Home Is Where the Art Is

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Home Is Where the Art Is

How to Foster Creativity at Home

If your child’s idea of working with her hands is manipulating the remote, then it’s time to consider giving your child some creative play time and taking a few easy steps to foster a life long enjoyment of creative and intellectual endeavors.

As a mother of three children, two of whom are twin five-year-olds, we take time almost everyday to do something creative. Creativity doesn’t have to be limited to art-based activities, nor does it have to take a lot of time or effort on your part. In our house, I seize every opportunity I can to encourage my children to put a “creative spin” on literally anything we’re doing. Whether we’re getting dressed, arranging the dinner table, driving to the doctor’s office, making breakfast, or thinking of ways to organize the toy closet, I’m constantly challenging them to be creative in how they live, work, and play. Yes, children can and should work. Side note: If anyone has solved one of life’s most elusive mysteries—how to keep a toy closet organized—please let me know.

Certainly if you have a child who already loves to draw, paint, and create, involve them in the arts. It’s proven that visual art is critical to a child’s development and fosters academic achievement throughout life. However, you don’t have to send your child to a formal art class in order to make creativity an integral part of their life, nor does he or she have to show some early talent in art in order to reap the rewards of exposure to art. We recommend that as parents you make your home a creative, colorful environment where exploration and curiosity is embraced. This is when the “magic” of creativity really happens. You don’t have to consider yourself creative or artistic in order to do this for your child. It’s easy. So lose the electronics and engage in a delightful pastime sure to be perennially popular with the whole family. How often do you find that kind of universal palette pleaser?

Here are some proven ideas to inspire you:

Be an Example: Let your own creativity flourish (or bring it out of hiding). All of us have a child-like curiosity, enthusiasm, and “crazy” ideas. Share them with your children. Be open to new experiences, and share your ideas with your child. Share the excitement and take delight in what you can create together.

Access: Give your child lots of accessible art tools in your home. These need not be expensive or sophisticated. Just doodling and scribbling is critical to your child’s creative development. Scribbling is the oldest and most important communication tool known to mankind. Scribbling is the basis for all other learning to come. Even before a child can talk or walk, he/she can scribble. Set out the basic art supplies (listed below) and you’ll have a very happy and creative child.

A Mess and a Masterpiece: Give your child an area where it’s okay to get a little messy. Parents who fret over an art mess, can turn a child off to artistic endeavors. You cannot possibly be creative when you’re worried about getting crayon on the table.

Freedom: Allow your child the freedom to create his/her own art without giving him/her your expectations (or assistance). A child who creates freely learns to enjoy and benefit from art, and becomes more self-confident in his/her abilities to do all sorts of things (not just art). A brown blob might not be what you expected, but the child who created that blob is a proud and confident child indeed.

Independence: Help your children become confident and independent by encouraging them to create their own work. If they ask you to do it for them, tell them you want to see their creation. Never finish a child’s work or alter it with your own idea of how it should look.

Process: Forget about how the painting is supposed to look. Children are happiest “creating” when they don’t feel they need to meet your approval. Focus on the child and the process of what he/she is creating. The result should never be measured or judged against an adult’s expectations. Real creative learning takes place during the process of making art. You can help yourself focus on the process by asking your child questions about the process, never about the result (i.e., What are you drawing? What is this suppose to be?). To a child, it doesn’t matter. Just playing with the paint might be his/her only goal.

Show It Off: Display as much of your child’s artwork as possible. Never allow your child to see you throwing away his/her artwork. If you can, mat or mount her work (even if it’s a brown blob), all the better. Hanging her creation on the fridge, on a bulletin board or in your office is all it takes to build your child’s creativity confidence. If you’d like to make gifts of your child’s art, visit: Cafe Press. (It’s easy to upload artwork and have it imprinted on just about anything.)

Here’s a list of basic art supplies to get your children started on the road to creativity: Paper (and lots of it), drawing and painting pads, crayons (chubby ones are better for under twos), #2 pencils, erasers, washable markers, colored pencils, oil pastels, watercolor paints, finger paints, tempera paints, glue, glue sticks, tape (masking, colored, and scotch), stamps and washable stamp pads, stickers (plain stickers are better than pre-printed ones), child-safe scissors, hole punches and old magazines, newspapers, fabric, game pieces, discarded jewelry (perfect for cutting and making collages), and even those odd socks can be used for something creative, precious, and treasured.

Other ways to foster creativity:

  • Take special trips and record your experiences with photos, art or words
  • Explore the outdoors with no particular purpose or destination
  • Talk to people with your children and learn about the past, present and future
  • Start a story with your children, and let them finish it
  • Make books from magazine clippings and let your child dictate the text (if they’re too young to write)
  • Make edible art from your food or desserts (pudding painting with food coloring is a blast). See Let’s Gogh Art’s FREE guide to edible art at: www.letsgoghart.com
  • Dress up in old clothes and create your own play
  • Design your own game
  • The Concoction game (let children make their own concoction with their choice of ingredients and have them name it)
  • Come up with your own language
  • Pretend to be animals, snowflakes, fairies, giants, snails, mice, etc.
  • Play charades
  • Ask open-ended questions about things children see
  • Play “can you guess what’s in your hand” (with eyes closed)
  • Play the change game (example: what would taste better if it were sweeter, what would be better if it were smaller, etc.)
  • Questions and answers (example: ask children questions with lots of answers, such as what can you do with water?)
  • Play the What If game (example: what would happen if you could fly, what if you were a turkey, etc.)

One final thought. On average, children laugh 435 times a day. Adults laugh one hundred times a day. How is it that we adults ended up 335 laughs short of a good time? Laugh, play, and create with your children often, and make the world a better place. 

By Lynn Toomey, Founder and Chief Creativity Officer, Let’s Gogh Art