Guest Post | The Joy of Creative Collaboration Between Adults and Their Children

By Jo Pollitt and Lilly Blue of BIG Kids Magazine

The BIG collaborative ocean project

The ocean is both wide enough for us to frolic at the edges and vast enough to get lost in. A meeting point of world continents and cultures, such seas invite the possibility of adventure, travel and messages in windswept bottles.

The main thing separating kids from their grown-ups is a sea of years. We were all once children, it’s just that we learn to lose the pathway to wonderment and impossibility. Side by side collaboration between adults and their children can become the meeting point for unprecedented creative voyage. In our experience, literally sharing the same page with a child becomes a detailed map for unexpected discovery and priceless treasure. Art becomes open-ended like the sea, and like the sea, you can never predict what will happen; just watch the wind, raise the anchor and sail away.

Diving in to a shared process-based experience with children is different to making or setting up projects for children. There is something exhilarating about saying yes without offering grown up ideas that derail the experience of being lost. Or simply being open to ‘not knowing’ where the paintbrush will stop, having no end point or conclusion in mind. Kids are not weighed down by ideas of gravity, chronology or limited logic and this is amazing for tripping up and inspiring our own creative adult sensibilities! There is enormous value for children in seeing parents/adults engaged in equally risky and open-ended creative work. Mistakes become the greatest jumping off points and every mark and spill is valued as a departure point or temporary landing.

So how do we nurture this unbridled creative play and how do we, with our deadlines and learned aesthetic, let go enough to meet them there? Well, we think one BIG way is to start with a collaborative ocean:

Start working on the same large piece of paper together following your child’s lead and fill the entire page as the imagined middle of the BIG ocean.

– What are the colours, textures, patterns and FEEL of your ocean?
– Is it dark or light, scary or inviting, warm or cold?
– What kinds of brush strokes are irresistible?

Your completed collaborative ocean can then be used to connect Joel’s own city-scapes with original cities that you can draw and imagine together.

Finally, using the template below, print out the three BIG boats and characters and set them on a voyage across the ocean to visit each of the different cities. You can make your own B.I. G (Bravery, Imagination, Generosity) characters to captain the boats. Or you could even collaborate on your B.I.G characters by drawing them as three fold ‘Exquisite corpse’ drawings.

What adventures happen when the storm comes and the boats capsize under ocean? What worlds do your characters visit and what city are they from?

We imagine a virtual sea where all the little BIG boats and captains can meet and tell tall tales of high seas and shared adventure!

This guest post was co-authored by Jo Pollitt and Lilly Blue, the creators of BIG Kids Magazine, a new creative arts based magazine for curious kids which will set sail on September 1st. If you are interested to know more about artistic collaborations with kids, head to where you will find us deep in the process of making a magazine and more!

Click on the image below, then print. (Artwork by Jo Pollitt and Lilly Blue. Template layout by Joel Henriques.)


  1. July 29, 2011 at 12:29 pm

    What a great post. I like the idea of creating a big ocean together and allowing your child to imagine what happens next. I love watching the unique directions my 4-year-old daughter's craft/art projects tend to take. Right now, she's really into making paper bag puppets and has an entire army of puppets from her favorite story books. She has designed each puppet from head to toe and takes them on all sorts of adventures... like swim lessons!

  2. July 29, 2011 at 5:15 pm

    Hi, Joel, I identify a lot with your work. I want to thank you for visiting Ciclicca! When you visit it again you can comment in English (I understand better than Spanish, rs) Oh!!! I love the boats!

  3. Daniela
    July 30, 2011 at 12:11 pm

    This is brilliant. I've been frustrated so many times lately because I couldn't get over the urge to always make my kids doing things the way I wanted them to turn out. This article is exactly the input I really needed. I am surfing around alot in Bloggerland but this is for sure one of the best threads I have read in a long time. And I am not the one writing comments either. So thank you from Germany! Daniela

  4. July 30, 2011 at 6:45 pm

    Thank you so much for the great post - i love anything that spins the learning and reaching back around to help adults grow too!! Zoe

  5. Maria
    July 30, 2011 at 11:46 pm

    This is beautifully written. I love the ocean and yet I'm hydrophobic. What a great way to conquer my fear! Thank you for this post.

  6. August 1, 2011 at 11:18 pm

    I'm allways so admirative in what you do! love it. Chris.

  7. August 2, 2011 at 9:52 pm

    I love this. love love love it. and will be chewing on it for weeks and months to come. again, as always, thanks. this space is such a gem.

  8. August 5, 2011 at 6:48 am

    [...] Here’s one of his newest project ideas! [...]

  9. August 9, 2011 at 6:30 pm

    [...] behind the BIG idea is Jo Pollitt and Lilly Blue. They recently guest posted on Made By Joel about collaborating with kids and you won’t want to miss their ideas and printables which will give you a flavor of BIG, [...]

  10. August 30, 2011 at 11:02 am

    [...] Jo Pollitt and Lilly Blue at Made by Joel, “The Joy of Creative Collaboration Between Adults and Their Children” Diving in to a shared process-based experience with children is different to making or [...]

  11. November 23, 2011 at 4:31 pm

    Wow, I love the boldness and the confidence of the brush strokes, and the colors that your child utilized! I really like your view of teaching/helping kids to learn and grow their creativity without interjecting with adults' pre-determined thoughts. I worked with the similar theme: Thank you for your valuable insight!

  12. Vivian
    September 15, 2012 at 12:48 pm

    Im 20 but my baby sisters are 2 and 8. I love arts and crafts and i am always looking for things that are suitable for all three of us... It isnt always easy but you and other bloggers make it much more do-able. I love this article and this idea will be perfect for us, maybe we can even get our dad to join in. Thank you for open-sourcing your creativity!! How lucky are your kids (and everyone that follows you)!

    1. September 18, 2012 at 4:02 pm

      Thanks for all of the kind comments everyone! Vivian - So cool that you and your younger sisters have fun doing arts and craft projects together. Excellent!!

  13. January 30, 2014 at 5:45 am

    [...] Made By Joel Joel is an artist and designer who founded this wonderful site. He offers such an amazing range of [...]

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