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An Amazing Creativity Machine

An Amazing Creativity Machine
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Help your kids find inspiration where they least expect it by “strewing” their spaces with art supplies.

By: Andrea Mulder-Slater

Art Everywhere

You know what’s great about those restaurants where they cover the tables with paper and let the customers draw all over them?

They cover the tables with paper and let the customers draw all over them!

Drawing on a restaurant table.

You can’t tell me you’ve never doodled with your friends or family while waiting for your appetizer to arrive because, let’s face it, you love spinach and you really love cheese and you know that no matter what is added to that combo – artichokes, peppers, mud – that dip will always be perfection in a bowl.

But about those tables and those crayons and the fact that you and your dinner mates just can’t help but make marks on that brown craft paper. Someone might begin a game of tic-tac-toe. Someone else might draw one of those “man peeking over a wall” cartoons.  Then there’s that one friend who starts sketching the person sitting across from them, prompting the rest of those at the table to gasp and realize they never knew she could do that.

How does she do that?

Either way – when we’re not eating the ooey, gooey dip that’s a gift direct from the gods, we’re scribbling in the booths.

Why not? It’s not intimidating to draw where you eat; it’s just fun, plain and simple. And it’s worth repeating at home, don’t you think?

We put fruit on the counter so our kids will choose a healthy snack. We place colourful soap dispensers in the bathroom so our kids will wash their hands. We buy toothpaste with a familiar television turtle on it so our kids will brush their teeth.

You see where I’m going with this, right?

So how about a challenge? This week, I’d like you to try a little creativity experiment. I’d like you to make a new centerpiece for your table.

If you’re willing, all you need to start with is a container, with room… for stuff.


I found a mini basket at my neighbourhood dollar store but you probably already have something kicking around the house. A big coffee mug will even do the trick.

Then, start filling the container with some simple craft supplies like these:

Art Supplies

If you’re adventurous, provide some play dough. If a glue stick makes you jittery, provide tape in its place. If you’re squeamish about having magic markers at the table, then stick to crayons. If crayons make you nervous, grab a handful of pencil crayons. The goal is to have colourful things that will make marks on paper.

Speaking of paper, just walk over to your computer printer and grab a few sheets. Or, maybe you have some colourful construction paper kicking around.  If so, stick a small stack underneath and cut a few pieces into smaller rectangles, stuff them into the container and voila!

Now put everything on the table and walk away.

Crayons and paper. Art supplies on a table.

Art supplies.

I’ll be the first to admit that I don’t always remember to place an Incredible Amazing Creativity Machine on my dining room table. Often it’s covered with Lego, newspapers or rocks. But just the other day, I quietly created the set up you see in these photos. No sooner had I done so when my newly 6-year-old daughter sat down, grabbed a crayon and some small pieces of construction paper.

Working with art supplies.

Next she announced that she was making postcards as she proceeded to draw stamps and pictures on each of them while explaining that she was preparing them to send to her friend Boston who lives in Calgary.

Child making art.

It’s important to note that she doesn’t have a friend named Boston who lives in Calgary. But that my friends, is imagination at work.

The Fine Print: For the most part, kids are able to start testing out art supplies somewhere around their first birthday. As soon as you see your child showing an interest in scribbling on paper, provide her with crayons – the fatter the better – and be sure to supervise just in case those little hands start to move those crayons close to the mouth. Resist the urge to direct your kids as they draw and instead let them experiment without rules or judgment. There are no wrong answers here. If the family is stuck on where to start, try a “pass the paper around the table” game, giving everyone a chance to add a little something to the drawing. But don’t force it because when it comes to creativity, people don’t like to be pushed. Oh and when designing your Incredible Amazing Creativity Machine, stay away from glitter because – as we all know – you can’t undo glitter (ever) and really, no one wants that stuff showing up in their scrambled eggs.

Have you made an Incredible Amazing Creativity Machine? What did you use? Crayons in a bowl? Play dough in a jar? Did it work? I’d love to see and hear about it!

Here is a Creativity Machine that Sharon from New Brunswick made for her kiddos:

Creativity Machine!

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