Elizabeth Antonia On Encouraging A Creative Childhood

December 18, 2018

When I think back to my childhood, I remember climbing my parent’s plum tree in the backyard pretending it was my home in the forest, playing dress-up in my bedroom creating new, quirky characters, and riding my bike around the neighborhood exploring until dusk. I have a wonderful sister, but she is eleven years older than me. We never played together. I was often left to play and imagine my world alone — which sounds sad, but wasn’t at all. I loved imaginary play and I loved my creative solitude.

Now that I have my own children, I want to encourage that slow, exploratory play for them. It’s more challenging these days; we live in a small condo without much of a yard and our neighborhood is surrounded by busy streets. I can’t let my children wander as much as I would like, but I’ve found ways to allow them to get bored, to play in a way that helps them to think differently and create rituals that provides them security and safety.

When thinking of a true role model for this type of parenting, Elizabeth Antonia is the epitome. Elizabeth is the mother of two young daughters and a creative director. She has a family blog, The Littlest and is working on her first book, Early Riser Companion — a family resource book for celebrating childhood. Elizabeth is bravely self-publishing it and has started a Kickstarter in order to make that happen. I was happy to lend support to it. I’ve found myself evolving the way I parent. The things I encourage and support changes as I learn more and mature. I’m not perfect, nor will I ever be. I’m sure as the years go on, I will continually change and evolve. What I do hope is that I capture some of that magical essence that Elizabeth brings to all that she does, most importantly how she mothers.

Polaroids by the amazing Jamie Street 

“I remember a lot of slow days at home as a child. I grew up with seven kids so my mother didn’t have endless time to drive us all to after school activities, play dates, or sports. The weekends were filled with a lot of time for reading, board games and getting into fights (or playing) with my siblings. I remember having blind-folded taste tests of all the spices in our cabinet and playing endless games of hide and go seek in the park. I had time to read books and decompress after school which I feel is so important for pre-schoolers and school age children.

 

There are so many fun ways to involve the girls at home that I build upon every year as they grow. I don’t worry about the mess, it is the process rather than the outcome that holds the magic. For baking, there is the beginning of sifting the flour, stirring the ingredients, rolling out the dough or making Sun Bread inspired by this book. For cleaning, it is a small spray bottle with water that will end up every where and the wipe, wipe, wiping of a little cloth. For creating, it is pulling out the window crayons on the first day of December and drawing a scene from one of our favorite Christmas books. Sometimes we just sit on the floor and listen to Sparkle Stories or Mindy Mousekins while we do a puzzle. Just taking the time for a “you-and-I” moment is much more important than the craft or activity. I try and really pay attention to where I am mentally when I have time with them after school or before bed. It is so easy to get in trance of our every day lives and not really spend quality time together. I will often put a ten minute hourglass on the ground and give them that time. Our little ones often can’t focus for longer than that anyway, so when they can really feel us in these short bursts of time it leaves them feeling seen and much more calm throughout the day. It is hard for me which is why it is my daily practice. Every day we have a new chance to try again!” — Elizabeth Antonia

plastic toys make me insane!!! up 

I asked Elizabeth some questions to help elaborate on this:

 

Favorite books for your children

My girls are equally captivated by the fairy Tiptoes Lightly – two of their favorites are A Tale of Tiptoes Lightly and Festival of Stones, Francesca loves the Flicka, Ricka and Dicka series, We just finished reading The Wind in the Willows – I gave the rat and the mole funny voices and the girls loved getting in bed at the end of the day to read together.

I try and really pay attention to where I am mentally when I have time with them after school or before bed. It is so easy to get in trance of our every day lives and not really spend quality time together. I will often put a ten minute hourglass on the ground and give them that time.

 

Go-to recipe to bake or cook with your kids


In the Autumn, we always make “acorn” muffins using this tin. I use Smitten Kitchen’s recipe for pumpkin bread. My go-to Winter Soup is the red lentil one from Molly Orangette.

 

Evening family ritual


Candles! We always light a candle at dinner and the girls take a moment for a reflection and a wish and blow out a candle each night before bed.

Favorite toys for children

I love toys that inspire open-ended play. I’m actually pretty opposed to buying plastic toys which I know will give some a big eye roll. But thinking about that LOL doll or whatever lasting in the landfill longer than any of us will be alive (including our great-great-great-grand children) should give everyone pause.
Some toys that I love…Silks for open ended play. These can be used for years and years. I love Sarah’s Silks or dyeing your own with items in your kitchen such as beets, hibiscus tea, turmeric and I order the silks from Dharma Trading Company. I was first introduced to this in my girl’s Waldorf preschool using marigolds to dye the silks and we’ve done it for many years now. My girls and I are both a little obsessed with Crazy Aaron’s Thinking Putty which is non-toxic and comes in so many fun colors. We also love beeswax!

Favorite crafts

We love finger knitting, making pom pom animals, making window stars to give as gifts – this website has a great tutorial.

Favorite activities for a rainy day

Baking. Tea parties. Jumping on our mini trampoline. We pull out the Kinetic Sand which really occupies them for at least 30 minutes. We use measuring cups and other household objects to make shapes rather than purchase the kits that come with plastic.  Puzzles.

Favorite activities for a sunny day

Gardening! Hula Hoop! Sun prints. Riding Bikes. Jumping rope. Taking walks. Washing the car!

A quote about motherhood or childhood you adore:

Children have never been very good at listening to their elders, but they have never failed to imitate them. – James Baldwin

You can follow Elizabeth on Instagram. Make sure to check out her Kickstarter – which has 20 days left!