Broken Crayons Still Color

Our 5 year olds are obsessed with Legos.  We are not sure what really started it…and to pin point when I would just have to look back at when our bank account balance started dropping on a bi-weekly basis :-).  In addition to having the awesome chance to sit with our son and daughter and co-create these little worlds, one of the best parts of this recent endeavor has been watching them learn to think, problem solve, make mistakes, then have to go back to undo then redo what they have built.

One of the challenges has been dealing with their frustrations.   They tend to easily get emotional and get disappointed when they hit a wall or realize something is not matching up.  My wife and I have been working very hard to get the word ‘perfect’ and the idea of ‘perfection’ out of our vocabulary, and have been framing most everything we can in terms of effort and growth (thank you Carol Dweck!).

Early on in the process, it took longer for Ryan and Keira to calm down, and their initial reaction was to scream for Mommy or Daddy to help. I can honestly say that as the months have gone on and we have been hammering the idea of learning experiences being a part of the process, they are both getting better at simply going back and finding the point where they got off track, pulling the lego apart, checking the directions, and rebuilding it.  It is pretty cool to see.

So where do crayons come in?

There is a business that I pass almost every day on my way into work that has a sign out front with different sayings week to week.  ‘Broken Crayons Still Color’ was one that I’ve been sitting on for a few months now.  My immediate reaction was wow, there is some power and depth behind such a simple statement…that would make a great blog post.  This is my attempt at doing justice to that statement.

My immediate thoughts around this statement went to mistakes made….mistakes that I have made in the past, mistakes friends, family members, and most importantly students I worked with had made.  I then caught myself…the word mistake carries such a heavy burden for some.  We’ve all heard the phrase ‘learn from your mistakes’ time and time again, yet for some mistakes could be so large they are tough to recover from. I’ve both experienced first hand and seen over my years in education some ‘mistakes’ (real or perceived) really derail students to they point where a bad decision/mistake can hang like a black cloud over them and make it very difficult to move past or not let it define who they see themselves to be for the rest of their experience in school.

Then I got thinking…what if we took the word mistake out of that phrase?  What if when something happens that doesn’t go the way we planned we simply replace, ‘well THAT was a mistake’  with ‘well THAT was a learning experience’? Would that make it easier to let go of certain decisions at times and move forward? OR is that just minimizing a part of life we all have to get used to?

I’m sure their are valid arguments for both sides…however I will say that using that approach with our 5 year olds has helped.  It has helped turn a traditionally negative experience into a proactive one. Proactive in the sense that they are not getting caught on the ‘mistake’ aspect of what happened, yet framing it in a sense of ok, now what can I take from this to move forward?

So the crayon broke…however it still colors. We all have learning experiences (some we may not be proud of) yet we can all add beauty, value, and worthwhile contributions to the world.

I actually did start using the title of this post in conversation with our kids. One of the restaurants we used to frequent near our old home always gave us coloring sheets and these crayons that had 2 colors to 1 crayon, each side had a different color.  They would break in half easily so you could use each one separate (I always thought it was a bit of genius actually, however our kids had a slight difference of option and cried every time it snapped in two).  So the one day it broke in half and my daughter looked at me with 1 half in each hand and was about to get upset when I quickly uttered, “Hey, broken crayons can still color….look!”  After we worked through that realization, she traced out the connect by numbers starfish, got the mouse to the cheese through the maze, and beat me 2 out of 3 on tic tac toe.

Enjoy what’s left of summer and as always, thanks for reading!

*Featured Image Courtesy of Shawn Ford CC BY-SA 2.0

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