How do you respond when someone asks for your creative involvement in a project?
Too many times when I mention to acquaintances the possibility of dabbling in art, the response is, “I don’t have a creative bone in my body- I can’t draw a straight line!”
I usually feel all thumbs myself when asked to put crayon to paper. And certainly it goes back to when I was a child and thought that my art was quite lovely, until it was Jane Colony’s work that was spot lighted time after time. One of my best drawings was a winter wonderland pastel I made in fifth grade, but someone tore it off the wall in the hallway and it got trampled. This is the perfect metaphor for what happens to most of us as the creative genius of early childhood becomes stifled.
Kids love to make art. Children progress through the stages of scribbling and their first attempts at self portrait, to discover that one can draw almost anything simply by putting shapes together. They may learn how to draw rockets or sharks or flamingos or dinosaurs, and this is what they draw…over and over and over and over.
Left to their own devices, they finally move on to experiment by sketching different things with such abandon as to use every scrap of paper available. Until that inevitable time when self-consciousness tries like the dickens to squelch the radiance of who we are meant to be.
We become so concerned with what other people are thinking about us that we come to fear the full expression of who we are because someone might laugh or disapprove of us- if not in reality, certainly in our minds. So we hold ourselves back, disqualifying our thoughts and creations before someone else can. When in reality it doesn’t matter what anyone else thinks.
Nurture your child’s creativity by providing a comfortable atmosphere where s/he can discover, experiment and explore. Establish a space- a room, corner, or table, to be the designated art area to keep and use their arts and crafts independently, Allow your child the freedom to create away from your constant supervision. Provide an endless supply of “stuff” including crayons, markers, paint, paper, scissors, glue, tape, clay, natural materials (shells, pebbles, feathers, pine cones) and reusable stuff (bows, spools, boxes, egg cartons).
As you provide opportunities for your child to experiment and discover his/her creativity, it is important to set guidelines. For example:
Art materials are not to be wasted and to be kept in the art area at all times.
Do not put paste, paint, glue, chalk, or any other materials in your mouth- they are not for eating, drinking or tasting.
Work only on your own project and only on the paper you are given.
Don’t forget to wear a smock for messy projects!
Set limits early on, with the expectation that they clean up and put their things away each time they use them. You will need to demonstrate the proper way to wash paint brushes, close bottles of glue, and replace marker covers securely. If you show by your attitude that you sincerely trust your child, s/he will be careful.
As your child practices expressing himself some encouragement may be called for: “I bet if you practice on a different piece of paper, it will come out the way you want it to,” or “If you make a mistake, usually you can turn it into something even better than it was before.”
I have seen kids who are otherwise unable to sit still or focus on anything for more than a few minutes, let go of outside distraction and focus on the creative spirit that is within each of us. Being creative in a nonthreatening environment instillsasense of peace, a connection with something greater than ourselves, and the greatness of our own Self!
(RDW 2007, revised 2010)