As you watch your children grow and learn, one of the greatest joys is seeing their creativity blossom. Children are naturally creative. They learn by seeing, doing, and exploring. They master difficult concepts by recreating them at a child’s scale (a laundry basket becomes a spaceship hurtling through space, for example, or a stack of blocks becomes the world’s tallest skyscraper). If you give them plenty of opportunities to express themselves through art, they will have a natural outlet for all of their creative energy.
To encourage their creative growth and development, you should establish an environment that helps foster artistic expression. Some ideas for encouraging art in your home include:
Keep art supplies accessible: Don’t lock away the art supplies in a closet; keep them within reach in an area where your children can use them when they are inspired. You may need to carve out an “art nook” in one corner of the living room, but as long as your kids have some place to go when they want to create, they will feel more free to do so. Try this: Have them help you pick out a brightly colored organizer to store their art materials, and let them help you decide where the supplies should go.
Stock up on the basics: You don’t need to go out and buy all of the latest paints or the craziest invisible markers that only write on black paper. You really only need the basics: some plain white paper, construction paper, crayons, markers, kids’ scissors, paint, and glue. From time to time, you can then supplement with extras such as glitter, sequins, yarn, pipe cleaners, tissue paper, clay, or even scraps of fabric to glue or stitch together. Try this: Have them go through an old magazine and cut out pictures of food, then paste the food to pieces of paper to create a breakfast, lunch, and dinner “menu.”
Incorporate household tools: You don’t need fancy equipment to make art. Some of the best art tools are already in your house. For example, you can fill an old spray bottle with watered-down paint and let them try their hand at spray art (preferably outside, with newspaper to catch the spills). They could also do a stamping project with some paint and slices of vegetables such as carrots, potatoes, broccoli, or mushrooms. And of course they can always use their fingers for good old finger-painting. Try this: Fill a small bucket with plain water, and give them a few old paintbrushes or sponges. Then let them “paint” on a sidewalk or concrete patio and watch their designs slowly evaporate in the sun.
Think beyond the paper: Your children can make art just about anywhere, and although you don’t want them drawing on the walls, you should let them create freely. Keep a stock of sidewalk chalk in the yard so they can express their creativity outside. Save the big boxes from your trip to the warehouse store and let them decorate and play in them. Give them a pad of Post-it notes and let them decorate a blank wall with a design of their choosing. Try this: Once a month, pick out a different object from the house (egg carton, milk carton, paper towel roll, or even lint from the dryer) and let them dream up an art project they can make with it.
Think in three dimensions: Most of the time when we think about art we think of a two-dimensional picture. But kids can be just as creative – or even more so – when they get to build or sculpt with clay, play dough, or sand. Don’t forget that food can be an art medium too. Try this: Give them cookie-cutters to cut dough or sandwiches into shapes; let them arrange chopped up fruits or vegetables into “pictures” on a plate.
With a few simple materials at hand, you’re ready to raise a new breed of creative artists. But remember, don’t force the creativity. If they don’t feel like doing it, or if they decide they “don’t like painting anymore,” let it go. If you don’t pressure them, they’ll probably come back to it again sooner or later. Most of all, give them this time to let their imaginations run free. They’ll enjoy this freedom now, and they’ll appreciate it long into the future.