Limitations Make Children Creative.

I am a firm believer in limiting a child’s screen time. Why? Because nature walks, exploring and reading an old fashioned book will never “out glamour” electronics to a child. How can you blame them, given the choice? Flashing, dancing lights or a leaf on the ground? Crazy, upbeat music or a bird nesting in a tree? No contest. Media is mesmerizing. That’s why parents need to unplug their kids, so their minds can rest and just be. (If you need a media detox, here’s how we do a one week Media Fast.)


Turn off the electronics, and what’s a child to do? Well, they become creative. They look around for what they have and do something with it. And isn’t that what creativity is about? Working around limitations? There’s no need to be creative if you have everything at your fingertips. “Necessity is the mother of Invention”–and if a child suddenly needs a superhero cape, they’ll make one using a blanket or towel. My kids loved playsilks from Magic Cabin. I think they used those things every day for years. The playsilk became a cape, a skirt, a wedding veil, a tent. Slowing kids down and teaching them to just be happy with their “right now” is a great lesson for them. Teaching children to be content. I think it’s a lesson we could all use a refresher course in. :)


If you limit your kids screen time, and bring them into an outdoor garden or large field, and they’re forced to “entertain” themselves, they’ll either whine {hopefully not} or explore.

Teach them to be curious by teaching them to notice their surroundings. If you don’t know the names of the birds and local foliage, don’t let that stop you from learning together. When I had very little ones, I printed out the pictures of our local birds and taped it to our backyard window. When a bird came to our feeder, we’d scurry to identify it. That’s how we learned. I would pat Rebekah’s tummy and say, “See, the Robin has a red belly.” That’s how we remembered.

If you’ve never read “Out of Door Life” by Charlotte Mason, it’s here free and is a compelling argument for spending time with your kids outside.

For years, we’ve taken “outings” to the ocean or a nearby field. I pack a picnic lunch, or some water and snacks depending on the time of day, and we take our sketch books “on location.” The kids run and play, then I ask them to find me several interesting items–whatever interest them. Then we discuss them. Simple. If we don’t know much about a plant, we look them up in a field guide. You’re also teaching your child to find out for themselves if they don’t know, buy training them to consult a field guide.

Sometimes we sketch and paint our finds in a Nature Notebook, or if it is really unusual, we paint it for display in “recently made art area”, aka, the top of the piano. :)

Speaking of that, do you have any great ideas for displaying ever changing art made by many children? I was thinking about purchasing floating shelves so we could just sit the masterpiece on the shelf and change it out easily rather than nailing frames into the wall. If you have any great ideas, let me know.

And of course, while you’re out enjoying nature, remember that nature is a beautiful gift from God that displays his power, creativity and goodness. Worship the Creator while you’re out enjoying His creation! :)



  1. Tim says:

    This is near and dear to my heart, Sarah. I taught outdoor education at 6th grade science camp way back before the internet days, but kids still came from homes where the TV was on constantly. To put them in a place where the only thing to occupy their time was a nature walk or two really opened them up to seeing how life could be quite different.

    another resource I’d recommend is Sharing Nature With Children by Joseph Cornell. It’s full of activities, quiet and boisterous; can be done individually and some require groups, but the book is worth looking over.


    • Sarah Beals says:

      I will check that book out. Being outside seems so natural for me, because we always were as kids, and we always limited TV with our kids, but the internet is the really strong pull these days, as there are so many GOOD things online. It’s a hard balance.

  2. MrsM says:

    What would your suggestions be for kids living in urban communities who cannot go out and roam and discover nature? Thanks!

    • Sarah Beals says:

      I believe Charlotte Mason discusses this in one of her articles. As I recall, she mentioned taking children to gardens where flowers are abundant or visiting a local park. Although it wouldn’t be ideal, I think the modern day version would be a trip to a Whole Foods or other nice flower area, where they can see different types of flowers. Also, many towns have local parks or Audubon Societies. Hope this helps!