Last night at dinner we experienced another milestone marker with H boy. Like every good restaurant, Smoky Bones provides kids with menus and crayons so to pacify them for a whole 8.2 seconds. As soon as we doled out the goods, H & M got to work decorating the placemats. For Miss M, that means massive large scribbles. As I looked at H Boy’s, I noticed he’d colored in one of the shapes. In alternating blue and yellow stripes. 

Thanks to a lack of visually creative mother, my kids have been afforded a large number of crayons and blank paper, but very little actual direction when it comes to the fine arts. (*We also have glue and scissors. And pipe cleaners. Which I have no idea what to do with, but I thought Pinterest would tell me to buy them). For my only crowd pleaser, I traced my hand. Fanfare, I tell you. We’ve traced hands for nearly a year. 
So when H Boy randomly broke out coloring inside the lines with a striping scheme of rhythmic nature, I asked JJ, “where did he learn that?” Our only guess is our fancy-dancy preschool, with a focus on nature and arts. It clearly wasn’t us. 
Not my child. Or picture. Thanks, Stock Xchange! 
The irony of it all lies in the fact that I’ve been enamored with pro-creativity reading (currently: The Element); I took the “color outside the lines” pill and swallowed it whole. But when H Boy showed capacity for actually coloring in the lines, I did an inner dance of joy. No longer did he seek just to make a swirl of color, happy just to watch the as the wax found its way to the paper in the same way his hand moved. 
I stand behind my inspirations to foster my children’s creativity by exploring interests and giving freedom. But as H Boy colored inside the lines, I learned that he needs more than freedom. He needs tools. My art teacher friends might say that I need to be exposing him to things like line and texture and color (in a simplistic form. Come on, he’s only 3) as a way of teaching him how to begin a composition. Tossing him a bunch of supplies and saying “have at it!” will likely yield the mess we all think it will. (Note: it does.) 
I’m learning from the professionals. A good teacher follows the lead of a student’s interests while helping to prop up his arm while they get a good grip. Learning isn’t completely hands-off; creativity isn’t the result of happenstance, but continued exposure to looking at the world from different angles
A good teacher isn’t afraid of a little mess en route to a discovery. But she also doesn’t hesitate to share some “best practices”such as, this is how we keep from dripping paint across your picture. Things don’t need to be right or wrong for them to be good. 
The evening provided me a teaching moment. Structure and instruction can lead to creativity. While there’s no need to introduce him to “that’s wrong” or “not like that” (the world will do that soon enough, yes?), we can offer “you could try” and “watch me for an idea.” Creativity needs more than just opportunity. It needs inspiration. 
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