There are all sorts of ways to encourage your child to express their creativity. Performance arts, such as dance, acting, or playing an instrument all begin with your baby moving to music or rhythm, or your toddler’s first games of make-believe. Visual arts like coloring, painting, drawing, using markers or different types of paints start with your child experimenting in a variety of mediums. Woodworking, sewing and design have their roots in block play and letting your child choose their clothes for the day. Storytelling and poetry, rhyming and songwriting all begin with encouraging your child to use their voice to tell the story of what happened, doing finger plays and singing together. Creativity is all around you and your family!
One of the first steps in helping your child get creative is to give them a wide variety of experiences and exposure to different types of expression. It is important to let them tell you about what they have created or done, and to describe what you see. For example, “You really used a lot of red in your picture. Tell me about what you have drawn.” When we avoid putting our judgements on their creation (i.e. good, beautiful) it will be a true expression of themselves, rather than them learning to do it “right” or to please you.
Ask them if there are any types of art they are interested in learning or practicing. By giving them many “tastes” of different activities, they can figure out which activities and mediums they enjoy and would like to do more of.
If your older child is showing an interest in learning a certain type of art, help them get involved and show them the process. Sometimes, children just want to do something but don’t understand how time consuming it might be or what is involved exactly. You are your child’s best resource of knowledge. If your child is interested in something that involves equipment or materials, take your child with you to go and see the equipment or go and find the materials. If it is out of your price range, see if your school, neighbors, or a company has access to the equipment or materials, even if you have to rent it.
Just because your child is interested in one activity doesn’t mean that they will stay interested in that activity. Remember, your child is still learning about the world around them and they are trying to figure out what they like and what they don’t like. This is a time for them to explore.
One of the ways to instill resilience in our children is to encourage them to follow through on their commitments. We want to encourage persistence when an activity is challenging, so sticking with the activity is important. Sometimes this takes lots of encouragement from us, like, “you can do it!” If your child is feeling discouraged, talk it through and support them to share their feelings. When we can name our feelings, it helps our brain be able to regulate and we can stay calm and access our creative mind. Take a break and try again. Confidence comes with practice over time. Self confidence comes with being proud of what you can do, which takes practice and persistence.
Try to keep the focus of any creative activity on the process or experience rather than the outcome or product. We know that we will stick with an activity when it is enjoyable. This leads to more practice and experimentation, which over time leads to mastery. Creative expression helps your child integrate their experience of the world into their brain and make sense of their emotions.
Some ways to help your child find an activity that will help them develop their creativity is taking your child to go and see a variety of ways others express themselves. If your child is interested in dance, attend a local performance, or sit in and watch a dance class.
Have a dance party together as a family and enjoy the rhythm of the music, the melody and harmony, or the timing. Sing along and have fun together! Try different types of music to see if your child likes one type of music over another. Have a make-believe day as a family and dress up. This encourages dramatic play.
Try going on a walk and talk about all the details of the world you see. These details will help you understand what your child sees and what else you can help them discover. Does your child see the pattern of trees or a bug floating on the breeze? What color are the leaves during different times of the year? When you return home, they can create a picture of what they saw, act out the movement of the leaves in the trees, or make a rhyme using what they saw.
There are many different museums and galleries in our community. Take your child to a gallery and talk about what they see and what feelings it may evoke for them. Since children learn and experience the world with their whole body, you will need to remind them to keep their hands to themselves, and that it is important to respect what other people have made by looking with our eyes only, not our hands. This experience might spark ideas for other creative outlets to try as a family. Taking your child with you to plays, concerts and performances will also spark creativity.
Going outside the norms and trying different types of art are not only fun for your child but also fun for your family. Remember, creativity is all around you and is something new for you and your child. Have fun together!
This article is brought to you by Parenting Now Parenting Educators and authors Amanda Bedortha, Kalina Glover Moresi, Claire Davis, and Lynne Grilley.