I love arts and crafts. Love love love them. I save toilet rolls and tiny yoghurt pots and collect shells and pebbles and pile them all up in my dining room in a cupboard of doom that only I can navigate my way around without the contents coming spilling out like that scene in Friends with Ross and his dead Nana’s cupboard and the sugar packets. You know what I mean. And I save hundreds of craft project ideas on Pintrest and dream of the day (Warning: reoccurring theme. Wanting / needing a bigger house will come up time and time again. I make no apologies for this) I have a house with one craft room for me and a playroom for the kids which has a whole fantastically organised craft area where they can freely explore their creative and artistic abilities without fear of being impaled by falling pipe cleaners.
But here is the thing; as well as loving going wild with glitter glue and milk cartons, I am also pretty fanatic about organisation and storage and neatly organised spontaneous creative art. And it seems this combination of personality traits is rather at odds with my two year old’s creative aspirations. Or rather, to elaborate; my constant (well not constant but today it felt like constant) insistence that my boy helps me tidy up after he is done with a toy or activity, has led to the creation of a two year old who loves arts and crafts but freaks out if things aren’t going to plan or heaven forbid he gets paint on his hands. (He then requires an immediate ‘shower’ which is actually a wash in the sink before we can proceed)
Well anyhow, all this I know and it is very cute and entertaining and heck I have a two year old that cleans up after himself which is beyond swell (except for the times you need to get out the house fast and saying “just leave the toys on the floor till we get back” just doesn’t compute with him as he meticulously and slowly puts them back in their different ‘homes’.)
The problem arises when the instilled neatness starts to hinder his ability to actually enjoy making the art which is what happened the other day and has made me reevaluate how I let my children experience crafts and play.
I had bought a cheap canvas and had my trusty Aldi paints to hand. I had laid everything out on a big painting mat while my son napped so that on this particular rainy afternoon my boy woke to what kid and adult me would consider heaven. I handed him the pile of brand new paint brushes that I had bought in an midnight Amazon shopping spree a few days earlier and it was perfect. He used one paintbrush for each separate paint colour, he dabbed, he dotted, he swished the paint and the canvas looked amazing. I had visions of driving him to start his first day of uni at The Royal College of Art. And then he picked up the paint roller in one hand and the train shaped sponge in the other and everything went brown. Poo brown. And without thinking I blurted out “Noooooo you’ve messed it all up!!! Look at the MESS!” And I flapped my hands about and my boy started to cry, and the crying made me stop in my tracks to give him a cuddle and try to stop the crying. Well between his sobs my wee Pollock wailed, “sorry I made messy and ruined!” Well it darn near killed me. What had I done?!
So I tried to repair the damage. I wiped away the tears and tried to get my boy back to the happy chappy artist he had been just moments earlier but every time he put any paint on the canvas he would sob “Mummy I made a mess” and so it went, round and round.
All this time my little girl was soundly sleeping but now, no doubt sensing that I had squashed her big brothers sense of self worth, she woke with a shriek. And I am lucky she did because she did something very clever that actually saved the whole day. She demanded to be nursed. And to nurse I had to sit down in a chair just out of reach of my boy and the messy art. For the first few minutes he kept sobbing and repeating how awful a mess he had made but then from my removed position were all I could do was verbally tell him how fab he was doing (not a mess at all, just fun messy!) I was able to enjoy watching him make art that maybe wasn’t as aesthetically pleasing as all the clean paint colours had been but it had something much better going for it. My boy was again enjoying himself, driving his train sponge through the paint with merry little choo choos and that canvas will always remind me of that now.
I decided that that canvas would become an evolving canvas; one that we would put on the wall and take down and add to time and time again so that even when I thought it was ‘done’ and looking great we would cover it up with more paint (even brown sludge paint if that’s what my boy wants) and it would embody the experience of painting rather than the finished product. And looking at it now hanging on my dining room wall, I can honestly say I like this version best