Art helps open doors to kids’ imaginations.
“Creativity is a characteristic given to all human beings at birth.”
Abraham Maslow, US psychologist
Are your kids imaginative, inventive, original and good at problem solving? If so, you’ve probably done a good job of nurturing their creativity, which encompasses all of these things.
Kids are born creative, but many of the things we do as parents and as a society can stifle it. Rote learning, black and white thinking, too many rules, and the increased use of passive forms of entertainment, like video games and TV, can all play a role in smothering the creativity in kids.
And that’s a shame because creative thinkers like to explore and discover, are open to new ideas, and are willing to work hard to achieve their vision, according to the UK National Curriculum in Action. This, in turn, boosts a child’s self-esteem, levels of achievement and motivation, and better prepare kids to “think… critically, to solve problems, and to make a difference for the better.” In fact, creative thinking has given rise to many great discoveries, inventions, and ingenious ideas.
Creativity has also been found to have health benefits for individuals of all ages. In The Creative Age, author Gene D. Cohen explains that, “Just as exercise improves our muscle tone, when we are creatively engaged, our emotional tone is elevated… . Just as chronic unrelieved stress has a detrimental effect on the immune system, continuing creativity, by promoting the expression of emotions, promotes an immune function boost.”
How do we nurture imagination in kids? One way parents can encourage creativity is through art. “Art allow kids to have more choices and fewer limits on their thoughts,” notes one parent.
“Learning to make art is learning to see the world around you in a unique way,” according to Anne-Marie Kornachuk, executive director of the Art School of Peterborough. “You gain access to an improved sense of perception of your physical, intellectual and emotional world.”
As an instructor of the visual arts, I often see the mental blocks some children encounter when they’re in the creative process. Some children perceive realistic artwork as right and non-realistic art as wrong. I try to explain that creative expression is just another means of communicating and that there is no right or wrong when it comes to art.
Parents can reinforce this message by:
- focusing on the process, not the final product (judgment or expectations can compromise one’s creativity)
- allowing for some messiness
- allowing kids to experiment (do not set rules on how to create)
Here are some other ways in which parents can encourage creativity in their kids:
- provide appropriate toys, such as blocks or Lego, props for make believe, supplies for arts activities, etc.
- support your child’s unique qualities and affirm that it is okay to be different (especially in the teenage years when peer pressure pushes for uniformity).
- reassure your child that there may be many solutions to a problem/question – not everything has a right and wrong answer.
- remind your child that moments of boredom and quiet time can be a time of reflection or to engage the world, and can lead to creative inspiration.
- introduce new experiences, including travel. It doesn’t have to be to Europe, though. A trip to a local museum, gallery or zoo can spark creativity.
- be a model and allow yourself some time for creativity.
- expose your children to all of the arts, including music, drama, and literature, to enrich their lives and generate new ways of looking at the world.
As an artist, I use my art as my voice, continuing to explore, grow, and discover. I encourage you and your children to do the same.