section of a tapestry depicting a flower, woven on a lap loom using strips of fabric and yarn

How To Consciously Be a Role Model in Creativity, Curiosity, and Crafting for Children

How do I inspire and encourage my kids to do projects?

"When you finish the tapestry, it's my turn!"

My 4-year-old son leaned over the table, watching intently as I wove a long, blue strip of fabric through the warp strings on my lap loom. He had repeated those words often—he wanted to try the activity that Mom was clearly enjoying.

True to his word, when I finished the small tapestry two days later, he eagerly helped me set up the warp for his turn. He helped cut scrap fabric into strips to use as the weft. We spent a good hour weaving together the first day as he learned the over-under over-under rhythm.

Months later, he hasn't finished his tapestry yet. But that's okay. The process is what's important. The loom sits on a shelf when he's not weaving, waiting for his interest to be piqued again. Recently, he has shown a renewed interest in finishing it and worked at the loom for over an hour, adding purple rows.

close up of a striped tapestry being woven on a small lap loom with fabric scraps as the weft
The unfinished tapestry.

A life of creativity

I want my children to be creative and curious. I want them to know how to make things and work with their hands. I want doing projects to come naturally.

I also want them to be intrinsically motivated to pursue creative projects—which means I can't force it.

(Read my post about motivating children and my reviews of Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us and The Self-Driven Child: The Science and Sense of Giving Your Children More Control Over Their Lives.)

Learning through imitation

Fortunately, children imitate what adults do. They play what they see. They play to explore, learn, and understand. They play to try out adult activities. This is, incidentally, why so many children play house and cook food in play kitchens. It's also why my children once spent half an hour cleaning tables, counters, and baseboards with rags and soap, all of their own accord. Children love to participate in the adult world.

(Read my review of Originals: How Non-Conformists Move the World.)

We are all inspired by the activities and people around us. We emulate what we want to become—an insight as old as Aristotle, who knew that we need role models to build virtue. An interest in weaving doesn't pop into being on its own; we need exposure to ideas and examples.

These ideas can come from many places: books, media, podcasts, conversations, observations. Many flavors of homeschooling, especially unschooling, incorporate the idea of "strewing", i.e., putting materials, resources, books, and other things potentially of interest where your children will encounter them, in hopes that something may spark their interest. Sudbury schools and many self-directed education approaches take this farther: children are placed in contexts where they are surrounded by other people—peers and adults—who are doing things, and it is assumed that they will engage in those things, too, when they are interested.

Consciously providing role models

Because children learn through imitation, model the behavior you want to see. If you want to spark curiosity, be curious yourself. If you want them to become literate, show them your enjoyment of literacy, such as picking out new books at the library and reading books yourself. If you want children to engage in projects, engage in projects yourself.

To that end, I try to make time for my interests and projects, and I try to find ways to include my children in those activities.

When cooking and baking together, the kids help buy groceries, chop vegetables, measure, and stir. They plant seeds and harvest herbs and fruit from the garden, and help with all kinds of yard work—such as assembling the chicken coop or digging holes for planting blueberries. They paint and draw with me. If I'm making a rag rug, they help tear the rags. Randy set up a laptop for the kids to learn about his work. Sometimes, when the kids are playing, I keep them company while reading a book, or working out ideas in a notebook.

Sure, there are trade-offs in time. Many things are less efficient when you involve children. But if I make two rag rugs this winter instead of five, that's fine. Because my goal for most of these projects isn't to complete them as efficiently as possible. It's to do them while encouraging and inspiring my children.

book cover of This Is Where You Belong by Melody Warnick featuring yellow and white text on a red background with line drawings of houses in the between

Book Review: This Is Where You Belong: The Art and Science of Loving the Place You Live by Melody Warnick

How many times have you moved? Do you wish you had deeper roots? In this book, Warnick explains that if you want to love your town, act like someone who loves your town. See my book club questions!
a pile of small letter tiles with black uppercase letters on them

Reflections on Our Homeschool Year (2021-2022)

Our children are young, so we're not big on formal curricula. But much of daily life counts as homeschooling! Here's what we did this year.

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We're Jacqueline and Randy, a blogging duo with backgrounds in tech, robots, art, and writing, now raising our family in northern Idaho.

Our goal is to encourage deliberate choices, individual responsibility, and lifelong curiosity by sharing stories about our adventures in living, loving, and learning.

Learn more about us.


Start here

Curious about our life and journey? Here are some good places to start reading:

Jacqueline and Randy leaning their heads together smiling at the camera

A Blog About Education, Lifestyles, and Community

A brief history of how the Deliberate Owl came to be and why we're writing a blog about us, our lives, and how we're living out our values.
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Discovering the Traditional Catholic Mass

How I discovered the traditional Latin Mass a few years ago, why that discovery changed everything for me, and what was wrong with the Novus Ordo Masses I'd attended.