CREATIVE ARTS HELP CHILDREN DEVELOP

Sitting inside a semi-darkened room, eyes fixed on a brightly lit screen, hands clutching a small plastic console while thumbs and fingers move in a blur of complicated movements may be some children’s idea of ultimate fun, but as parents we know that our children need to have a good mix of physical and mental pursuits to fill in their time after school.

The traditional view of children out in the backyard laughing while running around playing games is indeed a good antidote for too much indoors computer time, but we need to also remember that an interest in creative arts such as music, dance, drama, painting, drawing and sculpture are just as important to our child’s development.

And that doesn’t just mean little Mary should learn to play the piano. Young Jack could also benefit from an opportunity to dress up and act out a play or sing a song.

The arts enrich our lives and offer examples to explore cultural and individual identity, and to develop thoughts, opinions and feelings. If that sounds a bit high brow, just remember how many young preschoolers are gloriously happy to dip their fingers into brightly colored paint and create Jackson Pollock-like masterpieces on construction paper, or themselves for that matter.

In psychological terms, when children participate in the creative arts it promotes their language, social and intellectual development. It is a very natural way to interpret and think about their world and to express themselves. Without encouragement, as children grow older they commonly have less confidence in their artistic abilities and may miss out on experiences and opportunities for development.

So how do we encourage our children to be creative?

Tying them to a piano or violin, or dragging them around to post modernist art exhibitions isn’t what we are talking about here. Rather, it’s more an extension of the ‘stick the drawing on the fridge door’ approach. In short, take an active interest in what your child shows is a creative interest for them. For example, find out for them where lessons are available or where equipment can be borrowed, rented or purchased. Offer to help out by making costumes or offering any equipment you might have.

Of course, you need to also let your child try a few different things. What seems interesting initially might turn out to be too difficult or not in tune with their personality. Remember though not to let your child withdraw from lessons before the end of a term unless the activity is clearly upsetting them. Children need to learn that confidence at a task comes with practice over time.

Encouraging creativity in children doesn’t have to be directly related to a specific art or craft. Lots of fun activities encourage creativity. Singing and dancing to any type of tune helps develop a child’s sense of rhythm, melody, harmony and timing. You can help your child to notice details such as patterns, colors, shapes, lines and textures by talking with them about images of natural beauty you see everyday — a pattern of bark on a tree, the shape of a seed pod, the veins in a leaf.

There are also many art activities held specifically for children, particularly during school holidays. Take them to concerts, exhibitions, pantomimes, street performances and events in the park. Share your observations and talk to your child about their own reactions.

Of course, when your child does produce their very own work of art, drama, or music take the time to praise their efforts and give their activity attention. This why we stick the painting on the fridge. Not because it is aesthetically pleasing, but rather because it tells our children that we value their creative efforts. Avoid negative comments when giving feedback and encourage practice and care for any instruments or equipment they are responsible for.

Above all, remember that creativity and the arts is as natural and vital to a child’s development as the physical play that helps develop coordination and muscle development. You never know, you might even discover some of your very own creative interests in the process.

Tips for encouraging your child’s music and performing arts activities.

- Be prepared for noise. A piano standing in a family room is much better than sending your child off to another room to practice because you don’t like the sound.

- Help your child to move furniture around if they need space to rehearse a dance or play.

- Provide an audience. Don’t force your child to perform if they don’t want to, but involve other family members who can show an interest in your child’s progress.

- Attend formal performances that include your child as often as possible.

- Remember to say something positive about your child’s performance and leave any corrective feedback for their teacher.

Tips for encouraging your child’s painting and visual arts activities.


- Keep small items for collages and art projects handy.

- Store art supplies where your child can easily access them and set up their own activities.

- Be prepared for spills and mess — so try and use old towels or shirts and an area at can be cleaned up easily.

 
Dr. Matthew Sanders is a clinical psychologist at the University of Queensland in Australia and founder of the Triple P - Positive Parenting Program.