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Tips & Advice

Let’s Get Creative! 10 Tips to Find Fun and Inspiration as a Family

by Bernadette Noll

Bernadette Noll's tips for family creativity
Photo credit: Apple Tree House, Iconica Collection/Getty Images

I love what the creative process does for my family. I like the sharing that happens when we are working on a project together or working side-by-side. I appreciate that we can be silent or talkative while expressing ourselves creatively. When we work together we are each inspired by each other’s processes. I treasure the conversations that occur and the ideas that are exchanged when we explore artistic mediums and materials. And I love the deeper understanding we gain when we create together.

I created my book, Look at Us Now: A Creative Family Journal, to serve as inspiration for all sorts of creative family time. I use the term “creativity” loosely, to be interpreted by each family. Though my personal reference point is drawing, collage, and stitching, the most rewarding creative experience will happen when you do what you love.

Bernadette Noll on family creativity
Bernadette Noll’s family gets creative at home

Even if you don’t consider yourself a creative being, the creative process is in you every time you express or do or be; it is a part of our daily existence. Anytime you come together as a family to collaborate, discuss, or share, the creative process is at play. Being fully aware of this ever-present force is the perfect way to deepen your connections and have a few laughs, too. So if you want to create, connect, and have fun as a family, here are ten simple tips to help you get the most out of creative family time.

1. “Creativity” can be anything at all! Whether working together on a project or side-by-side on your own, you are allowing the possibility for creativity to expand infinitely. There are no limits to what can come from a family working together on a project, a dance, a meal, or just a session of lying in the grass dreaming and scheming.

2. Figure out what you love and share it. Make your project using a process you love, whether that’s drawing, building, gardening, painting, improvisation, or something else. If you are stymied by this step, ask your children. Sometimes they are closer to their own creative source and often, because they are not prohibited by what is actually possible, their ideas will astound you. Follow your lead. Follow their lead. Just make it from the heart.

 3. Beware of pre-determined ideas about the end result. The idea of creative family time should be fully collaborative and expressive — worrying about the outcome can get in the way. So either let go of your expectations or come up with another project.

 4. Allow for all input. The beauty of collaborative family projects is that everyone can have a chance for input. If you make room for all voices and ideas, you will gain perspectives you didn’t have before. This is also a great time for family discussions on personal taste and personal space. You might love drawing purple circles, but you can’t put them on top of someone else’s work! Unless, of course, you ask first.

 5. Find your own boundaries before you begin. If mess upsets you, work accordingly. Take it outside, choose different materials, prepare an area — just do whatever you need to do to make sure that your own limits won’t get in the way of others’ expression.

 6. Do it joyfully or don’t do it at all. There is nothing worse than a joyless creative experience. Either get happy about it or do something else until you’re ready to have fun.

7. Give your project time and space. If you are rushing through it, everyone will feel the stress; make sure that you allot plenty of time for creative time to feel relaxing. When you have enough room, people will feel more comfortable with coming and going as they please, allowing them to freely choose when they want to jump in and when they want to take breaks.

 8. If you start it, they will come. To engage reluctant others in the process, simply begin the process. This is especially true for older kids — if you force the project on them, you may be met with resistance. When there is less pressure or guilt, it will feel less obligatory and more engaging.

 9. Stay hydrated and stay nourished. Of course for any aspect of family life, this is essential! When blood sugars drop, people get “hangry!” So pause on occasion and bring out some snacks.

10. Enjoy the process. Just like family life itself, it is the process that is the goal. If you find yourself getting cranky or detached, step away, take a breath, have a glass of water, and return ready to engage in the process itself. Sometimes our stepping away can put the project in the hands of the rest of the family and take away any burden of ownership we might feel.

Need some more inspiration to jump-start your creative family time? Download sample pages from Look at Us Now below — just print them out, grab some markers or paints, and get started!

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Look at Us Now Printable Pages

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Sample pages excerpted from Look at Us Now by Bernadette Noll with the permission of TarcherPerigee, an imprint of Penguin Random House. Copyright © 2016 by Bernadette Noll.