No, this is not some sort of metaphorical plaint about all the red tape we deal with in our industrialized lives—all the (mostly electronic) paperwork required to complete too many utterly regular tasks, like going to the pediatrician for a routine well-check visit. I am, in this case, being quite literal. Raising kids—or, at least, I should specifically note, raising my kids—requires a lot of Scotch tape. Maybe yours too.

Add this to the ever-growing list of things no parenting books—or more seasoned parents—ever told me. Last month we bought a three-pack. This month, upon the mournful report from the five-year-old that she was all out, we got another one. In this economy! What are they doing to use up three 1,000-inch rolls of clear tape every few weeks?

There is a curly ribbon taped to a corner of a table downstairs. I’ve been informed that I am not to remove it. It is the start of an art installation of some sort. More tape will be required to complete the project. On one living room wall, pieces of paper of various sizes are taped, including a rotating menu of announcements, updated periodically. “Cannibal Diner Menu” was the theme last year, but thankfully the child fascinated with cannibalism outgrew that particular interest. Occasionally, Dan removes the taped-up décor when we have guests coming and he would rather they didn’t think we were too weird. The decorating team relents for an evening. By morning, though, a new lineup covers the wall again.

Interests come and go, but the taping of things to walls remains constant—in this case, it has only intensified of late. One ordinary morning a few years ago, we woke up to an ominous announcement taped to the front door of our home: “Gladiator show coming in a few days.” We never did learn more specifics—like when the show would actually occur, and whether we were meant to be the audience or the entertainment for said show. I was too afraid to ask. Thankfully, no lions ever showed up.

But there is so much else that requires tape—constantly. Like the two-dimensional Faberge eggs that the five-year-old has been producing by the dozen for the past couple of weeks.

It all began with her request to her father to show her something pretty she has not seen before. And so, he showed her some images of Faberge eggs. With delight, she promptly began producing her own, using the materials she had on hand: paper, glitter markers, stickers, and lots and lots of tape. For each tiny postage-stamp-sized egg must be produced of at least two parts, painstakingly cut out, colored, then taped together securely with multiple layers of—you guessed it—tape.

And so it goes. Need to attach a mustache or a beard (or both!) for an afternoon dress-up game? Tape. Need to attach paper dresses to dolls? More tape. Need to attach more ribbons to a chair? Just get some more tape. Oh, that roll is all out? Again? Well, good thing they come in threes. Now go ask your brother where he has stashed the others.

Just a little over a year ago, I complained about all the writing on the walls that these kids used to do (somehow, someone still bought our old house in Georgia. The art came with it). And then there was that time a couple of years ago when one of the graffiti artists drew beautiful flowers all over Dan’s checks. “Can we still use those to pay for things?” we wondered. (The answer, in case you ever find yourself in a place where you too need to know this, is yes.)

As I look at the walls of our current house, where homemade historical posters, joking announcements, and paper “Faberge eggs” are taped where you least expect it—even inside closets—I am realizing that a new developmental stage may be afoot. We’ve outgrown the graffiti artist stage, and we are firmly in our tape-all-the-things era. How long will it last? Well, please check back next year.

But there is something deeper here, something more significant that these kids’ creativity reflects. It has to do with our nature as God’s image-bearers. Reflecting our Creator’s love of making beauty, we desire to do the same. Elementary schoolers are no Michealangelos in their ability to craft beauty. And yet, there is a desire to take any materials—simple paper, markers, and lots and lots of tape—and make something less ordinary out of it. Like those Faberge eggs, recognizable for what they aim to be, even as very clearly not like the originals.

In Plato’s theory of forms, there is a ranking system of created and imitated things. Only the true thing is beauty—unmistakable and wondrous. All other things, imitations of beauty, are always inferior. And by inferior, Plato really meant worthless. Who needs these things anyway? Plato’s answer was clear: no one.

Perhaps he has a point here. There is no obviously quantifiable value in the tape-facilitated crafts of preschoolers. Paper Faberge eggs, no matter how well the child has wielded her glitter markers on them, will never be the real thing. Ditto for paper mustaches, however exquisitely crafted they may be. And don’t even get me started on such ephemera as the daily news taped to the kitchen wall.

And yet, there is something that Plato missed in the seriousness of his categorization of beauty and its imitations. Something can be beautiful and delightful to a child well aware that the thing in question is a pale imitation of the real thing. Indeed, for the purposes of play, it is the crafting of the imitation that produces much of the joy. Behind this type of play, though, is a genuine longing for beauty—a desire not only to appreciate the beautiful things one has seen or read or heard, but also to attempt to replicate them somehow. This imitation of beauty, in other words, is good.

It is this same desire that leads ordinary grownups, long past their tape era, to write poetry or short stories or books in the margins of their days, after the “real work” is done. “Is this any good?” we secretly wonder, and sometimes fear that we’re just making paper-and-tape Faberge eggs. But we too can’t stop—because the desire to make something beautiful won’t let us.

Next time we run out of tape, we’re going for the ten-pack. Maybe it will last us longer than a month.

Image via Flickr

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Nadya Williams
Nadya Williams grew up in Russia and Israel, and after thirteen years in Georgia is now a resident of Ohio. She is the author of Cultural Christians in the Early Church (Zondervan Academic, 2023) and Mothers, Children, and the Body Politic: Ancient Christianity and the Recovery of Human Dignity (forthcoming IVP Academic, October 2024). Her newest book project, Christians Reading Pagans, a guide for Christians on reading the pagan Greco-Roman Classics, is under contract at Zondervan Academic. Along with her husband, Dan, she gets to experience the joys, frustrations, and tribulations of homeschooling their children.


  1. My daughter loves scotch tape so this article hits home. 🙂
    However, some sort of “creator” has nothing to do with it. We don’t need an invisible deity to want to make something beautiful. Step into reality and let the religious delusions slide away until you have an appreciation of what actually sustains us. Nature.


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