There are few people in this world who have influenced me as much as Amanda Blake Soule, and no one more so than when it comes to parenting. I read The Creative Family before I was even pregnant, when my good friend, who has an uncanny knack of knowing exactly what and who I’m going to love, sent it to me.
It was one of those books that I read from cover to cover, feeling that rare sense of simultaneous wonder and familiarity. Yes, I thought. This lady gets it, this lady has put into words exactly what I already knew but couldn’t say, or wanted to know but wasn’t quite there yet.
The Creative Family is the first of three books by Amanda Blake Soule, famous for her much loved blog SouleMama. It is my favourite of all of them, because it combines simple yet insightful thoughts on parenting mindfully, whilst offering a variety of easy to follow activites which nurture creativity in young ones.
Is it not an easily categorizable book. That is, I would not say it is a book on parenting, and nor would I say it was a Crafting book. Within a chapter on ‘Being Resourceful’, where Soule talks about the importance of handmade and respecting our planet, she gives instructions on how to make comfy trousers using old T-shirts and sweaters (something we have done many times here)
Within chapters on things such as ‘Everyday Rituals’, ‘Exploring Through Nature’ and ‘Encouraging Imagination’ there are instructions on some wonderful activites, but they are all tied in to a deeper thread which focuses on how to live mindfully and meaningfully with your family, always working towards building connections with one another and finding ways to live a creative and harmonious life.
Within a chapter entitled ‘Gathering Materials’, she gives tutorials on how to make wool felt blocks for younger babies, and felt pencil rolls for older children. Within a chapter entitled ‘Sharing the Tradition of Handmade’ she talks about how to encourage even the youngest children to sew and knit and shows some very easy examples of how to do so.
I have used many of these tutorials with or for Ava and each one has not only been a simple yet lovely activity to do together, but it has indeed added to our own family’s desire to ‘keep things simple’, which means, for us, a great deal of creating within our own home.
The tutorial on how to create a bedtime bag for your Little to put his or her PJ’s and bedtime book in is one of my favourites as it has truly helped us to create a much looked-forward-to bedtime routine with Ava.
Likewise, the tutorial on Family Hearts (a heart shaped cushion that can carry notes in the pocket, so your wee ones can read your words when they are away from you) was so inspiring I have made many, many for Ava and her friends.
And then there are a myriad of simple but heartwarming ideas like The Gratitude Hug; when one of Soule’s children isn’t feeling their best, they get a figurative ‘talking hug’, showered in words of gratitude from the rest of the family about what each of them really loves and appreciates about that child.
This book is one of the few books I would recommend to anyone with a family, or anyone even thinking about starting a family. It works so well because it is not forceful and nor does it attempt to explain Soule’s somewhat ‘alternative’ lifestyle choices, but like the blog she writes, it merely opens up a life that is lived beautifully, with intent.
I remember reading this and thinking that this family and their way of living was exactly what I wanted for myself. This book led me to the blog where I read 6 years of archives, where I eagerly await each new post every day. This book led me to the idea of homeschooling, and then unschooling, and cemented some radical and some transformative ideas in my head which have changed the way we live.
Such is the power of showing, not telling (as my first writing teacher liked to say) and that is what Amanda Blake Soule does so well in all of her writing. She understands the great power that lies in showing by example, and I believe one of the reasons The Creative Family has enchanted so many is because her world, and her views, are never forced upon you. Her writing is powerful because it is gentle and quietly confident and one gets the feeling that Amanda Blake Soule does not have anything to prove – her family is living proof of how amazing this way of living can be.
If you’re looking for ideas on how to live a more creative, handmade life, ideas on how to nurture imagination within your family in very simple and achievable ways, this book is ideal. I urge you, read it, and you will love it.
Ava's birthday crown, based on one of the tutorials in The Creative Family.
The Creative Family is available on our Amazon Store.