Art can have a life-changing positive impact on childhood development. I know because it happened to me. I was born with health issues and often felt “not well.” My mother kept my sketchbook and pencils bedside and would gently remind me, “You always feel better when you draw.”
Our family of seven was squished into a tiny house in the inner city. Dad worked seasonally, and we made do. My good fortune was that Mom enrolled me in the Cleveland Museum of Art children’s art studio. Exploring vast galleries on Saturday morning and visiting the collections of art through the ages served as the model for reaching beyond my small world.
Here are 10 tips for helping your child develop a creative connection with art.
ONE. Stay curious. Let your child witness your own joy in discovery. Notice, maintain, and talk about the interesting and beautiful elements within the environment.
TWO. Ask your child to play “I Spy with My Artist Eye.” Play often and help your child remain connected to this fun way of observing the world. As your child becomes more skilled, help him or her see deeper with the use of a hand magnifying glass or by simply looking through the lens of a camera to isolate shapes and patterns. As children continue to practice, their observation skills will become sharpened.
THREE. Encourage quiet time and create a special art studio at home, where drawing materials live. Gather together sketch books of varying sizes, construction paper and cardstock, scissors, stick glue, drawing pencils (2B, 4B, 6B), a hole punch, and washable markers. Place the studio table near a window with an interesting view or next to a “breathing chair,” where anyone in the family knows they can take some time out to just sit and be quiet. TIP: It’s excellent for your child to see you take a “breathing chair break,” to see you sit quietly, to see you observe, and to notice that you enjoy drawing, too!
FOUR. Ask your child questions such as “Tell me about this.” Or “What’s the story here?” Never criticize your own or your child’s creativity. Art making is about process not product. Call everything an experiment. You can’t make a mistake if you are experimenting!
FIVE. Gently remind your child to draw and paint for the fun (and relaxation) of it, not because they have to create something special. Most artists spend a good deal of time “taking lines for a walk,” doodling and letting their brain rest from all of the complex scheduling that life requires. All of us can play detective, explorer, and adventurer with art materials.
SIX. Did someone mention walk? Take a walk at least once a week with your child to connect to the natural world outside the door. Once a month make that walk extra special by going to the beach or to First Landing State Park to hike a trail. This is another great time to play “I Spy with My Artist Eye.” A pair of field glasses or a camera with a close-up lens will help to expand the view of what’s out there.
SEVEN. Keep it simple: basic creative tools are best. Encourage awareness that all artists start with and continue to create with the most basic and elemental materials. Paper and good quality artist pencils are tools that last a lifetime in terms of their ability to help ideas show themselves on the page.
EIGHT. Speaking of paper, a large roll of white butcher paper, which you can buy at a restaurant supply store, can help jump start a period of boredom. Cut off a large piece and let your child create a mural.
NINE. When your child is in a funk, offer him or her an opportunity to draw his or her feelings of boredom, frustration, anger, confusion, etc., using large paper and markers or crayons. Don’t try to analyze the drawing; the idea is to give a space for the feelings to get out and to be seen by the child as energy moving out of their body and onto the paper. Also remind your children to celebrate joy by drawing it, too!
TEN. Make quality creative skills—such as observation, curiosity, giggling, asking questions, etc.—a part of your family environment. Make it fun and your children will have the key to being creative individuals built into their way of thinking and feeling for a lifetime.
Finally, remember that imagination is a gift that expands with use.
Donna Iona Drozda has been an instructor at the Virginia Museum of Contemporary Art (MOCA) for 20 years. She teaches Saturdays in the Studio for ages 6-12 as well as other workshops. For more information about Donna, visit www.donnaionadrozda.com.
MOCA offers day, evening, and weekend art classes, workshops, and master classes year-round through their Studio School for ages 2+, including Spring Break and Summer Art Camps. MOCA is located at 2200 Parks Ave., in Virginia Beach. www.VirginiaMOCA.org757-425-0000.