Saturday, July 13, 2013

Raising creative children

I'm participating in a 30 day blog challenge and must post something everyday. Well today got away from me with lots of wonderful out-of town guests. So I decided to re-post something I wrote last year. The wedding I'm referring to took place June 8th.
Sarah and Peter

The other day my 26 year old son, Peter,  reminded me that learning to be creative can enrich most areas of your life.  Peter graduated with a degree in Physics and has worked in mainly science based jobs (teaching and consulting work). He is now in the process of planning his wedding to a lovely girl named Sarah.  They wanted unique wedding invitations and save the date cards and came to me for some advice.  I suggested that they send me some images of things they liked and I would give them my feedback.  Peter then began the process of gathering images and sketching out his ideas.  When he sent me his work I remember how strong his artistic skills and imagination are. He can visualize, create and record his ideas because he already possessed those skills.  As an artist and a teacher I started working with him and his brother at at a very young age.  I did this by offering them opportunities and guidance to create and experience art as soon as they could sit up!

Now before you say "but I'm not an artist or a teacher" let me explain how you how easy it can be to raise a child with skills in art..  You have to just give them the opportunity to experience new images, ideas and tools.  The by product will be that you will become more creative too!  Teaching art to a child is as simple as giving them exposure to artistic experiences and the freedom to experiment with new ideas, tools and techniques in a controlled setting.  You spark the idea, show them the proper use of the tools/media, and set the ground rules-or guidelines and let them create!

Always remember that the best question to ask a budding artist is "Can you tell me about your art?"  When your child creates a picture that  looks like a spider to you don't insert your visual vocabulary or interpretation.  It could actually be a self portrait!   But instead ask open ended questions like "This is a wonderful picture - tell me about it.  This encourages your young artist to explain what's obvious to them.  And they won't be discouraged by their lack ability to create realism.  The goal here is not to master artistic realism.  If you really want the artwork to look completely realistic learn more about photography and teach them how to take a picture.  As long as your maintain that your focus is on developing   creative thinking skills and building self esteem your child will deliver you exciting masterpieces!

Designate a space for making art.  I frequently used the kitchen table for this.  In addition you could set up a smaller table where you could put "work in progress" to free up the table for dinner. You will want to cover the work space just to make clean up easier.  I use vinyl table cloths that I pick up at the dollar store.  Clear plastic totes, tool bins and recycled containers make great storage items for organizing your child's art tools.
Set some guidelines which will be gentle reminders of how your child is expected to behave.  I like to make the rules more positive that negative. Instead of saying "never draw on the walls" consider "always draw on paper." This also allows for imaginative drawing surfaces to be eliminated (like their siblings, the dog, or your favorite pair of shoes).  Keep your guidelines simple and short - you can always add more as the need arises.

Here are some suggestions:
1. Always ask mommy/daddy for Art Time
2. Draw on paper only
3. Caps need to snap
4. Brushes always dry with bristles up
5. Always clean up before you get up

Designate a time for art every day.  When my children were little they very creative in the morning and/or before dinner.  In the mornings we would take walks or field trips to such places as the aquarium, zoo or museum to gather all kinds of visual and tactile experiences.  My favorite time for them to create art was before dinner art while I was in the kitchen.  I'd set the kids up at the kitchen table, give them the instructions or a demonstration and watch them work while I cooked the meal.  By the time dinner was ready we could transition the table to from art time to dinner in minutes - - and sometimes we'd have a new centerpiece for the table or a new piece to put in "The Gallery."  Many times our creativity was the meal.

Now there are lots art ideas on many different websites, Pinterest is one of my favorites.  But I also liked presenting lessons to my children that offered actual lessons on the Elements of Art and the Principles of Design - aka The Building Blocks of Art. Here's a simple lesson that you can use with any age child.  I write these out as recipes - - we all know how to follow those kinds of instructions.  I like to demonstrate one step at a time letting them complete each before we move to the next.

Pattern Play
To investigate different types of lines and identify patterns.
White paper
Markers, Colored pencils and/or crayons

1. Describe  5 different kinds of lines by drawing them on your paper.  Pick one marker and draw Straight, Zig-zag, Wavy,Coiled,Curved lines  Each time you draw a line go from one edge of the paper to the other crossing over a previously drawin line to create shapes.

2.  Define the word pattern: repeating a shape or shapes over and over again  On another piece of paper draw as many patterns using shapes and letters that you and your child can think of.  ABC, Square, circles, hearts, triangles, smiley faces, etc  The most important thing is that they repeat the shapes or combination of shapes multiple times.

3.  In each of the shapes created by the intersecting lines copy a pattern to fill the space using different colors and combinations of drawing tools.  Consder creating shapes with the markers and color them in with the crayons or colored pencils.

4. Critique - The most important part of the process!  Ask your child the following questions:
                a.  What kinds of lines did you make?
                   b. How many patterns did you use?
                   c, What's your favorite part of your picture?  Why?
                d. What did you learn that you didn't already know?
                   e.  If you did this project again what would you do differently?

The most important point of having daily art time is to create a new habit of creativity for you and your child. Yes, I've included you in that statement.  Consider getting yourself  art journal for your own artistic development.  Practice the project you want to teach your child, record your thoughts or try sketching those little people!  Remember your journal is for you and only you - it can be shared if and when you want.  Give yourself a 30 minute gift of time and you'll be happy with the results.


  1. Great article. I have always tried to make sure my son when growing up had time to be creative...we did so much together and had a great time. He is very creative. Now I have a 3 year old grandson that just loves to color, draw.

    Thanks for sharing.

  2. It so important to keep creativity in the home for children as so many schools are not focusing on the arts anymore. Being a creative person myself, I know that if you don't use your creativity, you lose it. I believe everyone is creative, they just have to use the talents given to them.

    1. Yes, you may be a creative cook, flower arranger, gardener, or musical. Creativity is using your imagination to express yourself!