Dear Mrs. Botkin,
In some of your talks you talk about turning your home into an environment that stimulates creativity, curiosity, and learning instead of leisure and entertainment. Can you give me some ideas for how to do that? How did you do that in your home, particularly when your children were under 15?
Thank you so much!
First off, you might consider getting rid of things in your home that aren’t helping educate your children – things that are a waste of time. These may be computer games or electronic devices that you have to monitor carefully to control when and how they are used, so getting rid of them may actually make your life easier in addition to freeing up your children’s minds for better things.
I would replace passive-use devices with tools for creative play: building blocks, Duplos or Legos, art supplies of all kinds, blankets for building indoor forts, fabric for making costumes, wood and hand tools to build outdoor forts or birdhouses or whatever, art supplies, a camera, if possible a video camera, a sewing machine, musical instruments …
Providing the tools your children need, to do the creative things they want to do (or things you want them to do,) is only the first step, though. You (or your husband or any cooperative adult) will need to teach them how to use those tools and give them some ideas for projects. They’ll have to start out working with someone who can show them how to use the tools and what they can do with them. And then, when they are ready, you can turn them loose and see where their creative urges take them!
This approach to life may require that you develop a new style of home décor; a home with a sofa strewn with books in the living room, a sewing machine set up in the dining room, and Fort Apache in the backyard won’t be a minimalist home or a Martha Stewart-Perfect-Showplace-home. But it will be a stimulating home where things are being created, and where children are learning that it’s more fun to make things than to sit, slack-jawed, and watch something.