The Place Where Art and Science Meet

For Christmas, Sara gave her children an “inventing box”: a plastic tub filled with duct tape, electrical tape, masking tape and scotch tape; twine, string and rope; small pulleys, a couple of carabiners, and various bits of scrounged stuff. Sara, who homeschools her children, has embraced the art of “letting go”, and I mean that in the best possible way. There is play time and clean-up time, and while it is play time, Sara lets the kids really play, without worrying about the impact of their play on the house. Our family has been spending a lot of time at Sara’s house and their spirit of creative learning and letting go has been rubbing off on all of us.

I should preface all of this by saying that letting go is pretty hard for me, and Sophie has inherited the stickler gene. I constantly struggle with my own creativity and the inevitable fall out from my projects: stuff everywhere. It keeps me from creating more than I do. While I was cooking dinner tonight, Sophie called me into the bathroom: “Moooom! Owen is wasting q-tips!” Wearing my skeptic hat, I walked into the bathroom, determined to keep an open mind, suspend judgment and assume best intentions. “I’m not wasting them,” Owen offered. “I’m bending them to see what shape I can make.”

It is all a matter of perception. Owen saw this as sculpture, a mundane cotton swab turning into something new. Sophie is big on function, so saw little value in his experimentation. I asked Owen how many q-tips would be reasonable to use for this project and he suggested six. Quickly, I calculated the cost of six q-tips and decided it was not significant enough to put the kabosh on his play. All of a sudden, Sophie was energized. “Can I have six?” she asked.

Before long, they had pulled out the glue and scrap paper, taking the whole box of swabs to move their designs to a new level.


Drawn to order and symmetry, Sophie started by building a pyramid. She learned that wet glue doesn’t hold much when the structure gets too tall, so she decided to work on building a railroad instead.


Owen was more interested in watching the glue drip from a height of six inches above the table, and seeing how it moved along the stem of the swab when you pushed it with another tip.

Somewhere in their brains, they are working out the laws of physics, chemistry, and design. I hope that I can keep my thinking brain in check long enough to let their exploring brains discover the joy of learning.


1 Response to “The Place Where Art and Science Meet”

  1. 1 marti Friday, April 27, 2007 at 7:15 am

    You captured the struggle of creative parenting to a T! I am glad you decided that the cost of the Q-tips were worth the experimentation.

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