This is a guest post written by my daughter, Nicole Nixon.
“I love Christmas. The slowed down version from my childhood though. Not this manic frenzy I see lately. My husband and I invited our nieces and nephews over on Saturday to paint wooden ornaments, make cookies, listen to old holiday music and just play. There were four of them over, ranging in ages 10-4. I taped a tarp to the garage floor, set out jars of paint brushes and cheap acrylic paints. My nerves hit me when I thought of how difficult it can be to capture a child’s attention…in a garage, with no TV, no games, no iPhones.
We’re glued to doing more, getting more and glued to our electronics. Everywhere I look there are kids as young as 2-3 with iPhones and iPads in their hands. Most of them can work them better than I can. I think kids learning technology is great. I think kids glued and addicted to devices is not so great. Hell, anyone glued to these things isn’t good. It’s almost impossible to have an entire cup of coffee with someone without someone picking up their phone.
When they arrived and got settled, it was fascinating to watch them get excited picking out their ornaments and figuring out what colors to use. They started mixing colors, getting dirty and creating with their hands and imaginations. After a while, we opened the garage door, turned on holiday music and they danced around in the front yard, ran inside to decorate cookies and then painted some more. The most expensive thing there was a 1.77 bottle of acrylic paint. Told you it was cheap. These kids started freely sharing ideas and getting more liberal with their creations.
Here’s the thing. They were entertained for the good 3 hours they were at our house. I didn’t hear one “I am bored” or “what are we doing now?”. The freedom to create something was like fuel to their imaginations. They started making up dances in the front yard, pretending that my husband’s work trailer was a ship and one of them even art directed their last ornament by giving me a full brief on “what he was going for”.
These are the kids that are going to grow up and be the ones in the room with the great ideas. The ones that will solve problems, create things that add value and inspire people. I don’t care if a kid can work a tablet and all the apps like a pro. They all pretty much know how anyway. I care that a kid is growing into someone that will be engaged in the world and with people. Who’s head isn’t empty when he’s asked to create. Before I design anything on the computer, I always sketch it out on paper. I love removing myself from my computer and sketching out ideas. I do some of my best work that way. The physical, mental, emotional and spiritual are all connected and when we learn to be connected and engaged individuals, we are better creators and people.
Growing up, my mom not only encouraged this, but lived it out. Granted, we didn’t have tablets and smart phones, but she and my dad created a culture where my siblings and I learned to value and enjoy experiences and each other. To this day, one of my favorite things to do is color with my mom-except now there’s wine. We did a painting together a couple of years back and I treasure those experiences with her. With 4 kids she could have easily gotten away with saying “just watch TV”, but she gave us a gift. Cultivating our creativity so that it grows and stays with us. Electronics are inevitable, but unleashing an imagination-that’s the kind of gift I want to give my kids.
I know paint and colors aren’t as clean as a “sketch” app on a tablet, but something truly valuable happens when we let kids and ourselves get dirty and disconnect from all the stuff. Now, go turn off your phone and go create something. Anything.” ~Nicole Nixon