Practicing with Children

An Artist without a Glue Gun: Fostering Creativity in Myself and my Kids

Jill Clingan

Every child is an artist.  The problem is how to remain an artist once he grows up.  ~Pablo Picasso

secret spy

One of my goals this year is to explore creativity, both in myself and in my children.  I love being creative.  I love creative things.  But I often do not let myself explore creativity, because while my inner creator might long to write or sing or take a walk in the woods, my inner dictator insists that I fold laundry or mop my kitchen floor or slice my way through clutter.  It seems I have forgotten how to be an artist.

If I am not very good at allowing my soul room to breathe the free air of creativity, then you can also accurately guess that sometimes I am not very good at letting my children loose in creativity’s fresh air, either.  My children, as children thankfully are, are of course capable of creating on their own, and they do.  They like to draw and build and explore.  I long to foster creativity alongside them, but my tendency is to promise that of course I will play a game/draw a picture/explore the woods as soon as I have cleaned the house/cooked dinner /tackled my to-do list.  The thing is, my house is never clean enough, dinner happens to happen every single night, and my to-do list is of legendary length.  I read them stories at night and then crawl into my bed with my book and sigh, because yet another day has passed, and I have paid more homage to duty than to creativity.

This year, I resolve to shift my allegiance a bit more in the direction of creativity and to give my dictator of duty a bit of a well-deserved break.  Right before the New Year, I came upon Julia Cameron’s new book, The Artist’s Way for Parents.  I love Julia Cameron.  I have started following the principles of The Artist’s Way, oh, about 17 times, and I always get stuck on the fact that I can’t seem to do morning pages and artist’s dates and homework assignments perfectly.  So I have quit, oh, about 17 times.  The Artist’s Way is technically a 12-week program.  My goal is to get through it in 52 weeks.  That way, I can go slowly, and I don’t have to be perfect, and I don’t have to completely freak out when I haven’t been able to tick “BE CREATIVE!” off of my to-do list.  (I suppose that turning creativity into duty might, perhaps, negate its healing benefits?!)

Anyway, so I decided that in addition to meandering my way through The Artist’s Way, I would also follow the principles in The Artist’s Way for Parents.  So far, I am all the way through the introduction AND the first chapter.  I’m practically an expert.  One key feature of both The Artist’s Way and The Artist’s Way for Parents is the idea of going on an artist’s date. In The Artist’s Way, this involves a (blissfully) solitary date.  You might want to read poetry in a coffee shop or meander alone through an art museum or dig for a literary treasure in a used bookstore.  I really (really) like this idea of an artist’s date, although I’m really (really) bad about actually implementing it (see above “dictator of duty”).  In The Artist’s Way for Parents, parents are encouraged to take their kiddos out on an artist date and do something creative with them.

One day I thought that I might look up ideas out taking my kids out on artist’s dates, because, to be painfully honest, I couldn’t get past generic ideas like

Play a game.

Put together a puzzle.

Go on a walk through the woods.

Visit a park

(I am losing any sort of expertise you thought I might have in the creativity department with that list, aren’t I?)

What I found on a website that, thank-you-Jesus, I can no longer find, nearly made me choke.  I started to get dizzy when I was halfway down the supply list.  I didn’t even know what some of the supplies on the list even were. Also, I think that one requirement was a glue gun, and I don’t even own a glue gun.

(And right there I lost you, didn’t I?  What kind of mom doesn’t even own a glue gun?)

I don’t even think I need to say this at this point, but I will: I am not a crafty person (you are shocked, aren’t you?).  I don’t like crafty things.  Pinterest boards generally make me want to crawl into a hole and die, because while I would like to be that mother and person and creator, I’m just not.

But—and this is the important part for me to remember—that doesn’t mean I’m not an artist.  

I am an artist who doesn’t own a glue gun and who would rather stab herself with a paintbrush than actually paint with it.

But I do love to create.

I create with words.

Sometimes I create with pictures—not in drawing or painting them, but in using filters on my Instagram app (let’s pretend that counts).

And with my kids, I can create without a glue gun.

We can write a poem or silly story together.

We can walk through the woods and take pictures.

We can go on a scavenger hunt through an art gallery.

We can explore used bookstores.

We can sit in a coffee shop and sip hot cocoa foamy with whipped cream and write or draw in our journals.

I could even get really brave one of these days and actually glue or paint.


I would love a little help adding to my list.  Do you have any ideas?  How do you create space to be an artist, even though you are all grown up?  What do you create in solitude?  What do you create with your kiddos?  Julia Cameron writes that in “Fostering our children’s creativity, we are fostering our children’s spirituality as well” (5).

How could we intertwine our spirituality with our creativity?

I think God is gently smiling at me as I struggle with embracing the whimsical, creative soul inside of me.  He is, after all, the Creator of this massive, beautiful, messy universe.

And you know what?

I bet he doesn’t even own a glue gun.


2 thoughts on “An Artist without a Glue Gun: Fostering Creativity in Myself and my Kids

  1. In Winter it is great to see the different designs of trees against the horizon. I am amazed at God’s creativity. AND, if you know trees you can tell what kind of tree it is. I loved this, Jill

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