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January 22, 2018

How to look at art: Creativity for young children Pt 2

Kids dance at MASK exhibition
Kids dance at MASK exhibition

Young children build creativity through doing. Children, therefore, must have practical opportunities for playing out ideas and venturing ‘outside the box’. Parents and educators should understand what kind of activities facilitate creativity learning.

Art is the best way to foster creativity in children. It strengthens children’s visual thinking and provides them with the firsthand experiences to discover, experiment, invent, and think of many solutions. Art encourages curiosity and develops whole-body motor skills, hand-eye coordination, language, and social skills. 

Children who experience education rich in the arts have higher academic scores than children with little or no art education. They display leadership and are more socially engaged. As adults, they tend to do jobs with higher responsibilities and salaries.

A typical Creativity Activities Toolkit for parents and educators would consist:

1. Visual arts activities: children make simple drawings and paintings, collages, model out of clay and dough, decorate elements of clothes, and construct toys. They explore techniques and materials, and discover colour and texture and connect those to ideas and associations.

2. Music and performance activities: Children make simple music, role-play, act ‘as if’, dress up, dance, sing, tell stories, play puppetry, and improvise. They discover sound and motor control and connect those to emotional responses. They learn to ask and answer questions, pay attention and reason, and follow simple instructions.

Children should learn to be creative in a group and to enjoy sharing creativity with others. This teaches them ‘collective creativity’ that plays an important role in life. Work produced during the activities should be displayed for others to see. This also boosts their confidence and teach to value what they and others create.

Parents should note that creativity learning is not about the physical materials. Children can have all expensive toys in the world, yet their creativity still can be impeded. Creativity-learning does not need much money. How much does it cost for a child to find an object and imagine what it can be, or pretend to be a lion, or dance and sing? Creativity learning is about parent-child dynamics and self-esteem. Parents can be best creativity facilitators for their children, yet, they can also damage creativity. What makes the real difference is how parents and educators interact with children during the creativity learning activities and on a day-to-day and minute-by-minute basis.

The Creativity Environment Toolkit explains how to guide and direct children to build their creativity and self-esteem:

1. Guidance and direction. Parents and educators should encourage children to change and manipulate things, investigate and experiment, and to come up with as many ideas as possible. Ask open-ended questions such as ‘what can be’ and ‘what if?’ Draw children in activities gradually, observe them carefully, and give them adequate time and space to develop their creative responses. Support them to gather knowledge, and provide them with good discipline and workplace.

2. Self-esteem. Activities should take place in the enjoyable emotional climate of friendship, openness, curiosity and suspension of judgement. Parents and educators must not dismiss, belittle or criticise children’s opinions, but instead encourage ‘crazy’ and ‘half-baked’ ideas and making mistakes. Support the development of children’s ‘creative character’: courage, evaluated risk-taking, difference, individuality, and ‘can-do’ attitude. Allow children to express their emotions. Praise children enthusiastically for trying, whether or not they succeed. Display humour and playfulness, and see the powerful skills learnt behind the ‘fun’. Nurturing self-esteem will also ensure a happy relationship with your children.

 

Alla Tkachuk, the founder of MASK creativity-learning programme for young Kenyans. If this article gave your food for thought, share your thoughts with Alla on [email protected]

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