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Mixing Work and Kids = Inspiring Your Creativity

I don’t know about you, but I sometimes have a hard time balancing work and kids. Next week, we celebrate Family Day in Ontario, and I realized I’ve book the day full of work duties! But the upcoming holiday has also reminded me that your family can feed your creativity and reinvigorate your brain for work.

If you’re more on the cerebral side of the spectrum, like I am, you may find communicating with kids a little hard, because you have difficulty breaking down your thought process to their level. Heck, you may even find what they do boring, because it doesn’t challenge you intellectually. I’ve been there, I’m still there, and I’m still trying to work on it.

(Granted, as hard as I try to find interest in my kids’ hobbies, I can’t develop any amount of enthusiasm for watching YouTubers play video games.)

Over the years, though, I’ve pushed myself to spend creative time with my kids, not just chore and parenting-related time, and not only does this push my brain in different directions, but it brings me closer to my children, and I find they even listen better.

See if any of these ideas work for you.

Creative Activities for Parents and Kids

Mad Libs: You buy these as pads, usually somewhere in a bookstore. They’re short texts with blanks, and you have to fill them in. The blanks are usually described as a noun, verb, adjective, or something similar. Not only will they help your kids recognize some parts of speech, you’ll likely both find yourselves in stitches as you read back the zany story you’ve both created.

Lego: This I find hard, because I’m stuck with some old inhibitions (I can’t create anything out of Lego except basic houses), and because I need to concentrate on the very foreign world the kids have created. But nothing makes my kids happier than showing off their Lego creations, and the brain drain I experience when playing with them improves my concentration.

Sewing: If you own a sewing machine,  just letting the kids (carefully!) run some fabric through it can be fun. I used to let my older son control the foot pedal when he was four or five. But certainly use your parenting judgment here. A sewing machine does have a needle, and kids’ hands are very small.

Sports: You don’t necessarily have to play a game that already exists. My husband loves making up games with our kids, and they have a blast at it. They’ve even created their own boardgames that the two play together in the evening. I’ll admit, this is less suitable for me, because I like consistency, but then again, maybe it could force me to use my brain differently.

TV: Yes, I’m going to go out on a limb and suggest you watch TV with your kids. Not only does this help you, the parent, see what they’re actually watching, but it will, again, force your brain to focus on something different. If watching YouTubers playing video games is all your kids watch, then try a movie on the weekend, with some popcorn.

Painting: Yup, show your children that they’ve probably already bested you in the arena of art. And if you are talented in art, show them one or two tips that’ll make them better. (Of course, if your kids are old enough, maybe actually painting a room might be more engaging for all of you.)

Colouring: Those adult colouring books are more than suitable for kids over the age of five. My older kid (in the junior grades) will occasionally sit in the same room with me as we both colour for ten or fifteen minutes in separate books.

Writing: My youngest loves this. He’s in the primary grades, so he still finds spelling and printing arduous. He absolutely loves to dictate a story to me as I type it out in Scrivener. I set the timer for 10 or 15 minutes (my forearms can’t handle anything longer), and he’ll easily produce 300-600 words.

Dancing: Kids don’t care how you move. If your kids is active, turn on the tunes and get dancin’!

So, those are just a few ideas of how to build in some creativity time that will help you in your profession but also connect you with your children. Do you do any of these activities already? Or other ones?

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Car Caddy for Kids

I have a mild addiction to Pinterest: not only is that social platform full of ideas, it’s also full of people’s adaptations of other people’s ideas. I’m adding to the latter group. After buying my sewing machine and making almost 30 eye pillows for various gifts (to practice sewing straight lines – not very easy), I started branching out and looking for other ideas. I came across this car caddy for kids.Car Caddy from blogger This Mom's Heart When my oldest saw this car caddy, he insisted I make it for him. I can’t say no to personal craft requests from my kids. I spent about a month or so figuring out measurements and do the cutting, because I wanted something easier, and then spent about two weeks sewing the first one and a few hours sewing the second one.

The curved track from This Mom’s Heart seemed too advanced for me. I didn’t want to cut out curves, sew them together, and then turn them inside out. So I did all rectangles. I also didn’t want to cut out and glue street stripes, so I simply sewed white and yellow lines to mark the road.

My main goal was to make something suitable for restaurants that the kids could share with a friend sitting opposite them at the table. The children often take some toy cars along to play with, and this fabric is 100% cotton, so cleaning wouldn’t be a problem. I thought this would be the perfect restaurant distractor.

The back is one piece of fabric. The front part of the pouch is a separate piece, because I tried to cut it out such that the pouches would allow for a bit more room. (Wasn’t necessary.) The black “asphalt” is denim that I got on sale at a local fabric store. I had some yellow edging I had inherited with the sewing machine table from my mom, so I used that to finish off the pouch (before sewing the vertical lines in).

I did the street lines, construction appliqués, and blue felt (a pond or a lake) first. I then sewed the denim and construction panels inside out along three edges, turned everything right side out, and then sewed across the bottom of the asphalt. I sewed the edging on to the pouch piece. Afterwards, I placed the pouch piece and the back panel together, front sides facing, and sewed along three sides. I turned those right side out, sewed the vertical lines in to make the pouches, and voilà!

If I were to do this project over again, I would have made the denim the same length as the back panel and then simply folded the bottom up to make the pouches. That would’ve added more structure to the entire caddy, and you wouldn’t see the backside of the construction fabric inside the pouches.

The kids absolutely loved their new toys. For about ten minutes. Then they tossed their caddies on the floor among their other toys and, so far as I know, don’t play with them anymore. Oh well! Such is the life of a mom!Cary Caddy by Lori Straus.02Car Caddy by Lori Straus

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Quick-and-Dirty Felt Book Cover for Kids

Although I admit to going a bit nuts at a local arts & crafts warehouse during Boxing Week sales, I’m still trying to use up old materials lying around. After all, isn’t part of the point of getting a sewing machine so you can save some money?

I had a large piece of red felt from I-don’t-know-when. It was big enough to make a quick book cover. My older son helped cut it out, but then he lost interest during the sewing part.

I quickly finished it, simply by folding in the edges and attempting to sew straight lines (the hardest thing in the world, I tell you).

Inside of a felt book cover for my son's notebook journal.

It looked a bit plain, though. My son had cut and paste a house together out of felt and pipe cleaners, so I sewed that on to the cover.

Outside of a felt book cover for my son's notebook journal.

The result? A wonderful new journal for him, in which he can draw, cut and paste pictures, and even print. (Right now, printing dinosaur names is all the rage.)

How a letter-sized journal fits into the book cover for kids

Completed felt book cover for kids, with the felt house sewn on.You can easily get bitten by the perfectionist bug when you’re attempting to be creative. I simply wanted to whip something useful together really quickly for my kid and surprise him at Christmas this past year. It worked.

Have you created anything for your kids where perfection was not your ultimate goal?

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How I Learned to Think Like a Kid for 2 Hours

Helping young kids discover the fun in journalingMy parents (or rather, the Easter Bunny, I think), gave me my first journal when I was almost 12 (the top one in the photo). I wrote whenever I felt like it. Sometimes I’d go a year, maybe even more, without writing. Other times, I wrote daily. But for over 20 years, I’ve been keeping journals in some form or another.

Because of all the use I get from journalling, I wanted to introduce my kids to it at a young age. Each kid got their first journal when they were about two; old enough to scribble, too young to write. Once in a blue moon (“once in a while” isn’t rare enough) I’d write down something special about the day or label their drawings for them, but that was it. And since they still can’t write fast enough to keep up with the stories they weave, they rarely use their journals, too.

A day or two after New Years’, I sat down with my journal at the kitchen table and started cutting out pictures of things I wanted to focus on for the year. My youngest was still napping at that moment, but my oldest’s eyes widened and he immediately ran for his “paper scissors.” (They’re red and white kids’ scissors with a regular blade, but they’re apparently more suited to paper than his purple ones.)

He grabbed his journal. I lay a small stack of soon-to-be-recycled magazines on the table and we attacked them. His brother eventually joined us, too.

My oldest cut out a few pictures for me to add to mine. I tried to politely decline a few, but the expression on his face was a bit too much for me. One was a king penguin. He said it must be a mommy penguin and since I’m a mommy, I should have the picture. Can’t say no to that!

My oldest and I were definitely in “the zone,” where everyone’s focused, energy is flowing through without any blockages, and time is standing still. When my youngest joined us, he simply brought his younger energy to our duo. Parenting is often full of admonishing kids about the future effects of their “bad” behaviour or reminding them of past “bad” behaviour (I generally prefer “not beneficial”). It’s the time-aware adult brain trying to teach the in-the-moment child brain about life. But this scrapbooking/vision boarding/cutting and pasting activity had no threats of future doom or reminders of past mistakes. For once, I was able to join their in-the-moment world.

I can see why they fight so hard not to give it up.

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Tree Angels Out of Coffee Filters

Kids tree angels with coffee filters.Lori StrausI owned a coffee maker, but because I never drank the stuff, no one trusted me to make it. Ten years later, Keurig (and others) thankfully saved my guests from eternal dessert-drink dulldom. But what to do with those extra coffee filters lying around? Tree angels!

I took two coffee filters, glued them together, and attached them to a craft stick. I used a container lid as a stencil to cut out two circles for the heads. I didn’t attach the heads until the kids had decorated them, because if they wanted to colour on faces, they’d be colouring over the craft sticks.

I don’t have a demonstration photo of these angels on trees, but so long as you don’t glue the coffee filters closed, the angel should, in theory, sit on top of your Christmas tree.

You can tell which angel belongs to the younger one and which to the older one. My logic-driven, school-attending older son included all the usual features of a face and also felt that angels needed legs, too. My younger son right now loves gluing on googley eyes, so there you have it: an angel with five eyes. (“All the better to see you with, my little gift-openers.”)

I think it’s crucial that a Christmas tree call up a lot of memories in our adult lives. I’ve of course inherited a lot of our old decorations. Some of the more generic ones have found their way into the local dump to make room for newer ones. Some of the more personal ones, though, have stayed, including a few I made as a kid. These tree angels are my first attempt at helping my kids create memories for themselves.