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Long before cell phones, iPads, computers, and other electronic devices riddled with apps, us kids stayed occupied with nature and the arts. We ran wild outside until the streetlights blinked on (or Dad emitted his loud, forceful whistle to book it home). We drew hopscotch squares and scrawled messages and works of art on the driveways and sidewalks.
During the Little Golden Book days, I would write funny skits, then force the kids on the block to perform them in the cul-de-sac. Other days, my sister and I would spend hours on our front porch coloring in our Precious Moments coloring book. Once we completed our colorful masterpieces we’d walk door-to-door to sell them off as if they were Girl Scouts Thin Mints cookies. Hey, we needed to make our ice cream truck money somehow!
You could say, creative arts have played a part in my life from a very young age. From orchestrating puppet shows to writing short stories, (and most recently graduating from grad school in the field of arts and sciences), the arts have always been “my thang.”
Kids nowadays, however, are less interested in the arts or the outdoors. Kids aren’t riding their bikes as much, putting on puppet shows or painting family portraits, nor searching for salamanders in the creek nearby. And, the negative effects of these choices are showing.
Children are now lacking the psychomotor skills to engage in active play.
They now rely on technology for most of their play time, significantly limiting challenges to their creativity and imaginations, along with limiting necessary challenges to their bodies to achieve optimal sensory and motor development.
Even sedentary babies and toddlers bombarded with disordered sensory stimulation are experiencing delays in attaining developmental milestones, with a huge impact on elementary foundation skills for achieving literacy. These effects caused the land of chateaus, croissants, fashion, and wine to ban all “Baby TV” in their country.
While iPads and the TV can be convenient electronic babysitters while we sweep the kitchen floor or fold the endless batches of laundry, we need to make a better effort of fostering creativity in our child’s activities.
“Research indicates that a child who is exposed to the arts acquires a special ability to think creatively, be original, discover, innovate, and create intellectual property—key attributes for individual success and social prosperity in the twenty-first century.”
– International Child Art Foundation
Art offers many benefits for children. Art builds confidence and promotes accountability, patience, and determination.
Creative activities also help children to develop attention skills and cognitive learning. Their imagination is running wild and it encourages them to come up with new ideas and to think in a unique way since creativity involves exploration and problem-solving.
Maybe, my daughter Violet will become such a prolific painter that she can help Dad cover the spackle that’s been on our stairwell wall the past two years? You never know, if you don’t try (okay, okay wishful thinking here).
Here is a list of creative activities to develop your child’s artistic learning and encourage her (or him) to think in a more challenging and creative way.
1. Playing dress-up is fun! Save some of those old clothes and accessories you no longer need: hats, glasses, scarves, necklaces, purses, shoes, and other items lurking in the Salvation Army bag in your trunk. Don’t forget to save those old Halloween costumes for dress-up shenanigans too!
2. Create a kiddy “art studio” in your home. Fill the studio with a selection of tools and materials: markers, finger paints, clay, crayons, scissors, watercolors, paint brushes, glues, papers of various sizes and textures, random tchotchkes around the house (like buttons or old picture frames), and boxes and containers in a variety of sizes. The kitchen table is a perfect “studio.”
3. Be dramatic when you read to your child. Act out stories with props, costumes, and enthusiasm! Encourage your child to create their own stories and perform them for you. You never know who Ellen’s next big sensation will be!
4. Listen to different types of music at home and in the car. Tune in to different radio stations and check out a variety of musical genres on CD from the public library for free! Listening to different genres of music exposes your children’s ears to a wide range of sound and culture.
Want to know other fun stuff you can do at the public library?
Check this out!
5. When you’re blasting the latest Drake tunes or rocking out to the Steve Miller band, dance together! Teach your children traditional dances you know (no, not the Humpty Dance) or improvise with them. Dancing is fun and great exercise!
6. Sing together! Teach the children your favorite sing-along songs. Try a song like, “Apples and Bananas” or “She’ll Be Coming ‘Round the Mountain.” One of my favorite morning routines is to sit with Violet at the kitchen table and watch and sing along to nursery rhymes from the Little Baby Bum channel on YouTube.
7. Locate some kiddy comic books for inspiration at your local library then create an original comic strip with unique characters and pictures. Create a storyboard and have your child fill in each box by drawing a scene and a speech cloud. Come up with a name for the comic strip and each of the characters.
8. Create a memorial scrapbook together. Put photos, magazine cutouts, drawings, mementos, and captions together creatively. My Great Grandma created a scrapbook filled with images of dolls, cats, stuffed animals, and other kid-friendly photos cut out from a variety of magazines and old greeting cards, then gave it to me as a gift when I was a little girl. I absolutely loved my scrapbook and always thought it would be such a fun activity for children to do themselves.
9. Check out local arts programs after school, on weekends, and during school breaks. Many recreation departments like the YMCA, Boys and Girls Clubs of America, and libraries offer these. Change up the typical summer sports camp and send your child to a fun art camp where your child can explore the artistic worlds of creative writing, dance, music, theatre, and visual arts.
10. Take your child to an art museum or art gallery. Discuss the trip before you go and build up their interest. Many museums have scavenger hunt-type handouts for kids at the front desk. Grab one and try it out! Ask your child questions about the artwork around them. In addition to university museums, there are lots of cool places to introduce your child to art in your community that are free!