I have the joy of working with children of a variety of ages on a regular basis. I see my job as more than teaching painting skills or techniques, but teaching process and confidence in participating in that process of life, art and creativity. It amazes me the boldness with which most children take on a challenge that is exciting to them.
A colleague of mine did an amazing project recently. She talked with our students about inventions and showed them several pictures of inventions and asked the students to decide whether they looked like they were real or fake. Then the students got to think up their own invention, draw it, name it, build a model of it and put a price on it and tell us everything that it was capable of doing.
Every single student in our group thought of an invention in no time at all! In fact, we couldn't pass out the paper quickly enough for them to draw their idea out! They were bouncing in their chairs, 'I need a piece of paper! I don't want to forget my awesome idea, I have to draw it now!'
This was fun, because we had no idea what they would come up with and it was truly creative and surprising at times. I believe a short list would include the "Tooth-a-ma-brusher", a "Ghost Machine", an alarm clock that handed you breakfast in the morning and a washer/dryer that could wash and dry your clothes in 3 seconds and then fold them for you! Pretty sweet stuff, if you ask me. I look forward to several of these items coming onto the market in the future.
I get asked rather frequently by parents how they can continue some of these things at home, how they can nurture their children's creativity without being an art teacher.
Often times the biggest hurdle is probably time. I would say that setting aside time for free play and creativity is one of the most important things. So many of us are so busy with so many responsibilities that imagining time, even on a weekend, for your child to have a free 'studio' time seems like a long shot. But giving space to these pieces of growth are very important. Some parents I know that have been successful with this, once their children have grown out of naps, will often have their kid have an afternoon quiet time where they are focused on their own projects or self-entertainment without the use of screens of any kind or without the parents directing the specific activity. Some parents even go so far as to have a box of materials that can be used for this free creative play time that only come out once a day.
Sometimes, on a lull in the weekend, instead of filling it up with more video games, try studio hour instead. Or if your child has been asking to do or try something new, like buying beads and making things out of paper, let them know that they have a special time to look forward to doing those things coming up soon. That way the time will be special when it comes around.
"On Saturday we will go to the craft supply store and pick out two kinds of beads and one kind of string. Then we will come home and make beautiful things out of them!" That way they have structure (keeping you in budget!) and freedom simultaneously. I believe my Dad even went so far as to create a project budget with me. Really let them pick too. It is ok if the color combination they choose seems crazy to you!
Another issue is space. Do you have a kitchen table that is easily accessible or cleaned up? Does your child have a desk in their room where they can work on projects of their choosing? Maybe your house has a mud room or spare space where you can set up a folding table for some activities, but you will need to give some space. If you have kids, then you are probably fighting the overtaking of the entire home from them and their stuff, but having a space to create that is safe and easily accessible and easy to clean, even if it is just a folding table on the porch on a Saturday afternoon... that stuff is priceless.
It doesn't have to be perfect. Have you seen the projects that kids bring in where it is very obvious the parent was perhaps overly helpful? They need to get in there and get their hands dirty. They need to make lumpy and bumpy mistakes. They really aren't mistakes, after all. Their hands are still developing fine motor skills and if we take the pencil away and do it for them, they will just become frustrated. Not only that, but they will always want us to draw whatever it is for them because they think we do it better! Why would we want to do that?! I have some students that say, "Please draw a puppy for me!" and I will gently let them know that I do not draw puppies for my students, but that I would love to talk with them about how they can do it for themselves.
The hard thing is to step back and not be too concerned about the perfection or the final product. When we get overly concerned about the product that is being created we rob the joy of the process of learning. Also, when they do it themselves, it builds their self-esteem and confidence that they can do things for themselves and also to be helpful to others. This is neat when you let them fold the towels around the house, it doesn't have to be perfect, but it just got done!
These are just a few thoughts on nurturing creativity in children. They are not too different from some of the things I would recommend for us adults, but sometimes it is good to have it in context. Not only that, but we do have the ability to nurture them and create a confidence in them and their creative abilities that will serve them throughout their lives. Not only that, but it will probably be serving others too! After all, they are the future leaders, right?! We want leaders who can creatively look at problems from all angles and come up with new workable solutions, so let's guide them now and teach them to think through things in a healthy way.
Hope you are having a beautiful Tuesday,
p.s. Still working hard on Art Nurture: The Simple Guide to Cultivating Your Creativity! I will have updates for you soon on the progress and you can pre-order your copy on the homepage!
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"Court has a knack for supporting others in tuning into the artist within..."
"If preparing to work with Court you should know that you will be challenged to be your best self and you will be given tools for how to do so.
You may also find yourself realizing dreams and vocations that may have been easier in the short term to keep hidden, but overall will allow you to embrace this creative part of yourself and live more fully." -Faith Josephs