Thursday, May 27, 2010

Inspiring Creativity in Kids

Take a look in the kids’ toy aisle at any store and you will see plenty of coloring books, sticker books, pre-cut models and other so-called art projects for children of all ages. The problem with these is that they don’t really encourage creativity, imagination and originality. A much better (and cheaper!) option is to provide your child with crayons, paint, markers, paper, scissors, old magazines, newspapers, yarn, fabric, ribbon, old toothbrushes, sponges – basically ANYTHING and encourage him to create what he wants!

Children learn to express their feelings and ideas through art. They learn to make decisions, how to plan and problem solve. Art helps children develop the ability to notice and observe things around them. Using scissors, paint brushes or crayons helps them develop physical abilities including fine motor skills they will later use in handwriting. It helps them develop language skills and communication and builds self-confidence. Art can be very enjoyable and satisfying for children, more so than just about any other play experience.

So how can you as a parent encourage this creativity? Sometimes adults unknowingly insult the young artist by asking “what is it?” or even give negative feedback such as “dogs aren’t purple”. Use art time as an opportunity to develop language skills and support your child with positive feedback. One simple way to do this is to ask open-ended questions or statements such as “tell me about your picture”. Don’t try to guess what it is, you’ll probably guess wrong and the child will feel bad about his efforts. Let him elaborate about the item he has created. Write down what he says and read it back to him. This affirms his creativity and helps others understand his work as well.

Instead of giving a bland comment such as “that’s nice,” describe something you see in detail such as the wavy lines or the combination of colors, and encourage him to talk about how he made those lines or how he selected those colors. Point out shapes that you see in the artwork. Try to give him descriptive vocabulary words as you give this feedback.

Ask your child about the process he used to create the work of art. How did he paint with a sponge, crumpled newspaper or a cotton swab? Help him with the words to describe what he did and repeat what you hear.

Some children (not mine!) are reluctant to get involved in messy art projects. Some don’t like to get their hands dirty. Look for techniques they can use so their hands do not have to get messy – perhaps giving them brushes instead of finger painting if they don’t like the feel of the paint. Reassure them that the paint will wash off of their hands. On the other hand, some parents don’t like to see their children do messy activities. Find a place in the house where children can work without fear of damaging something. Perhaps you need to spread out an old shower curtain to protect the flooring and make a painting smock out of an old shirt.

Finally, let your child determine when his art work is finished. Don’t imply that it needs more work; he may be very satisfied with it. If you have other children, hold up the art work and describe it to them. Encourage them to ask the artist about the creation and how it was made. I know many adults are quick to remark “I have no artistic ability!” Perhaps with some encouragement, we can help the next generation feel more positive about their creativity and art skills.

No comments: