Rock paper sawdust

April 7th, 2008

The other weekend my daughter implored my husband to help “her” build a trundle dollbed for her “sisters”. She was about to take possession of yet another doll, a doll she didn’t need and had nowhere to put but that “she” had duly earned. More about that later.

My husband, being the creative type that he is, “helped” her draw up plans and set up shop in the garage. When I came in a few hours later, Georgia was “working” on the construction from behind the walls of a corrugated “house” loosely assembled with the 24 empty cookie cases we have laying around. Less about that later. Mounds of sawdust had been swept into a landscape. She’d laid a “carpet” of rag towels and discarded sheets, and she was curled up in her cozy make-believe, casually supervising the ongoing carpentry. And she wouldn’t come out. All day, she wouldn’t come out. She was in bliss. And I thought to myself,

Oh my, I have made this childhood thing far more complicated than it ever needed to be.

Thus I was inspired to offer the first ingredient in my personal program to cultivate childhood creativity:

Ingredient Number 1: Paper

One of the things I feel so self-satisfied about is the investment I’ve made in drawing pads for Georgia over the years. (Target should feel good about that too, but the last time I checked, they weren’t yet satisfied with the sum total of my purchases.) A surviving remnant of my daughter’s preschool days is the crate of writing and drawing supplies that resides by our dining room table. It ends up collecting a lot more than writing supplies, but I cull it at least once a year and feel self-satisfied about that too. Here are kept the rubber stamps, stickers and pens, the paper and glue sticks, the maze and puzzle books, the crayons and colored pencils we still use every day, and a veritable landfill of Happy Meal toys.

Georgia is a terrific reader and writer, as I’m annoyingly quick to boast, and I like to think that I contributed cleverly to her early literacy.

But now I see that a piece of paper ā€“ the fundamental building block of my personal program of creativity ā€“ doesn’t have to be a piece of paper. It can be a box. Or a rock. Or an old towel or sheet. It can be sawdust. It can be string. It can be just anything.

Just anything is the one thing that I consistently withheld from my daughter in her formative years. I never wanted her to use just anything, and I seldom allow it still.

Let’s say I’m a creative work in progress.

I’m making a mound of sawdust out of creativity this week. Here’s what got me started.


  1. Today my son and I put construction through the paper shredder. With a great colorful pile of paper, we had a paper fight. Small bits flying everywhere and getting in our hair and down our shirts and on the dog and under the chairs and…the mess was incredible. The fun even more so.

    I love paper.

    Comment by marta — April 7, 2008 @ 4:16 am

  2. Exactly. And let’s hope we are ALL creative works in progress! šŸ™‚

    Comment by denise — April 7, 2008 @ 5:40 am

  3. This is a good one. One I would like to print out and send to every well meaning friend and relative that has supplied my girls with every known fancy art gadget on the planet. I have known for some time that J & L’s preferred method of creativity comes through the computer paper and stapler that resides in Daddy’s office; however, everyone else seems to feel that they need bigger, better, brighter. And time and again, bigger, better, brighter gets shoved aside for computer paper and nubby pencils.

    Comment by Kristin H. — April 7, 2008 @ 12:22 pm

  4. Leo and I both enjoy a good stack of paper. His favorite bnirthday present this year was from a very wise woman who wrapped up a bundle of scrap paper for him. His response? “She knows just what I like!”

    Comment by bella — April 7, 2008 @ 4:37 pm

  5. i love everything about this post.
    your daughter must thrive in such a creatively open environment!!!
    i know i would.

    all of your ideas resonate,
    and are so true.

    thank you for linking me.
    the artist of those rocks
    is very close to my heart,
    and your timing could not
    be any better.
    you have no idea.

    with love and care,
    mccabe xx

    Comment by Anonymous — April 7, 2008 @ 6:58 pm

  6. I think Gigi would get along just fine in this here house on Market. We are all about the JUST ANYTHINGs. In fact, we live each day sorting JUST ANYTHINGs and finding new JUST ANYTHINGs.

    Yesterday we stuffed craft clothespins and fuzzy craft balls into holes of a Skechers shoe box. Just for the fun of it. The toys were just too unorganized for any true playing.

    Our “Art Box” accumulates a bunch of stuff, too. And yet it’s always the most popular tool in our house. For me. For them. For us.

    Ah, being creative. It’s my Second Sanity. : )

    Comment by Shawn — April 8, 2008 @ 1:06 am

  7. The other night Aidan’s “just anything” was the flashlight. He ran around the living/dining room, shining the light on the walls, hiding the light (by putting the light down on the floor), and giggling for over thirty minutes all on his own. Daddy and I blissfully crashed on the couch watching T.V.!

    Comment by Shelli — April 8, 2008 @ 2:01 am

  8. Max today asked me for two shoe boxes so he could make a “better boat” for his playmobile guys. Apparently the fancy one in the catalog just isn’t good enough for him. Thank God.

    Comment by Meg Casey — April 8, 2008 @ 4:46 am

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