Saturday, March 17, 2012

Fostering creativity in your tween/teen daughter

As a kindergarten teacher, my "expertise" (HA!) is with the younger crowd.  I am struggling in this life of raising an almost teenager.  Big Princess will be 13 in September, and I just can't wrap my brain around it, or even really how to parent this child that I used to know inside and out. 

It's really important to me to make sure she continues to be creative.  Not only because it's good for her soul, but because I am a firm believer that the creative, innovative, problem-solving kids will be the most successful in our current world. 

This is what we are currently doing, but I need input!  Share your ideas, please!

1.  Encourage art journaling/scrapbooking.  We gave our daughter a SMASH book for Christmas, and she has loved it as a way to encorporate scrapbooking and art journaling. I loved it so much, I bought one for myself. 

Here's a pin that I love that gives a great example of a SMASH book page.

2.  Computer art - PowerPoint Presentations
My Big Princess loves making these.  I bet she's made 50.  She likes to make them for her sister's birthday  parties, at the end of a sports season or grade level, for holidays, after vacations, about her friends, field trips, whatever.  She's currently working on a Hunger Games one for the big release Friday! 

3.  Photography
She's in a photography club at school, and took the title picture across the street last fall after saying "That has cool lines".  Developing a photographer's eye has really helped her to be creative, and she's always setting up little vignettes to photograph.  She loves picnik to edit and enhance her photos.  It will be closing April 19, we're pretty bummed over it!  I can get her to go on walks, especially those that I have a theme in mind for Little Princess, if I change up her challenge to be photographing the hunt instead of collecting items or "spying" items like her sister does.  (signs of spring, rainbow, colored leaves, words, numbers, letters, etc.)

4. Teach her how to sew and knit  - or find someone who can
I will readily admit that this is one of those great ideas that I haven't quite followed through on.  She started learning to knit, and the "club" stopped, so the knitting stopped.  She received a sewing machine for Christmas a few years ago, and I tried to pull out my old 4-H skills, and they have left the building.  I have talked to people about teaching her, but well, haven't quite gotten there.  But I think it will be great!

5.  Encourage music  - not just the crap on the radio (that I love, too)
Okay, I love a good beat.  Music is an outlet for me.  My itunes playlists are created to suit my moods - sentimental, Christian, classical, throwback, Southern, mellow, ballads, reggae, Disney, Hokie game day, running, cleaning, you get the idea.  I always wanted to get her in music lessons, but she was too busy in other things.  I regret this one. I may still pick that back up - the ability to play an instrument is pretty heady.  In the meantime, I am trying to help her understand how music can create or envoke a mood, appreciate music artists for more than their ability to strut, rap, or twang. She has some basic information from music classes in school, but actually chose to do computer arts over music for the past 3 years. 

I remember being her age, and hating being forced to listen to my parents' music.  We are in an area steeped in bluegrass tradition, and I don't really love it, almost sacreligious to admit publicly.  My uncle played a mean banjo, and I loved to hear it wafting through the air from our backyards, but a full band performance is like fingernails on a chalkboard to me. So we go a bit more mainstream - I love Wagon Wheel by Old Crow Medicine Show.  She doesn't love classical, but loves Trans Siberian Orchestra.  So we don't force the issue, keep up the exposure on a level she still feels is "cool" and hope she'll come around.

6.  Encourage art appreciation
For us, this means recognizing beauty around us, and those who can recreate it in a way that is stunning.  She's got this down, and we frequently share finds that speak to us. 

7.  If you have younger children, encourage her to be involved in their play and process
This one is becoming increasingly difficult.  Up until this year, their joint pretend play was something to behold.  She's suddenly become too cool.  She'll occasionally walk over to the easel to paint.  I can sometimes cajole her to participate in an art project.  I did manage to capture this rare moment of playing in the Oobleck together for Dr. Seuss day.  She participated for about 3 minutes. If I can put her in charge, sometimes it works.  She did play in the "snowcone shop" Little Princess created on the one snow day we've had for about 5 minutes.  I try to savor those moments as they come, thank her, and be grateful.

8.  Limit screen time
So this is a tricky one.  I know how much she loves connecting via social media.  I know she enjoys the little games on her ipod.  However, I try to make sure that she's not consumed with television, texting, and facebook.  This step requires her to leave the confines of her room, and that's a big deal.  We unplug each day, and by forcing her to do something else, creativity always abounds. 

9.  Problem solving and brainstorming are a different sort of creativity, but functional just the same
I encourage her to brainstorm and problem solve often, rather than always offering solutions.  These creative thinking skills will be invaluable.  She offers solutions to issues, and we discuss the pros and cons before settling on one.

10.  Let her dream and design
I have fond memories of lying on my bed with the Sears catalog imagining I was going to marry Jason Priestly, and picking out all the things he was going to buy me.  (Did I really just admit that to the world?)  Coming up with dream weddings, dream rooms, dream homes, dream clothes, while not always practical, is another form of creativity and self-expression.

11. Involve her in your plans and projects
Let her help design holiday centerpieces,decor, and menus, DIY projects, birthday parties for siblings, even vacation plans.  Not only will she feel empowered and important, she will take an idea and run with it if allowed.

12.  Some reality television is not a bad idea.  Don't close this post yet.  Hear me out! 
If the images in your brain from that little header are negative and racy - shed them.  We enjoy watching some shows together that really give her GOOD exposure.  Examples:  decorating and design shows on HGTV and DIY network.  Cupcake wars, Pioneer Woman on Food Network.  Disney Dream Weddings and David Tutera's wedding shows.  She likes Four Weddings and Top Chef, too.  Sometimes the language on these gets more than I am comfortable with, and there is drinking involved on Top Chef.  All of these shows help her to see ideas put into action, and often the modeling of creativity, problem-solving, and being resourceful is great.  Of course, American Idol is a guilty pleasure, but she is exposed to various kinds of music.  (I dropped my jaw when she asked me who Whitney Houston was!)

13.  Keep your eye open for opportunities around you to participate in
Notice how many times I mentioned club in this post?  I encourage her to be involved in as many activities as we can handle, there are so many knowledgeable people out there that can really teach her.  Our area is very rural, and many of the activities seem to be geared either towards the little ones, or sports.  She loves sports, and has tried many.  Right now, she's participating in volleyball, softball, and track on some level.  AHHH!  I think this is great for her physically and mentally, but I don't want it to completely take over.  I try to keep my eyes out for clubs, activities, and events that she won't deem herself to be too old for.  Thinking seriously about taking both princesses to an Easter Bonnet making activity in a few weeks that is promoted as grandmother-mother-daughter fun.  If she will lose the attitude, and make it about the experience rather than the project to begin with, she'll have a blast.

As I said, this is by no means an exhaustive list.  Wish it had 100 things like many of the posts and pins I see for the younger crowd.  Add an idea via comment, and I'll add it to the post and give you credit.  After all, it takes a village to raise a child, and I think the best part of the internet for me is that ability to learn and share with other like minded parents!

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