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Regina of Chalk in My Pocket on encouraging creativity

by Jean Van't Hul
March 7, 2011

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Regina Cherill, mama to a three year old girl, is the artful parent behind the blog, Chalk in My Pocket. We connected a year ago when she told me about letting her toddler paint her jeep with tempera paints before camping trips. I loved that idea! And her blog is full of the obvious encouragement to explore the world and children’s creative potential through art and other activities.

***Note: Readers will have a chance to win a set of 8 liquid watercolors at the end of this interview.***

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JEAN:  Can you tell us a bit about yourself and what inspires you to hand your toddler a paint-loaded brush and point her toward your car? This is something that would probably make many of us cringe!

REGINA:  I’m pretty sure I’m an artist trapped in a techie’s body. I love messy, tactile things and parenting a toddler has been a boon to the fingerpaint loving artist within me. Working in an elementary school before my daughter was born was a reminder of the importance and joy of art in schools. Even though I was teaching technology, art played a huge role in that and every subject.

Painting that Jeep was art in the most unexpected of places  – an automotive shop's open house! The experience of painting such a large thing that is traditionally off limits to kids was so exciting, for all of us! Claire was a year and a half old when she painted this truck and it was a springboard for all kinds of interesting outdoor painting last summer. The backyard playhouse, snack tables, power wheels and bunches of rocks all received lots of painting love. We used crayola tempera paint and it washed right off everything during the first rain.

And yes, Claire will be painting Jeeps again! We’ve got an old white Cherokee that is crying out for some color. I’m hoping we can make some “art on the move” with it when we go camping this summer.

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JEAN:  Why do you believe creativity is important to foster in our children?

REGINA:  Wow. This is a loaded question!

You’d think that as someone with a computer science degree I’d say, it’s not. We’re living in an information driven society, why do we need colored pencils, paint or music in our classrooms — shouldn’t we just focus on building competent computer and information literacy skills?

I feel just the opposite. Even if you push aside the joy, pleasure the intrinsic “humanness” that results from creating something with your hands, above all art fosters creative thinking. Approaching a problem with an open mind and finding creative solutions is a required skill set for ANY job. Even a computer programmer could benefit from “outside the box” thinking skills.

So many academic programs today are focused on the end goal of standardized testing and the classroom experience reflects that. Worksheet after worksheet does not a happy child make! I was lucky to teach in a school where art was not only taught but celebrated throughout the curriculum.

Confidence is built when you share something all your own with your classmates. Having it respectfully received is a result of a great art appreciation curriculum which I think should go hand in hand with art class. You don’t have to like every genre of art (or dance, music, ect) but appreciating and respecting the creativity and technique that went into it is a must. Now THAT is a lesson that can carry over into every content area and character development goal.

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JEAN:  What are some ways you encourage your daughter’s creativity?

REGINA:  More than anything, I provide access to materials and the time to explore them. Claire has an easel in her room and the tray is stocked with crayons, scissors and chalk. We have a little creation station on the kitchen table (a repurposed fruit stand) filled with crayons, paint, paper, ABC stamps and stencils. I rotate these materials a bit. During February it was filled with items to celebrate Valentine’s Day: spray bottles of pink liquid watercolors for spray painted cards, random bits of tissue paper, foil and paper heart cutouts and glue sticks.

My goal in setting up these “art stations” is to have items that Claire can use independently and clean up herself. As she’s gotten older, the materials have changed but our standby of crayons and paper squares in a bucket is still in on a living room shelf!

I don’t feel creativity is limited to art either. I’m happy to see my daughter play in creative ways with objects she’s scavenged from around the house. Recently she was lining up coins in a long snake shape and I asked her about the cool patterned creature she made. Well Claire looked at me like I was crazy and informed me that the young men (shiny coins) and old men (dull coins) were on a train together.

Leaf Rubbings

She’s always raiding our little nature table for rocks to line up on the tiles, tucking dolls into cupboards and “writing” notes to us on scraps of paper. Not a day goes by that I don’t trip over some elaborate sculpture she created with the magnetic sticks and balls.

Having simple toys and leaving the TV off are the best decisions my husband and I have made as parents. Learning to keep herself entertained using her own imagination, is probably the best way we foster independence and encourage creativity.

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JEAN:  Do you have any favorite art activities you share with your daughter?

REGINA:  I love to paint and draw and doodle but often restrain myself from doing it alongside Claire for fear she’ll start to copying me rather than develop her own creative voice. Collage and photography have been a great way for us to “do art” together.

For Christmas Claire’s aunt gave her a kid size digital camera and we’ve had a blast taking pictures together. Going through her photos on my computer was a fascinating glimpse into the world of three year old. Some of it was abstract, all of it beautiful. I love how she photographed colorful bits of carpet and wood where she liked the pattern.

The beautiful illustrations in children’s books have started many conversations about the different materials and techniques artists use. I’m always thankful when illustrators list their materials and methods so I can share them with Claire.

A lot of our local art museums offer enrichment classes on a monthly basis. These tot classes usually include a craft and a museum tour for a nominal price. It’s a great bargain and lots of fun.

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My favorite art material? The liquid watercolors by Colorations, the colors are so vibrant and they seem to last forever! We’ve used them as traditional paint on watercolor paper and coffee filters and have used them as dye for the bathtub puffy paint and dried pasta beads.

I’m not sure if this counts as an art material per se, but we have pattern blocks on our fridge that see a ton of use. Claire is always making clever little creations – triangular people with pointy eyebrows and semi-circle smiles make frequent appearances on our fridge door.

Our Buddha Board is another item I’d have to mention. It’s a fantastic, no mess art experience. If you haven’t seen one before it’s a rice paper board on an easel that you “paint” on with water. The high contrast result is really cool, albeit temporary art.

My biggest challenge with encouraging art in the home has been organization. It’s not my strength by any stretch of the imagination and organizing our materials during creation and stowing them neatly away afterwards is something I’m working hard to improve upon. I’ve found plastic egg cartons are great for sorting everything from paint to pasta to googly eyes and I horde these on top of my fridge. These are the most valuable recyclable in my arsenal.

JEAN:  Anything else you’d like to add?

REGINA:  A big thank you for all the inspiration here on the Artful Parent blog! I can’t tell you how honored I am to be interviewed here – so many of the memories I’ve created with Claire have been the direct result of an activity found here!

JEAN: Thank you, Regina!


Readers who leave a comment to this interview by Thursday, March 10th at 12 midnight EST will be entered into a random drawing for a set of eight Colorations liquid watercolors in a rainbow of colors: blue, green, magenta, orange, purple, red, turquoise, and yellow. Please note, while comments are welcome from readers all over the world, only US readers will be entered into this particular giveaway because of the weight of the watercolors.

The random number generator picked #13, so Carrie wins the set of eight liquid watercolors. Congrats, Carrie!

Fabulous interview! Thanks again for the creative inspiration.

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