My little artist

From the first day John and I met Arie in his orphanage, we noticed right away that he tended toward blocks, puzzles: toys he had to build, put together, or figure out. My dad always said he had the mind of an engineer. Over the last year he has taken more and more initiative with crafts, creating things from gathered toilet paper tubes, saved boxes and envelopes from the mail, and roll after roll (after roll after roll) of washi tape.

The things he draws, builds, paints, and glues together amaze me! The other day he busied himself in the kitchen and a few minutes later walked into the room where I was announcing, "Look what I made!" He had cut a continuous spiral from a piece of paper so it hung down like a long swirly slide.

"How did you know how to cut that shape?!" I asked.

"When I was in bed and I couldn't sleep I thought about it and I told myself, 'Tomorrow I will make it.'"

I'm no expert on child development but I feel like a five-year-old conceptualizing a spiral on his own is pretty good!

What John and I are learning about Arie is this: he's a maker.

He loves to create. Whether it's building a city with duplo blocks, working on a puzzle, or painting scenes from his imagination, he lives for making. 

He takes great pride in it too. This past weekend we visited my parents in Ontario for Thanksgiving and Arie brought a whole box filled with gifts he had made. There were drawings, there was a  paper puppet, there were "candy canes" made from pipe-cleaners twisted and bent together. Even the box the gifts came in was painted. (Related: our cat Jasper jumped into that box before it was dry and walked around for almost a week with a big white acrylic paint streak on his side!) Arie barely made it inside the door after our six hour drive to my parents before ripping open the box and handing out the gifts with great ceremony.
Painting the gift box.
On the drive home from school Wednesday Arie grinned as he told me, "Mom today we painted and I didn't have ANY white left on my paper and my teachers showed the WHOLE CLASS my paper because I didn't have ANY WHITE on the whole thing!!!"

He could have told me he graduated from Harvard and I couldn't have been more proud. NO WHITE ON THE WHOLE PAPER! Did you hear that people!?

A few weeks ago we took Arie to a big local art event where he was able to see what it looks like to be a "grown up artist." We've taken him for three years now and this year I noticed a big difference in his experience of the art. He was much more interested in looking at paintings and interpreting them. I spent time asking him both, "What do you see?" and "How does it make you feel?"

Last year, at four-years-old, he was happy to run from one piece to the next, like it was a race to see as much as he could. This year he stopped to study a few pieces that caught his attention, wanting to talk about them, make sense of them. One particular piece fascinated him so much I had to drag him away after ten minutes! I think he could have stood before it the whole afternoon. His little brain is just starting to grasp things like metaphor and imagery.
This artist- Roy Clark- was so kind to Arie! He had sunglasses similar to Arie's and he put them on to connect with him. Arie said, "We both have glasses and we BOTH artists!" Haha! 

Watching Arie's particular gift set become more and more clear has been so exciting as a parent! I remember our facilitator in Russia telling us stories of children adopted from Moscow and what they had grown up to do; even then I looked at Arie and wondered who he would become. Now that we are starting to get these glimpses into his interests and abilities, I've also felt a great sense of responsibility.

There's an often misinterpreted verse in the Bible that says, "Train up a child in the way he should go and when he is older he will not depart from it" (Proverbs 22:6). We frequently take that to mean that if you teach a child to live well, he won't make mistakes. We all know this isn't true! I've heard a number of pastors explain that this verse is better translated, "Train up a child according to his own bent and when he is older he will not depart from it."

In other words, each of our children arrive on earth with their own way of learning, experiencing, and contributing the world. As parents we do well to discover that "bent" and help our children bloom within it.

I tell Arie that God gives each of us gifts. "I think maybe the gift God gave you is to be an artist!" We talk about how when God gives us a gift, it makes him so happy to see us use it. Arie absolutely beams when I tell him this. At five-years-old he has taken his responsibility as an artist very seriously. He tells me almost every day after school, "Well Mom, my job is to be an artist so I better get working!" He pulls out paint and glitter and glue at the kitchen table and sets to making crafts for everyone he knows.

Sometimes I get a little grouchy about having to clean up after these messy art-filled afternoons (like the time Arie used a chair instead of the table for a glitter project and I walked around with sparkles on my butt for days), but mostly...

mostly I love watching my little boy grow into his gifts.

Maybe he'll stick with art into adulthood. Maybe this is a phase and he'll switch directions as he grows. In any case I think the important thing he is learning is to use his gifts, to delight in them, to bless others with them, and to develop them.

What about you? When did your kids start showing you what their gifts and interests are? Do you remember how you discovered your own gift set?



  1. This is adorable!!!!!!

  2. How fun! I'm from GR but moved away four years ago, and I definitely miss this time of the year there.

    1. It's always a highlight for us! I'll miss it if we ever move away!

  3. I love this. You can tell how excited he was!

  4. I thought I recognized you at Art Prize! I did not say "hi" in case you thought it was creepy, but I have been praying for your family. My sister and I are twins and it is such a blessing. I am so excited for you. Congratulations! Also, we were very "crafty" kids like Arie. Our mom would give us tape, string, ect for Christmas. We loved it and are still very creative as young adults.



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