… the problem is how to remain an artist once we grow up.”
The above quotation by Pablo Picasso is one that resonates pretty strongly. As adults, many of us struggle to find our creative side or avoid it completely. Maybe we’ve learned too many rules, hit one too many creative blocks or simply do not have the time to cultivate our creative thinking. But as parents and educators, it’s important to remember that our children mirror what we do. We see ourselves reflected in their play, in their phrases and daily interactions. They watch how we handle our successes and failures. We are their main example of how life is lived. It’s important we throw a little creativity in when we can!
What steps can we take towards supporting a child’s creativity? Author and artist Julia Cameron suggests, “we let them explore freely and praise them for their efforts.” This means more than giving them some crayons and paper, though that is a very good start. Allowing children the freedom to be creative can be a difficult balance for parents and teachers – it’s a struggle for me and I consider myself an artist.
On one hand, we want our children to follow rules and we want to provide them with structure. We know those things are also crucial to their learning. But when exploring their creativity, we want to give them the freedom to break some rules. I’m not talking the ‘keep your hands to yourself’ type of rules, more like ‘the sky is blue’ or ‘we color in the lines’ rules.
We often cannot help how we react to our children’s art – particularly when their work is more abstract (think mommy has three eyes or the sky is green and the grass is red!), our role and natural instinct is to teach them. And the reality is mommy only has two eyes and the grass is green! But keep in mind that art is often a rebellious act. It involves taking risks, thinking outside of the box and pushing boundaries. As parents, we have the unique opportunity to provide a safe environment in which our children can take creative risks with support and even praise.
In addition choosing our words carefully when we discuss their art, we can support their creativity by providing ample opportunity to think creatively. One easy way to do so is to put together a creativity box/corner/room, whatever you have the space for! Stock it with paints, toilet paper rolls, glue, markers, paper, crayons, plastic bottle caps, rocks, yarn… you get the idea, anything goes. Keep these things readily available throughout the day or even set aside time for them to work with these items through open ended play and art.
If you’re longing to bring out more of your creative side, join in the artistic fun. Create a project along side your child, selecting from the same materials. Allow your child to explore the materials anyway they wish while you do the same! As you work, provide them with the vocabulary to describe their process, discussing their work without judgement and with praise. (“You’re using a lot of red paint. I like that!”) When you’ve finished, display both creations on the refrigerator! Valuing your own creativity will teach your child to value theirs. Watching you embrace your ‘mistakes’ and push boundaries, will set a valuable example for their inner artist. Encourage their inner creativity, as you rediscover your own.