Homemade play-dough. Finger paint. Hand puppets. With a little encouragement from parents, preschoolers can let their imaginations soar. It’s a special time, when they haven’t yet been forced to color in the lines. And that’s a good thing.
As adults, we have been trained to follow the rules, to maintain order, to conform. It’s sometimes tempting for us to work behind our children as they create craft projects. We tend to want to reach over them and correct their work, straightening the eyes, nose, and mouth pieces so their self-portraits look more like mass-production stamps than original works of art. What would Picasso think?
Arts and crafts are important parts of childhood development. They allow children to practice crucial fine motor skills such as cutting, tracing, drawing, and maneuvering small art pieces with specific goals in mind. Children gain self-confidence when they complete a task independently, and they learn basic language concepts such as colors, shapes, and prepositions. Cognitive skills are learned too as they follow simple directions and identify which art materials are used in various ways.
However, when trying to teach all of these skills, it’s important to focus on creativity and artistic expression as well.
Next time you spread out the crayons and construction paper, sit back and let your kids go wild – artistically that is. Challenge them to power up their brain muscles, and get their creative juices flowing. When they hand you a drawing that other adults might not consider pretty, frame it for proud display on your wall. Keep in mind that those creations not only track their developmental stages over the years, but they stand as proof that there was a time when we could all think outside of the lines.
Easy Ways to Stimulate Childhood Creativity
1. Provide various art materials and encourage children to create something that makes them feel happy. Talk about why they chose certain colors or textures as opposed to other choices. Play happy music in the background and take turns naming things that make you happy while you work.
2. Give children an empty shoebox and some glue. Add various scraps of materials and tidbit items found in the recycle bin or junk drawer. Think plastic bottle caps, laundry detergent scoops, rubber bands, twist ties, popsicle sticks, cotton balls, paper clips, etc. With supervision, encourage children to create a make-believe world. Be sure to talk about their ideas while they build a fantasy.
3. Take the challenge outdoors. Use baking pans, funnels, spoons, buckets, colanders, plastic knives, etc. to set up a nature kitchen. Help children bake mud pies, acorn cakes, and twig casseroles. Be sure to leave some sweet snacks for the fairies and elves who inhabit those magical corners of your back yard.
4. Choose a sunny spot to create pretend characters with no materials at all. All you need is you body to twist, turn, and stretch into various shadow forms. Give these imaginary friends names and talk about what they like to eat, where they sleep, and what color they are.
5. Use sidewalk chalk to sketch a city. Encourage your child to build a world for you to travel through. How do you move around this world – walk, drive, fly, swim? Who do you meet there? What does a school look like? Where do you eat? Ask questions to prompt children to create an entire community all from their imaginations. There are countless ways to encourage children to use their creative energy. Just remember there is no right or wrong way to approach art. All you need is a little time, patience, and wonder…and you might be amazed at what you find within those little minds.