day 7 – take a break

Easiest activity yet. You just need paper, a pencil or Biro, and maybe coloured pencils or crayons if these are on hand. The immediate benefits are obvious – you get to take it easy. Other long-term effects you will appreciate as the years go by.

mummy relaxing

Simply ask your youngster/s to draw YOU. The space is now a studio and you are the model. Since you must KEEP STILL, this is an opportunity to stretch out on the couch or climb into the hammock and do absolutely nothing. You might read a book or sew/embroider something (if that’s your thing) or just stare at the ceiling, meditate and think beautiful thoughts.

Don’t watch TV or get onto your phone because kids’ attention span will match the degree to which they feel you’re present with them. Anyway, this is an opportunity to chat. Dr Michael Carr-Gregg (Family Peace Association) reckons a mere 8 minutes/day of quality time sets a child up for life. Even this is a struggle because parents seem busier than ever. Forging strong relationships with kids is crucial. This is one way to do it.

this is a six-year-old’s drawing – the powers of observation are wonderful

Kids make wonderful, often quite whimsical, drawings. We lose our confidence as we grow older but children usually draw very readily. As Picasso once said, he drew like a genius at age 13 but drawing like a child took him a lifetime. I think he was talking about absence of self consciousness. Ask questions that will sharpen their observation: what are my earrings like, is there a pattern on my shirt, how does my hair go, can you hear that lawnmower, etc. The details they add will astound and amuse you. Don’t take anything personally. As you see below, I married a Cyclops with a pig snout.

You don’t have to tell kids they’re the next Ben Quilty but make them feel you enjoy their drawings. We plaster the fridge with it, but what else can you do with their work? Hang up an old photo frame that is easy to put artwork in and out of. Place a drawing in there (framing always enhances work) and change it weekly. This will encourage young artists to keep drawing. Keeping a scrapbook to stick the work in is also a wonderful idea. Make sure you add the date and the child’s name because in twenty years time you may not know who did it.

Don’t underestimate a child.

Published by Dr Toni Risson

Dr Toni Risson is a storyteller and a cultural historian who has penned everything from children’s picture books to a PhD on the Magic of Lollies. An expert on the Greek cafe phenomenon, Toni curated Meet Me at the Paragon for the State Library of Queensland, and her latest book, Brisbane’s Greek Cafes: A Million Malted Milks, was a finalist in the 2019 Queensland Literary Awards. Having encountered the elegant Paragon Cafe in Katoomba as a child, Toni developed a fascination with silky oak panelling, bevelled mirrors and Art Deco wall lights long before she understood the stories behind Australia's iconic Greek cafe. She continues to document our lost café culture.

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