Very little pleases me more than to engage one of my children in an artistic process. From the time my babies are born, we are enjoying art together. It all starts with music — singing and rhythm. We sing, and dance, and play piano with babies on our lap. Little artistic neural pathways start developing in their brains.
As soon as a little one can hold a crayon or stick his fist in fingerprint, he can start becoming aware of self-expression through the visual arts. As soon as play dough can be held and not eaten – sculpture can be explored. And of course, as soon as you can read a child a book while they focus on the pictures art books can be explored.
This week, my younger children have found a new passion — drawing in sketch books. They have been watching the oldest (who is fifteen) draw in her sketchbook since the beginning of this school year, share her art with Daddy, learn new techniques. And they’ve been getting excited! So when my twelve-year-old asked for his own drawing pencils and sketchbook this week and all the littles chimed in with “me too!” it was time for a trip to the local arts and crafts store.
I was relieved to find the sketchbooks on sale for 50% off! I was able to buy nice sketchbooks for each child for approximately $5 each. I did not expect for this new passion to become so all-encompassing! From the time they get up until bed time, they are thinking about things they can draw, places to hang their artwork, and ways to improve. Today they found the lightbox again. What an uproar of excitement as they each took turns tracing the outlines of various items and then embellishing each.
1. The most important thing you can do for your child in the development of artistic skill is provide him with the supplies and the freedom to make a mess.
I have many friends who just can’t tolerate the mess created by artistic development. If it’s music, they can’t stand the noise. If it’s play dough, they can’t stand the crumbs, if it’s sketching they can’t stand the loose papers and pencils everywhere. My friends, true art is rarely a neat and clean process. And art does some pretty amazing things for young brains! It’s kinda important that you don’t use your own OCD tendencies to outlaw artistic creativity in your home.
Can I just admit right now that I’ve been doing that for the last few days? The only child in my home who is not currently enthralled with sketching has been begging me to get out the paints. Honestly, the thought of four children painting makes me cringe most days. The fact is that we do paint at least quarterly because I value that experience for my kids. And usually, once I drag the paints out and get over my initial cringing — I enjoy myself. But I’m not encouraging her passion right now, and a passionate interest in any learning activity can be an amazing motivator for your child. Tomorrow, we get out the paints. Even though Grandma is coming the next day :).
Besides access to tools and the freedom to make a mess, a few other things can help foster your child’s love of art (or redirect their passion into a fabulous learning opportunity.)
2. Look at books and read books about art together.
3. Listen to a wide variety of music. And by wide variety, I do not mean your favorite radio station 24/7. You can find a huge variety of free classical music, christian music, and popular music from the 21st century in various forms online and listen together.
4. Find an art museum with driving distance and make sure you go early enough to participate in the free classes they often offer. We went to the Getty Museum recently and I was amazed at how much my children enjoyed our visit.
5. Introduce art through videos — you can find high quality videos about ballet, vocal concerts, dance, and visual arts at your local library in the children’s section.
6. Attend concerts live. Nothing inspires a child more than a live performance. Often, you can find free concerts in your local park from Spring to Fall, get educational discount tickets for events in the nearest big city, or find free concerts by non-profit groups at Christmas time or late spring.
7. Take a class together. Libraries and homeschool coops often have art classes you can participate in. My children and I have been enjoying an art class with our local homeschool group. Our class is taught by a talented and sweet volunteer teacher from the local art community.
8. Make sure your children see you enjoying art. Dance together, sing together, play the piano, draw with them, color with them — whatever it is — you enjoy art too.
9. Display your child’s artwork prominently. Be proud of what they draw, paint, sculpt, sing, dance, or play! Make sure your husband sees each new project. Send pictures to grandparents or have your child share her art with Grandma on Skype. Invite the neighbors to their concerts. Praise creativity, design, and technique.
God made us in His image. One of the attributes of God is Creator. Using our talents to create beautiful art honors God. While we cannot be the Creator, we can be mini-creators and creating works of art to honor Him is a form of worship. Children should be encouraged in the development of artistic skills with the tools and the freedom they need to excel.