Crystal Madrilejos

Design & Creative

On Creativity, On Family

Giving Kids Their Own Space: Kids Notebooks

At the beginning of 2013, we got Q his own notebook. Previously, he had been drawing on random scraps of extra paper that we had lying around, but he kept requesting that he and I draw together on the same piece of paper over and over again, which resulted in this:


And this is when we decided to get him his own notebook. He would still paint and draw on other things, but this notebook was the place for him to go back to. It was his special notebook. After the New Year we started a new one, and Ellis got her own too. One of the things I love about this is that it can help teach the kids about respecting other people’s property and showing them how to take care of their own things. These are their notebooks and we like to treat them with the same respect that we would expect from them if they were handling someone else’s personal things. So that means:

Andrew and I don’t write or draw in the book without asking first or unless we’re invited to do so.

We let them do what they want within the confines of those pages. They want to put stickers on top of one another? They want to paint, draw, scribble, glue, make a total mess, draw the tiniest mark ever then move onto the next page? Let them have at it. The rational and adult side of me might be inclined to say things like “that’s not how you do things” or “don’t you want to finish your drawing?” or “maybe you should try drawing this or this” – but try to fight that urge and just let them do their own thing.

Another great thing about this idea, it keeps the memorabilia in check. Rather than saving box after box of random paper with every mark they ever made, I can let go of most of those things (unless it’s particularly sentimental, like the piece above) and be happy with just having the notebooks to save. It also gives us a way to see how their mark-making evolves over time.

Here are some of my favorite pages from last year:

madrilejos_kids_creative_unschooling18madrilejos_kids_creative_unschooling15 madrilejos_kids_creative_unschooling14madrilejos_kids_creative_unschooling16 madrilejos_kids_creative_unschooling13 madrilejos_kids_creative_unschooling12 madrilejos_kids_creative_unschooling11 madrilejos_kids_creative_unschooling10 madrilejos_kids_creative_unschooling9 madrilejos_kids_creative_unschooling8 madrilejos_kids_creative_unschooling7 madrilejos_kids_creative_unschooling6 madrilejos_kids_creative_unschooling5 madrilejos_kids_creative_unschooling4 madrilejos_kids_creative_unschooling3 madrilejos_kids_creative_unschooling2 madrilejos_kids_creative_unschooling1 madrilejos_kids_creative_unschooling


Get something hardbound because there will be a lot of wear and tear from a whole year of continuous use. As you can see, we had to break out the duct tape on the spine of this one.


Now, just because you aren’t telling them what to do with their notebooks, doesn’t mean you can’t introduce them to new and fun things to possibly add to the book, if they are interested. Here’s a little list of things Q has in his art bin:

• stickers
• washi tape or scrapbooking tape (pretty much anything in the scrapbooking aisle is fair game)
• markers
• colored pencils
• watercolor and kids paint with an assortment of different brush styles – bristle and sponge tip
• crayons
• glitter paint (ugh! I’m not a fan of glitter because that shit gets everywhere somehow. But Q really enjoys it.)
• Do-A-Dot-Art paints
• pens

And you can always collaborate with your kids too! Q was always requesting us to draw with him and to draw specific things like muffins and pirates. Check out The Busy Mockingbird, a blog by illustrator and graphic artist Mica Angela Hendricks, who’s blog post on her illustration collaborations with her daughter went viral.  Pretty amazing stuff!


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