I love lists. It is a matter of much amusement to those who know me well. I love them a lot, too much maybe. I would be lost without them. I have enjoyed reading my fellow local aritst, Amelia’s lists on her blog recently (see here and here) and I feel its time to indulge the Monica in me with a bloggy list of my own.
I was musing yesterday on my experience of nurturing my children to express and love creativity. This was prompted by watching them bounce in from nursery, go straight to their table and start cutting and sticking gorgeous collages like this one made by Toby yesterday evening.
I realised that one of the reasons they take so easily to being this way is that I leave materials and glue in a place they can reach if they want to This led me to wondering what other things we can do to nurture imagination and creativity. It reminded me of some lovely friends who have told me that my blog has really helped them have a go at creative stuff with their kids, even though they don’t feel so creative themselves. So…time for a list!
I am going to start this list and I would love to you to add to it. I will eventually put it as a separate link on the blog so that people who visit can jump straight to it. This list is just from my experience. Feel free to add your experiences, book or web site recommendations in the comments – I would love to learn more too!
How to nurture creativity in children
1. Accept that children are our teachers. They have no inhibitions, no fear of doing it wrong. They work from their left, instinctive, brains so naturally, the part we have to switch off to get rid of the voice that says we are no good at art / creativity / making. They think wacky, make wacky – they are way out of the box. In fact there is no box to speak of (unless and until society puts it there). I have to confess to a moment of teeny tiny jealousy a few months ago when Isabella was in my studio making her own mosaic alongside me and I saw what she was making and the unself-conscious manner in which she was doing it. What a lesson.
2. Model creativity. Have a go. It doesn’t matter what the end product is like, its the process that matters. Let your children see you join in, letting go, getting messy and having fun making and creating. And if you don’t already, pick up a creative hobby of your own so that they see you and learn that making and creating is a satisfying part of life (in whatever form that takes).
3. Leave the stuff of making in easy reach. I have toyed with this one for a while. Truth is, because of the age my little ones, I am not going to leave paint and gloopy glue in easy reach – much as I want to encourage creative expression! Instead, I have created a table and creative corner with their pencils, glue, paper, card, stickers and such like. Its still messy. Things get taken out and spilled onto the floor (so we learn to tidy – topic for another list maybe?!). But its worth it and it works. I also leave things like finger knitting, balls of wool, scarves or threading around when they haven’t played with them in a while.
3. Respond positively to the fantastical and magical - whether it is creativity being expressed visually, in words or play, don’t put it down as silly. Its fun, its their world, its gorgeous – not very grown up, true – but just so special. Our two are regularly making up the most bizarre names for themselves, us and others in their pretend play. You should hear what we get called! And tempting though it is to guide their art making to what we think looks right / perfect, we need to learn to sit on our hands and watch the nose be placed where an eyebrow should be and the picture of granny getting six legs!
4. Save things that you would normally throw away to use for making. Before throwing something away, I always ponder “What can we use this for?” (see the broken whisk that became a flower here!). I save milk bottle tops (the shiny ones) and plastic lids (turned into caterpillars with pipe cleaners) and the usual suspects (loo rolls etc..!). Putting them in separate containers so you can manage the piles of stuff helps (as it does for the tidy ups afterwards!).
5. Notice things in your environment and talk about them with your children- the colour in the sky, lines on the buildings, texture. Art and creativity is about learning to see, which children are very good at . Noticing and talking about what we see can become a common currency in the language of our families that encourages the artistic eye.
6. Have Family Make Times. We haven’t done this a lot but the few times we have done it stand out as really warm memories for me. We have sat round the table with a pile of play dough and made stuff. We have cut out cardboard stars and glittered them for a Christmas display (with our friends Charlotte and Rob – and I do remember Rob saying he had not made anything since he was a boy and had really enjoyed it!). We have covered the table with lining paper and had family drawing time. The key is in your attitude. You are not helping the children do art and crafts, you are doing it alongside them.Great, great fun and happy memories made.
7. Praise and show off their creative work. Avoid general “that’s lovely” praise and use descriptive praise instead. “I love the way you have put those colours together”. “You have concentrated really hard to draw those lines in that way” etc… I did a post here about the children’s art gallery in our home and I find its a lovely way to honour their creativity too.
I am going to stop at number 7 on the list (which is quite good for me!) and hand over to you now…