Crafts and Creativity in a Tiny Space: Finding the Balance in Making a Mess and Raising a Creative Free Spirit
The other day I was washing the breakfast dishes. I turned my head to the left and my almost three year old daughter was quietly talking to herself and playing. I felt myself cringe a bit, then I smiled. It was 9am and our less than 100 sq. ft space looked like about five tornados had passed through it. There were feathers ALL over her bed, along with dried macaroni, popsicle sticks and pom-poms. Stuffed animals and books covered the floor. Our tiny table was strewn with markers, glue drying on random pieces of paper and globs of glitter pen goodness. I was surpressing my urge to freak out and have her clean everything up right away. I was thankful that she was so great at occupying herself with creative, imaginative play in our tiny home.
As a parent, or maybe more honestly as an adult, it feels so natural to feel uneasy with a mess. Society says we should keep things neat and tidy. That mess is bad. That structure is good. But what about the importance of allowing and encouraging a child to be creative, a free-spirit? I’d argue it’s important to balance your own desire to keep things neat and tidy in a small space (or any space really) and teaching that behavior to your child with all the benefits of allowing them to make a mess, to be creative and free-thinking.
Naturally we want our kids be to be responsible. And in a small space it feels extra important for things to be in their place, to keep things picked up before they overtake everything. When we first moved into the Casita that was my plan. Our daughter was told that she had to put away one toy before taking out another. There isn’t much room and it seemed an easy way to keep things neat and tidy. To have her practice responsibility. She was good at it.
Then I started to observe that it wasn’t what came naturally to her. She would start to forget that rule because she was so involved in her imaginative play. I saw the huge flaw in my plan. I was hindering her creativity. She would be playing with her magnet letters but take out her cooking toys because she wanted to make me alphabet soup. She would take out her farm animals while playing with legos because she wanted to build them a new barn. She wanted to make paper hats out of her art supplies for her stuffed animals to have a birthday party. I couldn’t in my right mind say “ hey kiddo let’s keep those toys separated, we don’t want any creative thinking happening here, don’t exercise that part of your brain at all.” I’d be a fool.
So while I still find myself cringing now and then I let her make a mess inside with her toys and art supplies, or outside with sand, dirt or mud. We paint inside even though we have carpeted Casita walls. I allow her access to all her art supplies and toys without asking. I remind myself how important it is to her development to be allowed the freedom to create, be inventive. How it exercises her cognitive skills, her emotional skills and motor skills. How it shows her that I trust her. That I know she will clean up when she is done. And that I want her to have fun, to be a kid. And I do. And she does.