Thursday, June 8, 2017

Our Creative Home: the Geilmans

Friends, we are SO excited to begin the Our Creative Home series again, where we talk to different families about how they encourage creativity within their homes. First up is my dear friend Megan Geilman, who shares about how creativity, to her, is far more broad and flexible than crayons and paper.

Tell me about your family!

We have two little kids so things can be hectic but we are just starting to be able to really do stuff together and it’s wonderful.  My son is 4 and my daughter is 2 and a half--I watch them and work at home as a freelance graphic designer.  I’m also very slowly working on my first show, a photographic collaboration with my sister who lives out of state.  My husband works for a software company and we just moved back to Provo and bought our first home.  We love being back in Provo, especially as a young family.  We live near the downtown and enjoy walking all over.  We are big walkers over here--if I can do anything by walking there, that’s how I get around.  I pack snacks for the kids and we usually stop by the park on our way home so everybody wins.
How have you encouraged creativity in your home?

Not in the ways you would think, especially with me being an Art Education major and all around “creative.”  I love watching my other artist mom friends with their studio space and little children drawing or painting besides them but all my work is done digitally so we don’t really have that going on.  We have paints and crayons but it’s not our go-to thing and I think that’s okay. There are so many ways to be creative and I don’t want my kids, or anyone, to just think that being creative has to do with drawing something.  

I think my biggest thing is allowing unstructured play time.  This is such a great time while they’re young, before school, to learn how to entertain themselves and really grow their imaginations.  We don’t really have a lot of toys but I give them lots of materials to use however they want: blocks, lots IKEA wooden train sets, marbles, peg dolls--and then I let my son have a lot of free reign to use stuff around the house.  I buy almost everything second hand so I’m not too attached to it.  Of course we have a lot of antiques and sentimental items he’s not allowed to use but I try to give him as much freedom as I can handle.  He’ll build stuff with pillows and mats and blankets--he’ll use pretty much anything BUT the blocks.  Probably my favorite thing he built was a U-shaped ramp with my yoga mat that he used to roll peg dolls and marbles down.  They make a great sound and roll really smoothly because of the yoga mat material.  At the heart, creativity is just taking pre-existing materials and arranging them in a new way.  I’ll buy things that are sort of mesmerizing--like a goo timer or plastic covered magnets.  And we have this jar full of buttons and puff balls that is a pain to clean up but they will both spend a good 30 minutes to an hour just getting lost in all the little items--putting them in little jars or building ramps and rolling stuff down it.  I like to keep things simple--the world is crazy enough and things will just get more complicated as they get older.

How do you get your kids involved?

I think a better question for me is how do I get myself involved in their creativity.  Like I said, it’s hard to involve my kids with my creative work--so I try to model creativity down on their level.  And for me that’s pointing things out, slowing things down and taking notice.  The sound of the birds on our walk, the shape of the clouds, or how the light is coming over the mountains in the morning.  The other day I got a big package with lots of packing peanuts and I let them have free reign with them in their play room.  I even shot an awesome video of me pouring them down on them in slow motion--I think I’ve watched it about 500 times because my daughter’s face is pure joy.  And then my husband rigged up a fan over a box and the fun continued!  I love finding simple materials that they can explore.  One day I bought dry ice from the store and we had fun blowing at the “smoke” for 20 minutes and using funnels to make little volcanos.  There’s lots of ideas online but if it takes more than 10 minutes for me to put it together I generally scrap it.  Ain’t nobody got time for that!  

Do you have any creative traditions in your home? If so, what are they? How did they begin, and how do you keep the momentum going?

We do a lot of dancing.  We have a dance party at least every other day.  Dance is self care for me and it’s so fun to have my kids finally old enough to join in.  My other favorite tradition is making popcorn and watching a movie with them.  We have this popcorn popper that is basically a big hot plate with a spindle around it covered by a clear bowl and you can watch the popcorn being made.  The kids freak out about it every time.  I also love art museums and my husband is so great about making that a priority wherever we visit.  We also attend community events whenever we can: gallery strolls, the rooftop concerts, and any sort of festival.
What advice would you give to families hoping to live a more creative lifestyle?

Creativity doesn’t have to be fancy or complicated.  I think there’s so much to be said for just making moments.  And so much is they just want to do what you’re doing.  So I try to find a simpler, not-so-messy way to get them involved.  When my husband is baking he’ll give them a bowl with flour and a spoon and they are so happy watching the effect the spoon has on the flour.  I’ll let my son hammer nails into a block of wood.  Or just type words into a word processor.  We spent twenty minutes one day throwing a used dryer sheet in the air and laughing as it fell down.  The simpler the execution, the better!  Sometimes I just try to remember what I thought was soooo cool as a kid and replicate that.  

I also think just reading to your kids is HUGE.  My kids are starting to get really good at playing while I read chapter books out loud.  My mom was so good at doing this for me and I know it was a huge influence in me as a reader.  For a long time my kids could only last a little while or they wanted only books with pictures but I’m glad I kept at it.  

Any final thoughts?

I just want to be real for a second--I’m proud of the life I’ve built with my kids and the creativity we’ve enjoyed but I don’t want anyone to think that this is the whole picture.  Things get rushed, we get frustrated, tantrums are had.  I’m not good with unintended messes or when the kid’s decide to do a screaming match or I let them watch TV for too long.  Life is messy and real and not picture perfect but I think that you can still create great moments and simple fun with just that little extra bit of effort.  And if you can’t do that yet, it’s okay.  Life is a journey and progress doesn’t come all at once.  It’s the beautiful moments among the messiness that are what matter the most and the thing that creativity strives for.  And I really think that’s what our kids will remember.

That’s my two cents anyway.

Thanks so much, Megan! Readers, what are some ways you are creative with your kids? Any ideas for less-than-10-minute-prep activities? Let us know in the comments!

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