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Give up the kitchen table and give kids space to create

Once upon a time there was a kitchen table that was used solely for the purpose of eating. But that was long ago in a land far away from our house on the ranch in the middle of winter where our kitchen table, at any given moment, is covered in Play Dough supplies, coloring books, stickers, crayons, markers, pens, brushes and of course, paint, paint, paint.

When it’s time for supper, we just shove it all to the side and eat because as soon as the dishes are cleared, the little darling will want to drag it all out again to see what kind of masterpieces she can create.

She can’t help it, poor girl, she’s only two and I’m afraid she’s already showing signs of taking after me, singing little songs she makes up about colors as she tests brush strokes, mixes blue with yellow and, most recently, tried out how the colors red and purple look on her face…because she really liked how green looked covering her hands.

I watch her little mind grind its gears as she maneuvers brushes or molds bright pink dough and I’m reminded of how wonderful it felt to have a brand new water color set or an untouched box of crayons in front of me when I was young, the blank page just waiting to come alive, back before I began to believe my creativity had limits.

And because watching her remind me of a time in my life when I thought I could do anything, back when I had the time and the freedom to really explore it. Living thirty miles from town with our neighbors stretched out a mile or two at a time, I would get off the school bus in the evening, grab a snack and go outside to follow the creek that wound through a thick coulee in the pasture near my house. There I had no trouble making up songs and singing them at the top of my lungs, an activity that helped me hone and discover my voice and my love of writing, something that lead me on the career path I’m on now. Without that time and space as a kid, I wonder how long it would have taken me to discover my passion?

In this month’s issue we’re featuring creative kids. And so I headed to an after school drawing class in Watford City to see what they were creating and ask the students why they thought art is important to kids. And I want to say I was surprised by their thoughtful answers, but I could relate to their reasons—Because art gives you freedom to use your imagination. Because art gives you an outlet when you’re lonely or bored. Because art can provide you a hobby when you get older. Because art gives you time to reflect and express your feelings. Because art helps you learn. Because art is fun. And my favorite, answer, art helps you “hold pencils and write better for paperwork so your bosses can read it.”

So I’ve sacrificed a clean kitchen table (and kitchen floor) in the name of letting my daughter’s little light shine while it can. And in the spirit of creativity, I encourage you to do the same. Give your kids the space and unstructured, unplugged time to see where their minds and little hands wander. It might lead to a giant Play Dough mess, but it could also lead them to learn something about themselves that they can take into the future, like the two young girls in our feature story who have built successful businesses out of their love of creating. .

Because kids have no limits, and when it comes to imagination and vision, that can be a beautiful, inspiring thing.

Written by Jessie Veeder

Jessie Veeder

Jessie is a singer/songwriter/writer and statewide columnist living on her family’s ranch near Watford City with her husband and daughter. She blogs at veederranch.com . Reach her at jessieveeder@gmail.com. (facebook.com/veederranch)

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