The 21st of April is World Creativity and Innovation Day, promoted by the United Nations to celebrate all forms of creativity and innovation in our lives. Although it may seem like a trivial thing to celebrate in a time of crisis, in many respects it has never been more important. In just a few weeks we’ve witnessed businesses find innovative ways to adapt to our new reality, and everyday people putting their creativity and resources to work in so many inspiring and even life-saving ways. But how can we ensure that our communities continue to adapt effectively to change and come up with solutions to the problems we will face in the future?
One answer may lie in how we approach creativity with young children. Anyone in contact with preschool age children will agree that youngsters have an innate and brilliant creative ability. Worryingly, this trait starts to decline as early as primary school age and by the time adolescence arrives we begin to see ourselves as either creative or not creative or perhaps only creative in some ways. What many of us don’t consider is that creativity is actually a learned skill that needs to be practised from an early age. By employing just a few simple tactics at home we may be able to stall this seemingly inevitable decline.
With families spending so much time together right now, this could be the perfect opportunity to foster a culture of creativity and innovation with your children. There countless ways to be creative, but as an art teacher I have a few simple tips for promoting imagination and creative thinking while your kids are making art at home:
Emphasise the process rather than the finished product. When creating with young kids the focus should always be on the process of art making, learning, trying something new and having fun. Giving young children the freedom to explore their own creativity and experiment with art materials without worrying about how it looks in the end is what is important.
Show an interest and get involved. Often a child’s creativity won’t become obvious to an adult until they take the time to talk to their child about the thought process behind their artwork. These conversations can be a great boost to children’s confidence. Instead of just saying “This looks great!” describe what you see and find something specific to comment on, ask your child to tell you about their artwork, how they achieved a particular effect, or how they feel about their work. Find the time to make art with your child, verbalise your thought process as you create or ask your child to teach you to how to make something.
Celebrate failure. The fear of failure prevents us all from trying new things and sharing our creative thinking. If we can normalise and even celebrate our own and our children’s failures we will minimise this fear and make our children more resilient and willing to take risks in their creativity. If your child makes something they are not happy with, encourage them to look for some small detail they do like. Acknowledge that while it may not be their most beautiful artwork, it was still worth creating. The outcome of the creative attempt is never the failure, but not trying is.
Have materials at the ready. Art supplies might be dwindling in many homes by now, but you really only need a few basic materials to get going. Having a look around your house can uncover some unlikely art
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supplies- making sculptures out of the contents of the recycling bin can really get the creative juices flowing. Make sure your art supplies are stored somewhere your children can easily access them so they can get creating as soon as an idea takes hold.
These ideas could really be used for all forms of creativity that your child might favour- whether it’s writing, dance, maths, music, coding or cooking to name a few! The traditional classroom unfortunately isn’t always set up to fully support creative thinking, but as parents settle into their new roles as “home-school” teachers they may be able to fill this gap in their child’s education. This Tuesday why not celebrate World Creativity and Innovation Day by getting creative with your children and consider how you might instil a passion for creating in whatever form that might take.
Bronwyn Carpenter is an art teacher and runs The Happy Art Studio in Riverstick, Co. Cork which offers art classes, holiday camps and birthday parties for children. For more information contact Bronwyn at email@example.com or follow @happyartriverstick on Facebook and Instagram.