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Raising Creative Kids: Mixed Media Play

Raising Creative Kids: Mixed Media Crafting

Mixing play dough with rocks, googly eyes, marbles, pattern blocks, and other items is a fairly common occurrence in my house. I love raising creative kids, and letting them combine unusual materials is a great way to encourage creativity. Still, I don’t know that I would have allowed them to combine play dough with Kleenex if it hadn’t been for this particular play dough belonged to Emma (she had received it as a birthday gift) AND if I hadn’t had a six-day-old newborn.

I’m glad I did. All three “big” kids played for well over an hour, constructing all sorts of tiny objects that they then air-dried and played with for days before they made their way to the trash can. The green play dough plus Kleenex creation is a bed, and the smaller items are a combination of toys and food for small plastic toys – all created for the enjoyment of a tiny eraser hamster that Emma had received as a gift from someone else. Small world play at its best.

Would you let your kids do this? Where you do draw the line between neatness, rules, and creative expression?

MaryAnne is a craft loving educator, musician, photographer, and writer who lives in Silicon Valley with her husband Mike and their four children.

17 thoughts on “Raising Creative Kids: Mixed Media Play”

  1. I admit that in our house the line is closer to neatness, at least when papa is present, but I love creativity that comes unleashed when unusual objects are combined together in play and art.

  2. If I’m honest with myself, I tend to want to do “neat” creativity. I try to consciously get past that but that’s how I lean. Love your kids little creation with kleenex!

  3. I think it’s awesome! I think I usually am a bit more controlling of new playdough but after a few time I let them do whatever.

  4. I’m so glad you allow your children to play how they want and don’t direct them! I totally agree with that. My son loves to use playdough to make elaborate scenes with his Thomas trains and tracks, making mountains, mudpits and sometimes water gets involved. He has a blast!

  5. Not trying to plug my site, but I literally just wrote a post about this…finding various food stuffs around my house that have been turned into creative art projects. I am sometimes embarrassed by how it makes me look as a housekeeper. But I just remember reading somewhere that childhood creativity is rarely tidy. I agree. I also think it depends on age. I DO want to teach my child to clean up after herself, but she’s 16-months-old right now. There will be plenty of time!

  6. Your kids are so creative. I really need to get less lazy and let my kids make more of a mess. We play with play dough all the time and they have their play dough toys to use with it (the easy to clean ones) but I generally only let them use one color each until it’s almost time to make a new batch of play dough. Otherwise we just end up having masses of brown play dough but they would love to use tissue (preferably with some water and sand added in) with their play dough.

  7. Yeah, I’m bad about neatness. I have to make myself give in to mixing things. I don’t even like when the colors are mixed, but I bite my tongue sometimes and let it happen.

  8. That’s a tough call. I think if it were play dough that I made, I’d allow it. If it were some I bought, probably not (unless it was getting towards the end of its life). I do like how you left it up to Emma though. She’s old enough to choose what to do with her play dough, so if it’s “ruined” by her, she shouldn’t get upset. Sometimes creative expression and decision making should trump neatness and rules.

  9. Well, I have few rules about neatness! :) I think kids stay entertained longer when then engage in this kind of multi-media play and I’m all for that!

  10. Elisa | blissfulE

    How interesting that they were able to dry and repurpose their play dough + kleenex creations! Whenever I read your play dough posts I think I should make some for my kids… thanks for the reminder! :)

  11. Ummm… I have to admit to not caring much about mess. My kids have a play room that is mostly a kid-crafting room and it is a disaster. But my kids create so many projects that they devise and execute themselves, so I can live with it. I just wish that the crafting room wasn’t right next to the front door…

  12. Awe,so cute! My youngest is older now but still loves to use her play dough,just the other day she made a few flowers and they were so cute! Your kids did a good job :0)

  13. I probably wouldn’t of thought of that either. Though my kids tend to make things out of toilet paper all the time. I’ve actually had to ban that type of play because it never gets picked up and, I get rather annoyed walking through lots and lots of toilet paper.

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