When I was little, I loved to come up with new ways to play. I'd turn cardboard boxes into a kid couch or transform the family room into a playhouse. Looking back, I so appreciate how my parents gave me room to explore.
That's probably why I'm so determined to give my own four kids that same kind of wiggle room. I've tried to fill our home with invitations to create and pretend: a tin of colored pencils and a communal sketchbook that always sits on the coffee table, a large chalkboard-paint canvas, and a pile of wooden blocks that might be used for building a pony corral or for gliding, ice-skate style, across the floor. We've hung at least one piece of the girls' art in every room. That happy feeling they get when they see their work displayed encourages them to make more.
As much as I'm itching (oh, and sometimes I'm really itching!) to clear away a mess, I resist the impulse. Of course, it's a parent's job to teach each child to be responsible and clean up after herself. But it's all about balance. Some days I struggle to keep things tidy--and sometimes I just let neatness take a backseat to imagination and play.
Ben and I both adore making things as a family, and it doesn't always involve some sort of craft project. In fact, we teach the girls that there are many different ways to be creative. Life is busy, but we still try to find time for gardening together, cooking together, putting on shows, singing and dancing, planning parties, and telling stories.
Most important, we make memories together! Time goes by so fast. We're determined to make our house a place where our girls can just enjoy childhood, and more importantly, where they feel loved and encouraged. Even in the hard moments (yes, my kids can melt down with the best of them), Ben and I treasure our time at home together, because we know that, in the end, our happy, messy family will always be our proudest creation.
Details, at right:-Inspired by a poster with an Andy Warhol quote on it, my daughter True painted one with her own quote. We framed it inexpensively and gave it a place of honor.-Hanging this hammock indoors turned out to be one of our best moves ever. We use it more than we would outside. It's the girls' favorite spot for relaxing.-I collect old globes--they remind us to take adventures.-Why shouldn't a beautiful dress be treated like a work of art?
Here we are! From left, Glow, age 2; Brave, 6; Ben; Rubyelllen; Soul, 3; and True, 7.
Using skirt and pants hangers is a super-easy and cheap way to create changing art displays. The blue poster was a Christmas gift from Ben, made with paint and poster board. I saw this motto on Pinterest, and the message really resonated with me.
We homeschool our girls. We display finished work, flash cards, and notes on what we're learning in a clear pocket chart from a teaching supply store.
True and Brave share a room. These wire baskets, picked up at flea markets and junk shops, turned out to be a fun perch for stuffed pals. I enjoy giving new uses to old things.
Ben planted an organic garden in the backyard. The chard is growing like crazy, and so is our little Glow!
To hang an upbeat message, I cut the words from a piece of fabric, then stitched a little channel for a dowel and hung the banner with a string.
Last May Day, we made miniature maypoles out of chopsticks, streamers, and tape. Celebrating all the little holidays and occasions is one way we like to have fun.
Books often inspire our crafts, like these pom-poms made after reading An Orange in January. We left our walls white so that pop-of-color projects could play a starring role.
Years ago, I saw a magazine story about a fabulous house with vintage sap buckets on the wall. I tore out the article to save and collected these buckets as I found them. They sometimes hold cut flowers, sometimes houseplants. I love how plants bring color and life to our home.
This canvas covered with chalkboard paint gets taken down every now and then so the girls can draw on it. It's our own piece of modern art.
The kids just started piano lessons, and they're constantly putting on shows that usually involve one or two of them banging on the keys (for now) and the others dancing. Ben and I play our parts, too: we yell, "Bravo! Bravo!" through the entire performance.
Originally published in the October 2013 issue of FamilyFun magazine.