Creativity is King! Helping Little Ones Dare to be Different

Creativity is one of those things I think I must have been home sick when they taught in school.

I mean… maybe it’s a simple case of pinterest envy… but the inventive and perfectly photographed homes, foods and parties I see there put me to serious shame.

I want more for my son! (Drama. Where the creative kids hang. Maybe I’m getting it?). But really, my handsome husband is a musician, graphic wizard, and creative nut. So Sonship has a fighting chance. But what if, just what if, all of his creative alleles were turned off as he gestated due to a lack of sugar and Doritos in my pregnancy diet? I would feel terrible, and everyone would know the blame was squarely on me. So today, let’s talk creativity. More for me than for you.

For starters, creativity is so important because it:
 Develops critical thinking and abstract thinking skills
 Increases kids’ vocab and verbal skills
 Enhances social skills
 Promotes problem solving

It’s a tough idea to define, but creativity involves:
o Breaking old ideas apart
o Developing new connections
o Expanding the limits of knowledge (by breaking assumptions)
o Arriving at innovative, exciting ideas

So, here is a list of ideas that might be helpful in encouraging creativity in your children. As always, I’m going to try to make them as integrate-able into your already busy life as possible.

Developing Creativity

Coloring – while you’re busy working on dinner, whip out some paper and crayons and let them have at it. Free hands for you, fun for them! We’re currently working through a coloring book called “The 21 Rules of our Home” by the Harris family (found here) that is teaching him about how to behave in our family, and letting his inner DaVinci flourish!
Sidewalk Chalk is another option while you’re weeding/mowing/gardening/chatting with the neighbors/reading a book in the shade while your husband fans you and feeds you grapes…

Creativity for Kids
For a hassle free art session – the kid in the box is our “no fuss” solution :). Go nuts boy!

Music – we have music playing a lot of the time when we’re home (especially on weekends), and very often in the car as well. This could be dead time, or worse with a cranky toddler held captive by a car seat. What we try to do now while we travel is help him clap on time, drum along with a water bottle or sing part of songs with us (the prepubescent male voice is a precious thing).
o Dance parties – while we wait for something to heat up in the toaster oven. #ohthosemoves
o Turn everything into an instrument – pots, boxes, books, bottles, spoons, balls, egg cartons
o Stream concerts on TV – let them see how bands play together, oh and take them to free concerts around the city

Creativity for Kids
Dress up – Instead of donating all of your once-fashionable-finds, why not hang on to a few of the most outrageous pieces and let the littles put on a show for you. Or make up stories. Or embarrass you in front of the entire extended family who didn’t realize you were into pink leather pants and camelhair vests. Together.

Encourage them to solve problems – try not to get all “Generation X” and helicopter-y on them. Don’t swoop in and solve problems for your little sweeties at the first sign of struggle. Let them keep trying and see how creative they get when left to their own devices.

Read imaginative books – And ask questions that make them use their imagination as you read everything “what if this had happened instead…?”

Play make believe games – Climb into their fort with them and help defend everyone from the impending gorilla invasion, tell them how delicious their Kleenex soufflé is…

Give them random non-toy items to play with – and find uses for. An empty egg carton as a mini set of drums? An old purse as a crib for their stuffed animals? One man’s trash is another man’s treasure 

Limit Screen Time – The opposite of creativity is probably what most things on TV are going to encourage. Sit. Stare. Switch of brain. Repeat. Kids learn and grow through PLAY! And MESSES! Foster those and the rest should take care of itself.

Don’t Play Small

My son, don’t play small. Right now you dream of big things. You tell me you want to fly in a car and be a basketball champion. You don’t yet know limits (to my unending chagrin, and also my delight) – you push and push until you get what you want. And as your mommy who loves you, I delight in giving you what you want when it is for your good.

So too, does your Father in Heaven.

He wants to fulfill the dreams that you will one day be too shy to say out loud. He expects big things of you – for He knit you together to be an unstoppable force for good in the world.

Don't Play Small

My Son, Don’t Play Small (You’re not really allowed to)

Time and ‘experience’ will try to change you and make you believe you should take the well-traveled path, but darling boy – turn back and look at your mama who will always be cheering you on to a bigger stage – a more dangerous one perhaps – but the one that God expects, your (future) family deserves and the world needs you desperately to be on.

Of him to whom much has been given – much will be required.
You have been given nothing short of …. everything.

We for our part will expose you to people, events, ideas and creations that will inspire you. We are the stories we tell, and your daddy and I will tell you good ones. Wholesome ones. Stories that capture your heart and light a fire under you. This part of our bedtime routine applies.

Finally – watch us, as we too work to become bright lights in a dim world. Together as a family we will grow into the people we are supposed to be, the “best versions of ourselves”. This is not a road you, or I, can walk alone – and we are building a village to support you.

The World Needs You

I have these words by Marianne Williamson inscribed on just about every journal and planner I’ve ever owned:

“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It’s not just in some of us; it’s in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.”

Playing it safe is easy, there are well marked roads to becoming a CEO or a Wall Street Lawyer. Less well traveled, and much more personalized are the paths to holiness and system disruptions that change the course of history for your children and my grand-babies.

So sonship, don’t play small. Grab life with both hands and a winning attitude. Dream big dreams and then chase them with passion and purpose.

For with God, nothing is impossible.

Simple Ways to Help Kids Love Learning

This is such a fun one for me to write about, because if you know me, than you know how much I love learning. I just turned 30 (eep!) and in the 26 years that have passed since I toddled into kindergarten at age 4, I have spent a grand total of 12 months NOT IN SCHOOL. Tell me that’s not commitment? Let’s look at some simple ways to help kids love learning that are easy to integrate into daily life.

Learning and growing in is my blood. And you’d know that if you knew my father. Really though.

And, therefore, learning and growing must also be in the blood of my son. (Points if you ALSO know my husband. Haha, this is getting a little ridiculous. But alas – we really like learning around here). Just ask my sisters.

I have to admit, I possibly grew one of the most terrible eaters the world has ever seen. Not a picky one, just a terrible one. He.hates.eating. Period. He gets bored within 5 bites. He loves something, then he hates it. He’s never hungry. I’ve learned the very hard way that there is no way to force a kid to swallow… Ever tried it? Mine will hold hummus in his mouth for 1.5 hours at a time before spitting it out… Wherever he happens to be when his cheeks start hurting…on a couch, in the car, in the bathtub, into a guitar #collectivegroan.

Just like swallowing, there is precious little we can do to force a child to love learning, yet both are of the utmost importance if he is to be healthy in body and mind. So, if we can’t force, we turn to convincing… Exciting… Delighting his senses. The question is – how can we foster an attitude of learning and growth in our children? How can we help our kids love learning?

Strategies to Help Kids Love Learning

How to help kids love learning

Model it

Husband and I like to use our free time (#whatfreetimereally?!) to read books out loud together, watch educational Ted talks like this one, and go to public events and exhibits that broaden our horizons. #unashamednerds

Make everything (literally everything) a teaching opportunity

Whether we’re telling a story, playing outside, drawing, getting dressed, doing chores or eating lunch, you’ll rarely find us sitting in silence. I ask him questions about everything. How many ____ are there? What color is? What sound does ___ make? Which one is bigger? Where does ___ come from? What letter is that?

Watch things that inspire and teach

Then talk about them to reinforce learning and perceptions afterwards

Have so many great books

…in your home that they can never say “I’m bored.” Really? Well sweetie… Have you ready St. Augustine’s Summa?

Learn tactile skills as a family

My plan once we buy a house… sometime in the fairly distant future (we really like being mobile) – is that we’ll tailor it to suit our family.  I plan to hire contractors to come in and teach us to help them get the work done. I also expect my kids to learn things like how to cut (boys) hair, set up a website, install lights, to cook etc…

Music

There is so much research out there, and right here, that has found that listening to, and playing, music is like weight-training for the brain. If kids are good at learning, there is a good chance they will like it more and take up the cause by their own initiative.

Play games that are educational

Who can make the best fake stock-market trades? Make up crosswords and word-search puzzles for each other?

How to help your kids love learning

Build on their strengths

Take interest in the things that they show interest in, and help them to really dig deep into those things that make their eyes light up.

Master small skills first

There’s nothing quite like the sense of accomplishment to encourage further effort. Yesterday I was trying to help my little dude learn how to do up buttons… I had no idea how complicated they can be to little hands. He kept failing and saying “but I can’t!” – so I put it halfway through and let him pull it on the other side #smallwin #bigexcitement. Then the race was on… He was convinced he could do it, frustration be gone! The whole time he played with my shirt I encouraged his effort, praising how hard he was trying – and try he did #stillfailedthough (this kind of praise is so important for developing resilience in our children)

Make learning fun

Be enthusiastic about new skills, help them to see how useful skills and information can be. Apply new learning in ways that touch their hearts and light up their senses.

Whether we think we can, or think we cannot – we are right. I want my kids to know that their brain is a muscle with infinite potential for growth. There is so much to know – and what we learn with pleasure we rarely forget!
At the end of the day, as parents we open doors, but our kids must enter by themselves. Here’s hoping for big gusty winds that blow open doors everywhere they look! We, for our part, will do our best to help them choose to walk through.

How to Help Your Kids Become Saints

Hey ya’ll!  Last week I laid out my wishes for my son, and today I’m sharing some of the strategies that we are using – hopefully you can too – to help your kids become saints.

How to help your kids become saints

My son has been terrified by (and simultaneously intensely preoccupied with) our yellow vacuum cleaner since the day we brought it home. I mean, the little guy spends hours everyday talking about it, looking at it, opening the cupboard, saying he doesn’t want it and that he’s “not a brave boy”. That is… until two days ago.

Two days ago, our wonderful nanny was vacuuming the floor. Generally this means that Little is shrieking in my arms, clinging to me like a spider monkey, and reiterating repeatedly how much he “doesn’t want the vacuum cleaner”. Point taken son, point taken.

This time, things were different… he asked if we could go out and see the vacuum cleaner in action. So I took him into the living room and put him safely on the couch where the suction couldn’t get him. Then I cautiously told him I was going to get my glass of water from the table and I’d be right back! He bought it, and stayed there calmly by himself (!!) while the brightly colored instrument of torture darted around him. Then I showed him that I could touch it while it whirred and come out alive… with some hesitation he followed suit.

You see, for weeks, I’ve been telling him that he doesn’t need to be afraid of anything because the Holy Spirit is in him. God’s power and His very life will make him strong and courageous.

Two days ago, he touched the vacuum cleaner and then proclaimed “I’m a brave boy” and I said, “why bud?” “because of the Holy Spirit” Hallelujah! #joyfulmommoment #patsownback. (Later that day when I asked who was inside him making him brave, he said pancakes…) #takesbackthebackpat

I can’t think of a more important role or vocation I have been tasked with than helping my children to know, love, serve and bring others to Jesus. It’s also the one I happen to be most excited about! I love a challenge.

How to help your kids become saints

How to Help Your Kids Become Saints

This is a simple (entirely unordered) list of things we, as a family are doing and going to do to help our kids develop that relationship with joy and enthusiasm:

1. Pray for them – daily, nightly, hourly. Pray for their protection from evil and unwavering devotion to the Author of Love.
2. Walk the walk – be the loving hands and feet of Christ who extends mercy, grace, compassion and joy. Live the message.
3. Read God’s Word with and too them – It’s so wonderful to see how he loves to tell the stories of Daniel, Jonah, Noah, Adam and Eve, and Jesus calling the 12 to all of his friends in the playroom. Sometimes we’ll be running around the living room, and he quotes the story of Jonah to me saying “you can’t outrun God mommy”! (He’s 2, people. This blows my mind.)
4. Play Hymns and holy music around the house – I do have a musician husband… so this one is a given (read about why just singing with your child is so important here). His toy guitar and microphone are some of the best gifts he has ever received. Matt Maher’s youngest fan up in here! From the mouth of babes….
5. Have a library of great books in our home
6. Run a prayer group or Bible study from our home
7. Observe the Sabbath day as a family – remember to dedicate it to the LORD and worship Him as a family
8. Pray together – every evening after dinner as a family
9. Surround our family with other faithful families – (especially while they are young) so that they see good examples everywhere – and have friends who will encourage and support them
10. Watch wholesome programming – Brother Francis…. If you have met my son, he has asked you to “Puh-leeeease put on Brother Francis. Please.”
11. Continue to help out at lots of retreats – my husband leads worship, and I speak…. So bring the kids along to be surrounded… it takes a village!
12. Be involved in serving the community as a family – things like helping out at a food bank, a seniors day care or nursing home, fundraisers at church…
13. Send of them on a “come and see” weekend – (probably only in their late teens) to aid in discerning their vocations and meet outstanding priests and nuns
14. Go to adoration, confession and daily mass – as much as possible, and as a family
15. Study the Bible, the Catechism and debate moral teachings together as a family over dinner and on long drive

Goodness! I thought of 20 more ways to help your kids become saints while I was writing this… but…did you even make it to here? #patsyouonback. Thanks for sticking through this with me, friend ☺

May the same Holy Spirit make us bold witnesses to inspire our children, and through them – the world.

Hopes for my Homeboy – Wishes for My Son

My wishes for my son are many.  In fact….

My wish for you is that this life becomes all that you want it to. Your dreams stay big, your worries stay small, you never need to carry more than you can hold. And while you’re out there getting where you’re getting to, I hope you know somebody loves you – and wants the same things to. Yeah this, is my wish.  

~ Rascall Flatts

I miss country music in Dubai, and I miss my little sister serenading me endlessly with this song on long road trips.  Get back in my life you poetic genius!

My wishes for my son - cutting edge kid
Isn’t she the cutest? My sweet serenading sister 🙂

I’m fairly certain that if I put another 30 seconds of thought into it, I could find a more poignant song about what I hope for my sweet son… but this one…. All the feels. And in a lot of ways it speaks to some basic premises. Ever since I found out that we were expecting, I began expecting great things of and for my tiny two-celled tot. This is a short list that I think encompasses a number of other things….So here we go.

Wishes for my Son

My hope for you, little boy, is that you:

  1. Become a saint
  2. Always learn and grow
  3. Don’t play small
  4. Remain generous and kind, but strong. Use your manly strength wisely
  5. Are always grateful

But hopes, dreams and wishes for my son are not enough.

My wishes for my son - cutting edge kid

As parents, we have a huge role to play in helping him to achieve and become these things by the example we set and the exposure he gets.  So, for the next 5 weeks – I’m going to lay out a basic game plan (that I’m sure will morph and reset over the years) which we are using as a roadmap to help him get there. One day he will have dreams, wishes and goals of his own (read about another way we foster those here)– hopefully these will factor in. But as far as character goes, I think if we can help him move toward these, he will be in good shape.

Stud Muff and I have a “big picture” date every Saturday morning where we grab breakfast, sit in a café for ~3 hours and talk about important things in life (child rearing, faith, relationships we want to develop, us, career, other goals….etc) – these are some of the things we strategize about… hopefully some of our musings will be helpful to you in raising Cutting Edge Kids! Check back next Wednesday to read about strategies we’re using to raise holy kids.

Feel free to keep singing that song in your head, and out loud, alllll day.  You know I will 🙂  Solidarity.