Free Range Crafting

Free Range Crafting : A Time Without Cause

Sometimes we do crafts and there’s an expected outcome. We make masks, paint pots, put googly eyes on paper plates and smile with our kids as these creations come to life. And sometimes, we don’t smile, and they don’t smile. They get frustrated that the materials aren’t doing what they want, what they expect them to do. What was meant to be a time of relaxation and fun turns into a battle.

I hate when this happens. Nothing feels like more of a failure when craft time turns into a battle of, ‘Be happy with what you have made, it is beautiful! Don’t take it so seriously!’ and in tears they look back at me, so frustrated that their sister’s is better.

We are supposed to be enjoying this play. My favorite thing in the world is to sit without a plan and make. To see where the road leads and to let go of my expectations. For my kids this seems to be something I have to encourage with such specific intention. And so, I do. Sometimes we simply abandon the plan completely. Sometimes I walk away so they MUST explore for themselves. Sometimes I find a basket of bits and bobs and crafting pleasures and set it on a table and let them go.

When I offer no expectation of what will come from it, the tension is released. We’re not making a mask, or a paper native american or a clay penguin. We’re just…making.

This is a recent image from one of those days, and the time went on for hours and hours. They walked away from this time with nearly NOTHING to show for it. No presents for me, or magnificent revelations about the materials. In fact, most of the clay had hardened in little bits all over the table and floor. But, they spent the time encouraging each other to try different things, and they left that space in a spirit of ease and confidence. It was free range crafting.

Skills take time to develop, and this kind of time is the best. Exploration, freedom, causeless and result-less play time is therapeutic. My kids need that. I need that. It’s hard to carve time out of our schedules to prioritize it, but it is in these moments that our brains relax and return to center. It’s in these extended times of non-productivity that we can refocus.

So, I’m doing what I can to make more of it for my kids, and more of it for me. What we learn when we’re not being taught is the most important because it’s in those few and far between free range opportunities that we get to know ourselves. These are the times our kids get to know themselves. I remember a lot of this time as a kid, swinging for endless hours on the swing at my grandma’s, turning the silverware into people as I took an hour to empty the dishwasher, making paths for marbles in the driveway, building dams in a creek…

Do you and your kids have a favorite ‘thoughtless’ activity?


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