I have a secret. Most mornings, I get to sit quietly and enjoy a cup of coffee (and a piece of chocolate) for a few precious, uninterrupted minutes. Let’s not go crazy, we’re not talking hours, but if I do things right the night before, my little guys wake up in the morning, make themselves some cereal (I help), and then busy themselves with some kind of project.
Sounds almost too good to be true, right? I KNOW. Welcome to the #creativetable.
The #creativetable hashtag can be found on Instagam (and Google+). It was started by my friend Rachelle (the blogger behind Tinkerlab) and is useful for finding play invitation ideas. A play invitation (or “create invitation”) is basically a method of setting out a limited number of art/building/similar supplies, and artfully arranging them to entice your child to explore.
But here’s the key (at least for me): Once the “invitation” is set up…keep your mouth shut. As Rachelle says, you “facilitate” not direct….I call this “drinking coffee”. (potato potahto)
This isn’t a “hey let’s make these cute chicks out of pom-poms and follow my strict instructions by gluing this pom to that pom” kind of an idea. Rather the goal is to give your kids the space to discover, to wonder, to problem solve. Nothing shuts down my kids’ creativity faster than instructions from adults. Have you noticed the same thing? (Along these lines, Rachelle has some amazing guidelines on making art with kids.)
But what I really like about Rachelle’s perspective is that it’s not just about creating, this concept of play invitations. It’s not really even about making art. Instead it’s about learning how to problem solve, how to test limits, how to come up with new ways of doing things, new ways of looking at the world. Giving kids the space to explore, discover, and create (without getting all up in their business) allows kids to develop into the best kind of engineers: innovative ones.
So how to get started?
It’s helpful to have a (relatively uncluttered) place to create. My house is almost always a disaster, but I do try to keep one surface clear for our #creativetable (and in the summer, it’s often on the patio). I like to set things up the night before, so I can do my calm coffee routine in the morning.
For inspiration and ideas on how to set up your own, check out the #creativetable hashtag on Instagram, explore Tinkerlab, or….for the big announcement….go buy Rachelle’s new book, Tinkerlab: A Hands-On Guide for Little Inventors.
Now, I consider myself an old hat at the play invitation game (I’ve been doing this kind of thing for almost three years now) but I still found her book to be….grounding. In the best possible way.
I mean YES: it’s completely inspiring, too (chock full of ideas), but in a I-can-totally-do-that-let’s-start-now kind of way. This isn’t one of those beautiful books you’ll sigh over and then feel depressed because you don’t even know where to start. Rachelle has a whole section on how to create your own Tinkerlab, and the best tools to stock it with. (Hint: If you’ve seen our art cart on Instagram….the idea was ALL Rachelle.) She also has entire sections dedicated to design, building, concocting (my fav! Any other chemistry geeks out there??) and discovering. I’m loving the way this book successfully blends art-based play with science, and we’re talking everything from paper houses to ‘naked egg’ experiments, from painting to creation of a drawing machine (complete with a toy motor).
I mean seriously.
I have one copy to give away (besides ours which is well worn by now – even R thumbs through it for ideas)….so here’s what we’re gonna do: We’re going to play.
To enter the giveaway, do the following:
1. Upload a picture of your own version of #creativetable (no judgement here, Mamas – try anything you want) to Instagram. Don’t forget to use the #creativetable hashtag!
2. Follow both myself (@shanachristine) and Rachelle (@Tinkerlab) on Instagram.
3. “Like” my instagram giveaway pic to be entered into the giveaway
1. Upload a picture of your own version of #creativetable below my post.
2. Make sure you like both The Mom Edit Facebook page and the Tinkerlab Facebook page.
You can also do both, for an additional entry.
The giveaway is open to US, Canada, UK and Australia. Let’s play!! (Or…ummm….set things up so the kids play while we relax and enjoy our coffee.)
Hey! Tinkerlab: A Hands-On Guide for Little Inventors is currently the #1 best seller in the Crafts for Kids section on Amazon. Congrats, Rachelle!!
Tinkerlab is one of my favorite websites to get ideas for projects…and I also implement her creativetable…the key is to clear the table(heard, I know) and put a few supplies out..it makes me excited to see what my 3 and 5 yr old girls come up with!!
I just wanted to say this is a very timely post! I’m sitting drinking my coffee while my son plays on the floor. He’s a little young (6 months) for much alone activity, but I find that if I dump a toy bucket and put an empty diaper box in the floor, that gives me time to drink my coffee and read blogs on my phone. Same thing, right?!
P.S. I found your blog by Googling “mom style blogs” after I became a SAHM and decided I still wanted to get dressed every day. Thank you for this space!
Thanks for the comment, Laine! And Babe, I’m impressed. R didn’t play alone until he was much, MUCH older. Like, at ALL. 🙂
Thank you for finally fleshing out the whole #creativetable thing! I’ve been wondering how to start, other than by handing the kid some of my power tools and letting him go to town (he’s 2 1/2, so actually not).
LOL! Although…now that you mention it, a local art studio does this thing in the Fall where kids pound golf tees into pumpkins with a rubber mallet AND LOVE IT.
Shana- what ages is the book geared towards addressing? My boys are older 7 and 10. And we do LOTS of unstructured time to create, explore and play….wondering if this is something that I can use with them or if it is geared towards younger children. Thanks for the insights! And for advocating this type of exploration.
Hmmm…I *think* so. Raines (6) is all over it. (he can’t read yet but will look through to find ideas). It’s really geared to kids 3-6 so some of the projects will be way too young, but there are other projects (drawing machine, naked eggs chemistry experiment) that the older kids would like. I mean heck – the naked egg could lead to a discussion about acids and bases, if your kids are ready for that. Primarily, though, this book helps me. Not just for play ideas, but because it helps to set me up in the role of ‘helpful observer’ (and the ideas to set up your own tinkerlab are great). It’s a cross between an activities book and a book for teachers. I think if these ideas were applied in a way that appealed to your kids interests, it would be a hit. The trick is figuring out how to bridge that gap, right? (Right now, I have more success if I make ev-ery-a-thing about WW2. Sigh.)
Amazing post, Shana! It sent us down the rabbit hole of incredible optical illusions, and eventually put us onto the Colossal blog, which is now my 5 year-old’s new obsession. Thanks for the creative inspiration! I spend so much of my time trying to be creative at work that I often forget to bring that same energy home to my boys, and this post was the perfect inspiration to remind me to do so more often. Love, love, love the site redesign as well. You rock! So grateful to this blog–it is an endless source of awesome. 🙂
Whoa. Now I’m obsessed. Thank you for the recommendation and your very kind words!
And this is why I love you! Fashion and creative ideas for our kiddos that challenge their brains. Thank you!
I’ve been so curious about the whole #creativetable thing, gonna try this!
Please go back and fix the spelling of her name, oops!
It’s listed on the cover of her book as Rachelle, not Rochelle!
You know when your fingers and your brain conspire against you? UGH. Fixed now – THANK YOU.
No probs!! And YES, I totally understand that brain-finger lapse!
This is so inspiring! My 4yr old does not play alone and it’s truly exhausting to try to accomplish anything during the day. I’m gathering materials and working on our “studio”.