas.

05.23.2012 | Unregistered Commenterkatie

I am knee deep in planning for our summer and these ideas are sure to be put to use.

Oh my gosh! What an awesome post, and what great ideas! Thank you! I know a house full of kiddos that are going to so appreciate this, even if they don't know what I'm up to, lol!

The sneakiness factor makes these even more fun! If they ask you what to do with the things, you could give just a small tidbit and then ask them what they could do with it. They might wind up doing something you hadn't imagined!

05.23.2012 | Registered Commentergypsy

What a great post I agree with you 100% although I am no way near perfect but I prefer to use a lot of positive reinforcement. I will have to give your suggestion a try and see were my dd takes it. Any ideas on how to get your dd to sleep in her own room? I would appreciate any suggestions!

05.23.2012 | Unregistered CommenterAcornApron

AcornApron, We moved when the kids were 5 and 2; that set us back as they were scared to sleep in their new rooms! I don't know your daughter's age, but with us a consistent bedtime routine is the key. At 10 + 12, they go up to their rooms to get ready for bed an hour before bedtime and then they have "reading time" until bedtime when we do tuck-ins + cuddles + chats. They are voracious readers. We also have set nights when they can sleep in our room, so it's not a "never" thing but rather a scheduled thing.

05.23.2012 | Registered Commentergypsy

These are awesome ideas! Not only is it a fun way for kids to explore their surroundings and to exercise their power of observation, it is also a good opportunity for a mother and her kid/s to bond.

05.24.2012 | Unregistered CommenterBarewall Studio

Love your ideas. I did some of those when my kids were younger (they will be 13 and 16 this summer). Another one they loved was a large, flat piece of cardboard, markers, index cards and random board game pieces. Anything involving cardboard boxes or water was always a favorite at my house.

I still do this for myself! I have a stack of old magazines and a scissors next to one chair, my art bag next to another, inspirational books next to my bed. In my overscheduled day I need these creative discoveries as much as my kids.

05.24.2012 | Unregistered CommenterKirstin

Wonderful idea Kirstin, and I hadn't realized that I do this myself - a book at the table, moleskine and markers on the bedside table... index cards... didn't even make the connection. Thanks!

05.24.2012 | Registered Commentergypsy

Love this! I'm linking from The Crafty Crow soon!

06.25.2012 | Unregistered CommenterCassi

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