It’s true. I really do. When I first became pregnant eons ago, I decided that our home would be the kind of place where creativity would be encouraged and valued. At the time, I didn’t quite know how I would do that. I just knew that art could be a gateway activity to learning, which was and remains the ultimate goal.
This eventually meant allowing my children to draw on the walls. And I don’t mind. In fact, I get down on my knees and grab a crayon and join them in the fun. Why wouldn’t I?
We have rules in our house. So before you get all perfect-parent on my ass and roll your eyes at my hippy-dippy mothering, just know that our rules are pretty damn solid. My husband and I expect our kids to learn and demonstrate responsibility to the best of their abilities at their respective ages. We expect them to be kind and respectful. And we expect them to help clean up their messes.
In order for our kids to truly appreciate the freedom and privilege of drawing on the walls, we had to establish some safe zones in our house. In the kitchen, we keep a basket filled with washable markers next to the refrigerator. The fridge is white, and we basically treat it like a giant whiteboard.
In the dining room, we tape huge sheets of paper (cut-up paper bags) to the walls, and the kids use those to create their epic murals.
In the bathroom, we toss washable crayons in the tub and let the kids scribble all over the enamel walls. The washable wax cleans up faster than my kids do.
My kids do not scribble on walls and tables in public, at other people’s houses, or at school. Since we set strict limits about where they can express their budding creativity, they know not to let those ink marks stray, or else this fun privilege will disappear.
There have been a few drawbacks of course. One of my kids decided to test out spelling a swear word, and he did it smack in the middle of the fridge. We didn’t see the word because the fridge was already covered in pictures of ninjas and swords. But you know who did see it? My neighbors. Oops.
Another drawback is that when my kids’ friends come over, there is always some palpable tension from the parents about letting their kids draw on the walls at someone else’s house, because of course those same kids will ask to — or just do — the same at their own houses.
To that I say, “Not my problem.”
When you come to my house to visit with my family, you are going to experience our family culture. Part of that is drawing on the wall and fridge.
The greatest possible thing about this is that since the artwork is always on display, the kids are always talking about it or being asked to describe it. At very young ages, they could describe shapes and colors and give animated details about the stories they were trying to depict. That’s art theory, geometry, and literacy all in one, folks.
All this creative development has led to a love of learning. Each school quarter, I receive notes on my oldest son’s report card about how much he loves to teach other kids about storytelling and art. His math and literacy skills are above average. And he recently joined an afterschool program that promotes science and math skills to solve real world problems. This kid is wicked smart, and I think art is the seed that sparked his love of learning.
When children are encouraged to explore their ideas and feelings through art, I truly feel they are empowered to express themselves in creative ways, which lends itself to learning and growing. Their little minds become wrinkly with knowledge. Their little hearts grow exponentially, pulling in tolerance and compassion, and helping them find their passion in life.
And so, when my family or friends give me the side-eye when they see our in-house art gallery, I pay them no mind. I can see the gifts of art paying off for my kids.