A journal of creativity with my daughter Grace

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This is my journal the creative ideas I try with my daughter Grace over this school year. I'm posting them so that kids, teachers and parents might be encouraged to try some of them, or be inspired to make up their own. It's to show you I practice what I preach, and hopefully you'll like some of the ideas and pictures of what we try. Grace is five, but things we do could be done with any young child, and the art and music we listen to are certainly useful for any age. Come, join us on our journey! It should be great fun!

Past months:


• April

Friday, April 1

April First. 'Tis April Fools Day and I love to apply my creative powers to playing tricks on my kids. But not Grace. Not yet, anyway. I save my odd, quirky pranks for my older boys. Today's tricks involved chocolate candies stuffed into a baked potato and a jello mould with my son's carefully-painted troll figurines floating serenely inside.
For Grace, today was a day of listening. Since the weather was balmy, we went outside, sat on our front stoop and tried to hear the sounds in the air. It was hard at first. We listened in layers: the obvious sounds on top -- a dog, nearby traffic, a carpenter hammering -- then the softer, more subtle ones -- a distant truck's backing-up beeps, someone talking a street away. We explored with our ears without even leaving the yard.

Tuesday, April 5

We spent our usual "book time" at lunch looking through a new book Grace found in the library. It's called A Gap in Nature, and is for adults -- it's a beautifully illustrated book of animals that went extinct in modern times. I like to take out "coffee-table books" with Grace because the pictures alone can spark ideas in her, and the text can usually provoke ideas and wonder in me as well.
Just listen to these amazing, kid-sparking names of actual animals now extinct: the Ilin Island Cloudrunner, the Mysterious Starling, the Pig-footed Bandicoot (now that deserves to be a character in a book!), the Terror Skink, and the Red-moustached Fruit-dove. As we went along, Grace was saddened by the loss of so many animals. That led to a discussion about how people can care for animals and birds around us -- like not letting cats run free!!
Soon after, Grace was making up stories about exotic animals. The first one was about bees that collect nectar to make Yellow Moonlight Honey. I said the nectar should come from a flower that only opens in the moonlight, and that she should give it a good name. She named it the Yellow Tuhree, but said that I could just call it a Tuhree for short.
I love seeing information working its way through such an active mind!

Friday, April 8

It's sunny and cool today, so we spent some time outside in the yard. Starting on the right, you'll see how we began to look carefully at a hyacinth blossom. Grace thought it would make a nice ring.

Chalk and Stalks

After we tried to chalk pictures of the hyacinth, I let Grace take a picture of the daffodils. It was such a striking image because the sun was hitting only the blossoms, making the yellow brilliant against a dark background.

All the chalking we did was ironic, since what I'm spending most of my working time (outside of making posts like this) is doing pastel illustrations of Heidi. Here's a sample illustration, the first that anyone has seen of it. So it's funny that even in Graceland, look who's chalking.

We then rounded out our play time making two long grass-stalks, of all things, talk and explore the yard. It's amazing to me what kids can personify. Let me tell you, a grass stalk doesn't have much to work with. But the two stalks had fun climbing the little tree out front which was brimming with buds.

Thank God for warm weather and a fresh horizon of play!

(Turns out the publisher thought Grace looked too Jamaican in my picture! That got my goat, mon!)

Sunday, April 10

Grace was praying and said these words to God: "Lord, you're really great at making stuff out of stuff, and making stuff into stuff!"

That's a really great, quick take on the essence of creativity!

Thursday, April 14

The circus. Ringling Brothers. The Greatest Show on Earth. My how times have changed. In this age of high-tech entertainment, the circus is a dinosaur. When Alison came up with the idea of taking all the kids to the circus, I was curious to see what the kids would think. Would it be flashy enough to be entertainment?
Ringling does a great job making it fun. Before the show, families are welcome to come down and view performers up close. Here's Grace watching a clown dancing with some people from the crowd. And once the show began, it still had a charm all its own. Grace loved it all, watching with wide-eyed wonder. Her 12-year-old brother was impressed by some of the acrobatics. In all, there's something about a live performance that can't be caught on videotape.
With all the special-effects in media, it's hard to trust an image. But seeing something live has an element of "real" that still can bring a gasp of delight.

Friday, April 15

Despite the chill, we went out today for a picnic, Grace and I. Just to the town park. We watched a squirrel nibble on buds, then while she was swinging, Grace started talking to the trees. I answered in a deep, tree-like voice, and off she went, basically interviewing the tree, asking it whether it tickled to have squirrels climbing on it, and other imaginative questions.

After a while, she shifted to talking to the tree which had bright buds breaking out all over it. When I answered in the same gruff voice, she said, "No daddy. That's a lady tree!" Okay, now I had to do a lady tree's voice in my answers. I can only imagine what the other parents in the park thought of that one.

Thursday, April 21

As we drove to a large library about 40 minutes away -- and in the country, that's a good deal of miles -- Grace decided to make it "Yellow Day": we had to see all the things yellow along the highway. I was surprised by how many things were a sunshiney color. I began to notice things I've passed hundreds of times before, like the yellow and black diagonal-striped signs which start every new section of guard rail.

Browsing in a different library is like finding a whole new closet of clothes to wear -- whoa... did I just say that? Man, this year of being with a daughter is messing with my male mind (an easy thing to do). I mean it's like finding a whole new box of cool tools to use. That's better. And we picked up some CD's of kids music, since I'm about Raffied out. Don't you think that should be a new verb: raffied -- definition: to be subjected to repeated replays of something until one is brought to the point of screaming, "I CAN'T TAKE IT ANY MORE!"
On the way home, we stopped at McDonald's and had lunch, something we don't do very often. In the restaurant, I read a couple of the books to her, since no food is fast when Grace is eating.

Monday, April 25

Of the CD's we got out for Grace to listen to, I was thrilled that she enjoyed this compilation of world music the most. It's got a range of styles, as well as languages. She's picked up the lyrics just the same; I think it's funny and sweet to hear her singing phonetically.

Thursday, April 28

True confessions time. Life has been very hectic. I've been frantically trying to catch up with work. Life in Graceland takes time away from Life in Workland. So I've been letting her play educational computer games.

I have real mixed feelings about this. These games have helped her as she's learned to read this year. But it can so easily become an addiction. She's already shown a hunger to play and asks many times a day. But Alison and I have strong restictions on "screens" in our family. Grace gets only an hour of TV watching a day. Computer games are useful, but I don't want them to become the primary way she entertains herself.

Friday, April 29

Grace gathered flowers and made her own bouquet in a shell she found.

Wildflowers don't last long once picked, but it's so much fun for her to play with colors in an arrangement.

And so April ends with the promise of warmer weather and of less busy days for me. I really long for a lazy day for the two of us to explore some new park.

On to May!

all material ©2005 Bruce Van Patter

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