Hi, I am Jo a British designer living in Japan and I have a 6 year old son, Ebi-kun, we are very excited to be here today.
I have always been creative and enjoyed making new things and experimenting with new techniques and I feel that art and being creative is an important life skill, the process is just as important as the final product, sometimes more so.
When working with children it is important to set them up for success although I am all for them making mistakes along the way, it is part of the process so I do try to plan ahead a bit with the projects we work on. With Ebi-kun we have always had an art shelf with materials made available at all times but I also used the Montessori method so that he would learn to prepare his work space, respect the tools that he was working with and most importantly (from a busy mother point of view) how to clean up afterwards. Of course, for a long time I helped in one way or another but by setting the stage from the beginning I have saved myself a lot of work in the end.
So, how do we decide what to create? Sometimes one of us will have a specific idea, such as the treasure chest money box that Ebi-kun wanted to make. He didn't have the skills to make it the shape that he wanted so I helped with that and showed him how to do it and then I left him to it with the painting.
Other times I will get inspired by something I have seen on the Internet or in a book and we will make it together, I love the kind of projects where the end product then takes us off on another journey, the Rainbow Collecting Board started as a discussion about the beautiful natural colours in nature and ended up as an exploration of the neighbourhood as did the spinner.
I am also a big fan of projects that incorporate using different senses, I think that sensory development in children often overlooked these days, things are deemed to messy or too smelly which is such a shame because even messy activities don't need to be overly messy if the environment in prepared properly, if I think a painting project is likely to get out of hand we will do it outside or in the bath, I am all for easy clean up!
As time has gone by I have watched my son grow into a creative and curious little being, I observe him intensely and wait until I see one of those little sparks then I grab that spark and run with it. We find books about the subject and I will come up with some activities and projects, we brainstorm and discuss, we imagine and dream often we will go our separate ways and come back with something new. Sometimes we create together as a team other times we work side by side often using different mediums but joined by a theme or idea. Now we are at a point where we feed off each others ideas and suggestions which how the treasure map came about, Ebi-kun had a sudden interest in pirates, I had spotted a great book to get his for Christmas and decided to make him a map to go with it, since then he has been on many adventures and I suspect there are many more to come. The map then led us to the treasure boats and another project was born.
As I work from home Ebi-kun sees the process of my design work, from the sketches through to the final product, he sees the mistakes, the dolls with wonky legs or the dog that won't stand up and understand that these mistakes are an important step along, I hope that he takes the lesson from me that from a doodle or sketch or an idea or dream, if you work at it and even if you mess up along the way you can create something beautiful and meaningful.
If you would like one of Jo's Treasure Maps there is a 10% discount for all BIG Kids Magazine readers, just enter BIGMAP as the coupon code, it is valid for everything in her Etsy Store until the end of February.