Respecting Materials vs. Fostering Creativity - Mothering Forums

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#1 of 13 Old 12-25-2010, 08:26 PM - Thread Starter
 
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Can you guys help me sort through my thoughts on this? It's posted here because it really an organizing thing for me. 

 

One day my daughter took a brand new box of crayons and broke them into little pieces so she could make soup. I must say that I'm not very uptight but I was disappointed at first, but I got over it quickly. But then she had all broken crayons and not really anything good to color with. And then I ended up with a LOT of broken crayon pieces and I don't know what to do with them. 

 

So what is this - very creative or disrespecting the materials. At the time she didn't care that she would have to color with broken crayons AND she had and awful lot of "found" objects she could have used for the soup. I crotcheted little random pop-corn kernals out of bits of yarn and there are tons of little bits all over my house. 

 

One of my housekeeping issues is that I don't KNOW what to do with things like broken crayons. And things are likely to end up all over the place- crayons in with the dishes etc. This example is very, very typical of what goes on when she plays. It's not just this but all sorts of things LIKE this. Where do you draw the line in how things get mixed, used but then kept and sorted so they can be found again. Where do you STOP creativity to foster respect of materials? 


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#2 of 13 Old 12-25-2010, 09:23 PM
 
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I'm feeling as if you're imposing a lot of potential judgements on both yourself and your child here, when this is, IMO, a more matter-of-fact issue. (But I should say right here that I'm not a parent, so feel free to ignore this and look for the advice from folks that are. :))
 
I thnk that it's fine to decide that certain toys are for certain purposes, and they are not to be destroyed to use for other purposes. And it's fine to decide that your daughter has free choice in what she does with some of her toys, up to and including destroying them. 
 
Either choice is perfectly reasonable, and if you go with the first one you're not being uptight or stifling creativity, and if your daughter goes with the second while you're going with the first, that's not a reason to be "disappointed" in her, IMO, it's just something that she needs to learn: no, this is not what we do with our toys, and it's going to be a few weeks until you get new crayons, because you destroyed the last box.
 
If it were me, I wouldn't call this a valuable exercise of creativity - my view would be that crayons have a purpose and this is not it. I would either:
 
- Put the crayon pieces in a box or Ziploc or other container so that she can color with them while she waits for a new box, or
- Toss the crayons and let her wait a little while for a new box.
 
Edited to add: And when she gets the new box, I would toss the old crayon pieces. For me, keeping broken items just because they might, in theory, have some creative use, is one big step toward cluttering and hoarding.
 
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#3 of 13 Old 12-25-2010, 09:25 PM
 
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We've had this issue too. My sister would just buy more crayons but I can't/won't do that. We have had a lot of conversations about respecting tools. I think at almost 5 my DD should be able to think of crayons that way but we still have a ways to go. There is plenty of creativity in crayons in their intended use. I wouldn't be happy of she somehow smashed a pair of scissors to make a sculpture. It isn't the same if she uses up a lot of outdated letterhead paper in a flurry of creativity. 

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#4 of 13 Old 12-25-2010, 09:25 PM
 
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I can't really answer your queston but, could you melt the crayons down and remould them so they are useable as crayons again? You could mix like colours so it's not so labour intensive. I've seen people using little muffin cases as crayon moulds or you could probably just make greaseproof paper cones or line a muffin tray with greasefproof paper. 

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#5 of 13 Old 12-26-2010, 02:28 PM
 
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If it's a regular occurence, I see two choices: you can lay down rules (enforce them by keeping the crayons out of reach & use only under supervision) or you can let it go & find a source for cheap crayons (freecycle, discount store, etc.) Obviously I can't tell you which choice is more appropriate for your family, but in our family I would keep the crayons out of reach if this were a regular occurence.

 

As far as what to do with the broken crayons, store them in a jar and when you have a whole bunch of pieces, melt them down & pour them into a cheap mold. Then you'll have crayons suitable for drawing, plus fun crayon-making. :) If you're not the type to ever melt down crayons, keep them somewhere where she can play with them next time she wants to make 'soup', or toss all the broken pieces & just move on with life.

 

I'm having a hard time picturing what other similar situations you're having so maybe a few more examples would help.

 

I just made a post looking for better storage solutions for art supplies, puzzles, etc. so I am not in the best place to give advice but we do keep things out of reach if they will become messy or 'unusable' if used in any way other than intended. But DS is only 22mos so as he gets older & less clumsy/more organized, I'll likely keep more things accessible to him. I like keeping most of his things within his reach but there's nothing wrong (IMO) with keeping some things tucked away & requiring that they are used properly -- as long as he also has lots of freedom to use other toys creatively.


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#6 of 13 Old 12-26-2010, 03:22 PM
 
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I think its ok to say that you can only use something like crayons for its intended purposes. I cringe to think what my girls would do if I allowed them free range in the art supplies, as it is I have to watch them when they paint/color otherwise the whole house will be covered in paint!

 


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#7 of 13 Old 12-27-2010, 02:05 AM
 
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I think it depends on the materials...  I don't think broken crayons would bother me.  There are things you can do with old crayon pieces

From an organizational standpoint, it's probably a good idea to do something with the crayon pieces (and similar creative endeavors) pretty quickly.  If you aren't going to repurpose the pieces soon, you could just throw them away or put them in a sealed container (out of your child's reach) until she wants them for a specific purpose or until you're ready to do something with them.  That way they don't spread throughout the house!

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#8 of 13 Old 12-27-2010, 03:09 PM - Thread Starter
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by crunchy_mommy View Post

If it's a regular occurence, I see two choices: you can lay down rules (enforce them by keeping the crayons out of reach & use only under supervision) or you can let it go & find a source for cheap crayons (freecycle, discount store, etc.) Obviously I can't tell you which choice is more appropriate for your family, but in our family I would keep the crayons out of reach if this were a regular occurence.

 

As far as what to do with the broken crayons, store them in a jar and when you have a whole bunch of pieces, melt them down & pour them into a cheap mold. Then you'll have crayons suitable for drawing, plus fun crayon-making. :) If you're not the type to ever melt down crayons, keep them somewhere where she can play with them next time she wants to make 'soup', or toss all the broken pieces & just move on with life.

 

I'm having a hard time picturing what other similar situations you're having so maybe a few more examples would help.

 

I just made a post looking for better storage solutions for art supplies, puzzles, etc. so I am not in the best place to give advice but we do keep things out of reach if they will become messy or 'unusable' if used in any way other than intended. But DS is only 22mos so as he gets older & less clumsy/more organized, I'll likely keep more things accessible to him. I like keeping most of his things within his reach but there's nothing wrong (IMO) with keeping some things tucked away & requiring that they are used properly -- as long as he also has lots of freedom to use other toys creatively.


 

Thanks for the replies. I think I'll just pitch the broken crayons. We'll never melt them down and I've been trying to keep them in the crayon box, but they really aren't useable for that. It's not that she keeps breaking crayons per se. It's the clean-up and storage after. What do I do with them? Pitch? Keep in crayon box? Store in play kitchen with other food?

 

As to other examples - tape - for example. An entire roll of tape is used for - some weird purpse. Entire pads of paper and sticky notes become money or theatre tickets or school work for the dolls. But then my daughter won't "let" me throw things out.  Bit's of fabric that I wanted to throw out become tied on doll clothes - but they keep falling off. Gum wrappers are saved for some kind of doll notes or theatre tickets. EVERY BAG that comes in, she wants to use and stuff with stuff. Grocery bags, gift wrap bags, plastic bags with zippers that cheap dolls and clothes come in. I tried to throw out the Barbie packaging over Christmas. I told her that it was trash and we needed to get rid of it. That we couldn't keep that. She ended up ripping off the piece that showed the Barbie's head and keeping that. So WHAT do I do with that? I don't know if I should throw it out when she isn't looking (which a year ago I would have been appalled at, but I'm rethinking my strategy) or finding a way for her to keep this cardboard trash - which really, I'm not good. I have more stuff than I can organize.

 

If it helps she is 7 and I think she has a budding hoarding disorder. I think DH is one emotional upset (me leaving?) away from a full-blown hoarding problem. And I have a lot of STUFF. I truly don't think I have a hoarding problem, but I do have a decision-making problem with the stuff. I'm happy for it to go (or stay) but I'm often uncertain of how to dispose of it or how to store it. 
 


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#9 of 13 Old 12-27-2010, 03:28 PM
 
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Hmm your update makes a big difference in how I'd view this situation. It definitely sounds like she might benefit from watching/helping you & DH sort through & declutter your own stuff.

 

My DS is only 22mos old so we're at a different point, but he sure does love playing with the most random things (post-it pads, a valve from an old cup, broken things, etc.) and I do sometimes feel torn between letting him keep the junk (since he really does play with it, and quite creatively!) and keeping our house from becoming... well, a junkyard. Since he is so little, I usually just throw things away when he's done playing with it, same day. He gets a chance to be creative but there will always be more scraps and pieces so he'll always have another chance in another couple days, you know?

 

If you think your DD would resist throwing it out, maybe you could get her one of those plastic shoeboxes with a lid... and she can store all her 'accessories' in there. If she has more crayons pieces & bits of paper than what fits, she has to discard some of it to make more room. She can use the scraps in the box for whatever she wants as long as she returns them to the box when she's done (otherwise, they go in the trash). Maybe something like that would be a good compromise that will still allow her some creativity without making your house look like a recycling plant!


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#10 of 13 Old 12-27-2010, 03:33 PM
 
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I have three children and have been there done that with all three of them, so I want to give you a light at the end of the tunnel.

 

I don't think that this means she is destined to always use functional things in a way that writes them off.  I do suspect it is just the normal stage that kids go through where they have the most amazing free creativity, they will create something out of an entire roll of sticky tape, like trying to stick together twenty used toilet rolls with tape to make a skyscraper....eek! 

 

I think she will move past this stage.

 

If you think disorganisation is encouraging her to use the wrong things, then you have hit the nail on the head, you do need to model the behaviour to her that you want her to have.

 

Perhaps put all the craft supplies in one plastic box (paper, pipe cleaners etc), plus all the tools to create in a separate box (crayons, tape etc) and try to emphasise to her (not verbally necessarily but via role modelling) that when she needs something to make something with, you then get the two boxes of supplies out and show her how you use the stuff in one box to make things out of, and the stuff in the other box are the tools you use.

 

My middle child used to keep a truckload of craft stuff..bags of bits and pieces for making things, but at the age of 13 she finally ditched it all. It took that long, but I think it was puberty that made her realise she wanted more space in her closets for other things.


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#11 of 13 Old 12-27-2010, 04:15 PM
 
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Perhaps you could provide DD with a large clear plastic Rubbermaid tote that you and DD can fill with items that she can use willy-nilly however she wants.  Any toy or art supply not in the box should be used in the appropriate manner.  But anything in the box (toilet paper rolls, yarn, popsicle sticks, those return labels that keep showing up in the mail, plastic tubs, magazines, etc.) is free for her to do whatever she wishes with.

 

My DC have done similarly frustrating things - poured entire bottles of shampoo into a pot, gotten into my sewing supplies, I know the messes and destruction that are possible.  scared.gif

 

You have my best wishes in surviving this stage without your hair turning gray!


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#12 of 13 Old 12-27-2010, 04:56 PM
 
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One possible strategy could be to give her a very specific, and modest, amount of "free storage" space, like a toybox or drawer or set of drawers, where she can store whatever she likes - of course, with the exception of anything dangerous, decaying, or stinky. In that space, she can keep her gum wrappers and sticky notes and whatever. But anything that overflows that space, you throw out.
 
That way, she has the power to keep _some_ stuff without having to justify it. She gets some practice with setting priorities, and dealing with limits, on stuff, and her stuff isn't holding the whole rest of the house hostage.
 
Now, she may be unable to set those priorities, so you may just have to fill the free storage space with what fits and throw out the rest. But you are, at least, giving her the opportunity to make choices.
 
And, come to think of it, the choice to tear off Barbie's face and keep that one small portion of a larger hunk of packaging _was_ a setting of priorities. I think that it's a good sign. She doesn't need to make the "right" decisions by any arbitrary standard, she just needs to make decisions that allow her to pare down the stuff to what can reasonably be stored.
 
I'm not suggesting that you put all of the storage space in her room under her own discretion - as a parent, you have a right to decide that even if _she_ says that she wants to keep that cubic foot of gum wrappers, her Barbie collection will have more play value. I'm proposing a specific, limited area, preferably one that can be closed so that there's no arguing about stuff piling up on top and falling over.
 
Is it possible that she's engaging in this hoarding behavior to please her father? Hoarders tend to model the idea that keeping everything, and having excessive sentimental attachments to things, makes one a good person, and that decisiveness in getting rid of things is a characteristic of a nasty, cold personality. 
 
As the child of a hoarder, I know that I _still_ feel as if I'm being a combinatin of rebellious and holier-than-thou when I clean the house. I clean it anyway, but I can almost feel, across the miles, my mother's contempt when I do. (There's a reason why there _are_ so very many miles between us. :))
 
So I could imagine that your daughter may fear that if she confidently gets rid of her stuff, her father may feel that sort of contempt for her. In fact, she may feel a need to make a show of fighting and protesting when you get rid of stuff, so that he sees that she has proper warm, kindly, good-person hoarder characteristics. Yes, I'm being sarcastic about hoarding being a characteristic of good people, but it's possible that your husband and daughter _do_ see it that way.
 
If so, it would probably be a kindness to take a lot of the decisions out of her hands - if her father is going to express contempt for someone for not saving gum wrappers, it's better that he express it for you, not her. It's still _lousy_ that that idea is even in the air, but the more she can be shielded from that sort of dysfunctional judgement, the better. So I'd still advocate the free-storage space, but if she's afraid to decide what goes there, for fear of what her father might think or because she fears that setting storage priorities is a characteristic of a bad person, then I think that it would be best for you to just decide, for her, what to toss.
 
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#13 of 13 Old 12-30-2010, 09:23 AM
 
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I have been terrified in the past that my disposing of DD1's junk would unlock a genetic disposition for hoarding. Her birth family has a serious problem with it. DH and I have issues too but are both pretty good about keeping the living areas organized. Anyway, while she has been initially upset over missing stuff she is very happy with a clean space. I don't think her wanting to keep stuff has been getting worse. I photograph a lot of her creations so if she really wants to see something again she can. She's never asked to see the photos. The key thing is to get it out of the living space when she can't see it. She tried to get stuff out of the recycling bin before but once it is gone she forgets about it. 

 

For a while I resented having to clean up her space but I think she still doesn't have a concept of what a clean space looks and feels like. Lord knows I've not been the best at modeling it. 

 

As much as I wanted to respect DD's space and her artwork she is not mature enough IMHO to decide about how to use her space. (She's 5) I'd really like for her to learn to clean up her space but Ieaving it up to her is dangerous. I have a younger daughter and those broken crayons are her favorite snack. 

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