One of the cloth diapering companies I love – Cotton Babies – recently posed a thoughtful question to its loyal following: How do you encourage a creative, artistic spirit in your young child?
This question gave me pause. For parents of babies and toddlers, so much energy is devoted to the basics of feeding, cleaning, and soothing. Where is there time and space to nurture a creative and artistic spirit?
Caring for S’s creative side can seem like a “someday” prospect. When he is bigger, we’ll take him to the art museum. When his attention span is longer, we’ll enjoy the children’s concerts at the orchestra. When his hands get more dextrous, we’ll dive into the world of crayons and clay and crafts.
But what about today? As the original question notes, this is not just a developmental concern – it’s a spiritual matter as well. I believe our human spirit longs for beauty, for imagination, for the freedom and experssion that art and music and dance and literature let loose.
How do I, as a mothering spirit, call forth S’s artistic spirit – today, as he is, as a busy, squirmy toddler?
I sing to him – over breakfast, before naps, after bruises, during bath.
I read to him – picture books, board books, prayer books, grown-up books.
I play with him – blocks and balls, animals and cars.
I talk with him – about our day, about our friends, about our hopes, about our loves.
But this question challenges me to do more.
We can make more time for music, for silly dance parties in the living room and banging sessions on the keyboard in the basement. There are songs in each of us waiting to be heard.
We can make our own books, the first scribbling creations of a toddler who can grasp a crayon (or the first scribbling words of a mother braving the blank page). There are stories to be told and imaginations to cultivate.
We can venture outside more to play, as S’s legs get stronger and the sunny fall days beckon. There is nature to explore, to question, to wonder.
We can learn new words and new languages, the ones we create and the ones the world has to offer. There are worlds that open up when we push beyond our borders.
Nurturing a creative, artistic spirit is a lifelong journey. But it’s one that matters to me: as a student of art and literature, as a lover of books and poetry, as a (former) musician and a (future) writer, as a mother and as a theologian. God created us to create. How do we call forth creativity in others?