Thursday, March 12, 2015

Cultivating Creativity in Kids

It has been a passion of mine to bring my grand kids into my studio and let them create right along side me. I let them experiment with various mediums and have fun cultivating their own creativity without any rules of how to do that. The reward for me is seeing their imagination grow organically because they know there’s no right or wrong way to make their art, create their project or tell their story.

I treasure the story my son and daughter-in-law told me about a parent-teacher conference they had with Micah’s preschool teacher a couple of years ago. She said that after putting a pile of art supplies on a classroom table, Micah dove in and started creating immediately while the other kids sat and waited for instructions. She was amazed at his excitement to create and fearlessness to do his own thing. She suggested that they get him into an art class and they replied, “he kinda already IS…. with his grandma”!

Being one who has spent years trying to shed the stigma that there are rules for making art and only art made within those rules has any value, I am determined to convince my kids, my grand kids and YOU that this is absolutely not true!!

A little back story for those of you who are new here. I’ve been watching my grand kids at least 2 days a week ever since they were 3 months old. Micah turns 6 in a week and Kyla will be 4 this Summer. So you can see, we have spent a lot of time together!

So how am I cultivating creativity in my grand kids?

Let Them Discover Mark Making as Toddlers

 cultivating creativity in kids

 cultivating creativity in kids

As soon as my grand kids could hold a crayon or other drawing tool without shoving it in their mouth, I put paper in front of them and let them draw. Since I wanted them to discover art making with without my panicing voice telling them they were drawing on my table too, I decided to look at this project from their point of view. They had never used a crayon or pencil before. I was the one with prior knowledge, not them, so I didn’t want to taint their time of creative discovery with any words of correction (within reason of course).

When they first started drawing I spread out a large sheet of paper on the floor with a handful of crayons and let them have fun! If they sat at my table I spread out a large vinyl tablecloth under their artwork or cover the entire table with a roll of paper so everything was art making territory.

White Paper Only

Coloring books have them place but they are an exercise of coloring within the lines of someone else’s work. White paper is blank and ready for a young imagination to explore color, shape and lines.

Graduating to Washable Markers

 cultivating creativity in kids

I love markers. The colors are more brilliant than crayons and they make a bolder mark on paper. The one drawback with markers though is that they can dry out if the caps are left off. Letting my grand kids use markers gave me the opportunity to teach them about caring for their art supplies. They learned that if they didn’t put the cap back on they would have dried up markers next time.  I learned that they needed to wear aprons when drawing with these juicy felt tip pens. Yes, they were washable markers but I didn’t want their parents to find marker lines all over their clothing every time they spent the day with me.

Colored Chalk

 cultivating creativity in kids

Using sidewalk chalk is a fun outdoor project but doesn’t need to be limited to concrete walks. Since chalk is easily washed off of surfaces I encourage my grand kids to find other surfaces to draw on. I think their favorite is a big chalkboard I created by painting chalkboard paint on a big sheet of plywood and leaned it up against the side of the house. My favorite is watching them collect rocks and draw lines and smiley faces on them.

Discovering Paint

 cultivating creativity in kids

 cultivating creativity in kids

This is an easy one to introduce but there are a few things I learned. Water usually goes everywhere so I have a large plastic tarp that I put on the table and anything near by. No kidding! When I first introduced watercolor painting to my grand kids they were just a couple years old. I had the best time watching them discover not only what the paint looks like on paper but what happens when the paint brush touches the surface of the water.

 cultivating creativity in kids

 cultivating creativity in kids

 cultivating creativity in kids

I learned the hard way that acrylic paint does not come out of clothes. When I was taking art classes in college I ruined many of my favorite paints with an accidentally dropped paint brush. I have invested in some plastic paint aprons for the grand kids and I also have what I call "paint clothes" for them to wear when I want them to feel the freedom to really get into their projects!

Scrapbook Style Learning

Art is a great way for kids to grow in their fine motor skills! Learning to use a small pair of scissors was not only fun for my grand kids but beneficial too. I have a drawer full of old magazines, spiral bound journals and colored paper. I encourage them to cut them up as they wish and paste them in the journals with glue sticks. Using scissors is a skill that is hard to master with little hands but is very doable with lots of encouragement. I try not to judge whether my grand kids are ready for a new skill. I introduce it to them and see what their frustration level is. If it’s so hard that it takes away from the fun and hinders their discovery time, I wait and introduce it later. When cutting the paper was too hard I encouraged them to tear the paper.

Make Their Art Supplies Easy to Get To

 cultivating creativity in kids

I’ve created a space for all their art supplies so they can get them out whenever they want. This way they don’t need my help and they can create any time they want. I think it’s important for them to have independence in some areas of their life. This is an easy thing to release to them. Kyla asks to do some kind of art every morning when she arrives and Micah goes straight to the art drawers when we get home from school.

Whether or not my grand kids decide to choose a career path in art as an adult is up to them. My hope is that these years of play and discovery through art making will influence them in becoming great creative thinkers.

Time and time again, I have discovered things WITH them. Art took on a new dimension for me as I discovered and rediscovered things through their eyes. I often sit with them and make simple marks on paper with crayons and markers or watch the watercolor paint swirl in the water. I praise every mark they put on paper, every color choice they make and ask about the story behind their art. In return they say, “good job grama” when I’m working on my own projects. Heart throb!

I’d love to hear your thoughts!

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