Planned Discoveries for Creative Kids

Add creative adventures & opportunities
to your life every day, even in small ways! 
Include your kids in those creative tangents.

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. 

15 minutes of up-front, proactive planning can make the difference between a good and a bad day for everyone! So take a deep breath and plan ahead for tomorrow's wonder.

A mandala created from ponytail holders.

A mandala created from ponytail holders.

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.

Creative discoveries:

  • <spy ware> old flip-style cell phones, blank notebook, pen, sunglasses, old keys, stick-notes, droopy hat, flash light, 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, kid scissors
  • <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, wash cloths,  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 
  • <restaurant> plastic dishes or tea set, play dough, measuring spoons, slotted spoons, kitchen gadgets, cookie cutters, 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, put all of the puzzle pieces in one big pile, put 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, tiny Hot Wheels cars to drive around
  • <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 size, type of animal or habitat
  • <tea party> at the dining room table, set the table with a plastic tea party set, placemats, plastic crowns or paper hats from a birthday party, plastic place settings, stuffed animals in each seat
  • <toilet paper bowling> in a hallway, stack a bunch of toilet paper rolls or paper towel 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, tiny reporter style notebook + pencil, measuring tape, 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, small white board, tiny envelopes, 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.
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 be just as curious as they are... nurture a sense of wonder. Mention a few possibiliies for the things but occupy yourself nearby... 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 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. Focus on positive reinforcement, redirection and distraction rather than negative punishment.

Safety first, always. Select only items that make sense for your kids' ages/capabilities. Beware of choking hazards.