'Does your daughter draw much at home?' the preschool teacher calls to me across the playground.
'Yes, she loves drawing,' I say. 'Why?' I am defensive.
'It's just I thought maybe you could spend some time with her this week helping her hold her pencil correctly.'
The next day, I ask my daughter, who's nearly four, if she wants to draw.
'No,' she says. This is an unusual response.
I coax her further. 'Please?' I am keen to see this wayward grip. Eventually, she relents, and we draw together. It is true - she holds her crayon in a fist. She swirls and twirls it across the page. I try to correct her grip.
'I don't want to do it like that! I like doing it like this,' she says.
'Just try it,' I insist.
'No!' she cries. She flings the crayon across the playroom, and walks away.
Although I am a stay-at-home-mum, I don't do a lot of interactive activities with my children. I find myself - ourselves - pottering the day away. I do what I need to around the house. My children play alone or together. We chat and interact as we go about our day. It's a happy tandem existence.
There is a craft table set up for my three-year-old. She has access to a craft bin full of 'useful things'. She has paper, pens, crayons and watercolours at her disposal. While I am doing the washing-up, my daughter pieces together a collage, sticking leaves and flowers from the garden onto coloured paper. She draws around the shapes. Her creativity is fluid and uninterrupted as we each do our own thing.
Author and public speaker, Carl Honoré, coined the term 'slow parenting'. He says that '...children are denied the right to play freely on their own, which we know is essential for building young brains and developing confidence and the ability to get along with others. Many kids are therefore arriving at university with shining résumés but lacking what they really need to succeed: an independent spirit, a hunger for learning, essential social skills and a sense of who they are and where they want to go in life.'
Honoré goes on to say, 'Children develop their creativity when they are allowed to let their minds wander and play. And I'm talking about free play when they let their imagination go and disappear into a game without adults controlling everything. That kind of play is crucial for brain development, notably, fostering creativity. When children are given too little time for free play, they begin to lose the ability to play at all.'
Honoré's words echo through my mind as I lay out a piece of butcher's paper for my daughter. I slip away, and attend to the dinner. I peak through the kitchen door. She is sitting on her knees, at the table, drawing giant swirls - her whole body is involved. She clutches her pen in a fist to emphasize its movement, then adjusts, holding it like a bird holds a worm in its beak.
Children obviously need guidance and stimulation, and won't learn certain skills unless they are introduced to them. But on the other hand, I don't want to be overly directive, or rush my daughter into something she is not ready to do. I want to give her the space, and the opportunity to develop her creativity in her own time, in her own way. She will hold her pen correctly when she needs to, but until then, I will hang her looping flourishes on the fridge and step back to admire them.