Over the past couple of weeks I’ve been working at reducing the number and variety of things available to the big children (7 and 6) in non-school hours and the little boys (4 and 2) during school hours. Part of this is stuff has increased yet again and I find it is too much for them to pick up and keep tidy, but part of my purpose is to release their creativity by giving them fewer things to be distracted by. I know it sounds strange but I find with all the children (and with myself) that they are more ingenious when they have just a set of materials with which to develop their concepts. Here’s some of what I’ve done:
Sorted out the blocks that are useful from the other random building materials. We’d collected a bunch of block like things over the years, not all of them worked together, some weren’t enough to really do anything with. Everything that didn’t fit went in a bag for the thrift store. I was left with a large collection of blocks that were all derived from the same dimensional unit and worked well together. These I divided into two collections: one is rectangles and squares and shapes derived from rectangles and squares (pyramids, cubes, cubical columns etc.). The other one is spheres and things derived from spheres (domes, cylinders, etc.). I also included arches in this set. Jack gets to play with one set or the other, while Bull is allowed to use both at once since he is big enough to sort them back out again. Many interesting things are being built and I notice much more attention on Bull’s part to what can be created based on the shapes available.
I’ve also begun setting aside specific items with the tools needed to use them. Blocks with holes in them, pegs and a hammer for example.
I’ve cut back on the materials available in the “Art Center” and made it much more focused on particular projects or themes that have to do with current interests or schoolwork.
For example: I’ve provided a couple of books for further exploration of Ancient Egypt to go along with our history studies. One is just a good coloring book from Dover Publications, with line drawings taken from Egyptian paintings, one is a craft book and one is the first volume of Draw and Write Through History. I put them on top of the Art Center shelves along with a couple of library books. Mouse in particular has gone down and worked for a while either coloring or using the Draw and Write book to show her how to draw a picture. I find that the reduction in clutter and the reduction in available options leads her to do more careful and attentive work.
My intention is also to go through Buggle’s workroom and reduce the available projects to encourage him to work more thoroughly with materials rather than jumping from project to project. I need to find a set of shelves for him space as well as just take the time to sort through it- which is rather a daunting thought at the moment!
I’d like to do the same thing with my sewing space- put away everything except the projects and materials I am planning to use this month, and remove the distractions that get me off focus and lead to lots of beginnings and few endings.
Not decluttering to declutter but trying to find the best ways of presenting materials so that they are used and the children are challenged and encouraged. I want them to create, I want to create myself and I think creativity is so much a part of who we were created to be a image bearers. I also think that our best example of creativity is not creativity thriving in or leading to chaos and I’m trying to learn how to live that and teach it to the children as well.
“Less is More” works well for us. A finite set of materials leads to good work and easy (well easier) restoration of the creative space to order. Order gives us the opportunity to see what we have and begin creating again.