This is the inside of my third-grader’s brain. Well, in truth it’s the inside of her backpack, but I tend to think they’re one and the same. I know I’m not alone in this- I look inside of a little backpack or bin, and I find everything and anything—feathers, hairclips, broken bits of pottery or candles, gum, rocks, little toys, stickers, mementos from holidays past, and tons and tons of pencils. Furthermore, on any given day, she’s whipping around the house, building a fort, dressing up the dog, doing a “cooking project,” reading, setting up art supplies, and carrying dolls around the house to create makeshift “camps.” Her ideas come faster than her clean-up skills allow, which means that after a few hours, our house looks like a tornado hit. And forget bringing her into the car—all of these items get packed into a bag, emptied into the backseat, she takes off her socks and shoes, and somehow by the time we get to our destination, you’d think we’d traveled cross-country and lived in our car.
Raising, and homeschooling, a child with a high level of creativity and energy can be a challenge. She’s bright, verbal, imaginative, energetic, and self-directed. I often find myself trying to strike the perfect balance of providing enough structure and consistency without squelching her very free spirit. My organized, productivity-driven brain screams, “KEEP THINGS NEAT! GET EVERYTHING DONE EFFICIENTLY! STOP MAKING A MESS!” Then my mom brain shouts back, “LET HER BE! SHE’S ONLY A CAREFREE KID ONCE! SHE’S CREATIVE, WHO ARE YOU TO GET IN THE WAY OF HER PROCESS?”
In truth, every day is a learning experience, and I’m continually figuring it out. On some days, I don’t think I’ve figured anything out. What I have learned, though, is what works on most days, and how much it helps to hear of others’ experiences and talk with other parents about surviving our highly active smarties. So assuming this may help others, here goes.
Keep Them Informed
My kids (and many others) benefit from an overview of the day, even the week. Just as school teachers hold a morning meeting, our family runs more smoothly when everyone chats and knows what to expect. Knowing that your all-day toy parade is going to be interrupted by a dentist appointment after breakfast allows the creative mind time to reign it in. Whenever possible, giving the little people a say in the schedule is a cool way to share some of the responsibility and sharpen decision-making skills.
Less is More
This one has been really hard for me, and others I know. There are so many offerings out there—music lessons, every sport under the sun, foreign language, art classes, and Bounce houses galore. Kids don’t like to hear that there’s nothing fun on the agenda, and can be quick to cry, “I’m bored!” Again, balance is desired, but I am always thankful when our schedule is filled with less rather than more. Active kids give it their all, and the intensity with which they embrace life can lead to burnout. Burnout leads to forgetting to eat or hydrate, not getting enough rest, or feeling overstimulated. If you’ve ever witnessed a “Hangry” child (hungry-angry-overtired), you understand. When I put just a little less on the schedule and make sure to allow for downtime and daydreaming, I find we’re all calmer and less irritable.
Burn off that energy! Run in the sunshine, play in the snow, roll around in the grass. Collect leaves, ride a bike or scooter, chase your sibling or parent around the yard. It doesn’t matter what you do, but being outside can reset our brains and our mood.
Engage kids in the world. Sometimes, all of that energy needs just a little direction. Do they want to write a letter to grandma? Bake muffins for the neighbor? Take out some craft supplies and create? As I raise my second child, I notice how much more supervision she’s required than my first, and I truly attribute it to her energetic and creative nature. She’s more apt to get into mischief through her explorations, or need help coming back to Earth. While I want to let her steer her own ship, sometimes I see her getting overwhelmed when her passions move faster than her abilities. In those moments, I step in. I’ve learned to collect a non-traditional “art” box of random household tidbits. We also use Pinterest as a project bucket list. When we’re needing some direction, we’ll peruse our options and sometimes the refocusing is all we need.
How do you engage your creative little people? Share ideas, tips, and stories with our readers. Happy July!