What memories do you have of art, as a child? Sit and think about that question at some point today. One of my favorite memories has to do with hearing the art teacher’s squeaky-wheeled cart as she rolled into the classroom. With a big smile she would announce, “It’s time for art!” The kids would all clap and cheer, and I couldn’t wait to get started. During art class, the instructor would lead us through assignments in drawing, painting, etching, and various forms of collage work. I vaguely remember my actual finished designs, but I definitely remember the feeling of freedom when I was creating my art pieces. Aside from the general guidelines for the assignment, we were free to come up with whatever we wanted. If we didn’t like how the art work was turning out, we thought of a way to fix it. This was my first taste of self-expressionism.
I now have a four-year old son who has recently shown an interest in art. Being a professional graphic designer, I want to do cartwheels and sit him down with lesson plans, but I know that wouldn’t be the right thing to do. Like my own art journey has taught me, my son needs the same freedom I had to explore creativity in his own way. So, I have been sitting on my hands and patiently looking over his shoulder as he makes his own art pieces. For the longest time, Nathanael would just scribble on paper. My husband would try to coach our son and I would quickly stop him. I would tell my husband it was our son’s time to explore, and he would organically develop his art skills on his own. And he did!
This year I have noticed a change in his art journey. Nathanael started to color. To an adult’s eye, the coloring was not correct (a tree would be red or the sky would be green), but again, it was how he wanted his coloring to be, and that is one of the natural rules of self-expressionism. My son quickly developed his techniques into multi-colored works of art, which were unique to him and his art style, and I loved them! My refrigerator at times looked like a kaleidoscope, and I couldn’t help but smile every time I passed by!
Is your own child showing an interest in art? Here are some fun activities you can do at home! These activities are things I have done with my son, which have helped him along his journey of art through self-expression:
1. Collage work: Find things around the house to create a sculpture with, or do a scavenger hunt outside and have your child create a collage with your findings. During the fall, Nathanael and I walked around our neighborhood collecting leaves and other fall items. I then asked Nathanael to create a fall-themed scene with them!
2. Fun with clay: Pull out some clay or play dough and start creating! See what shapes your child naturally comes up with. Have them narrate what they are making or ask what they would like to make and build it together! Nathanael and I did this not too long ago, and I showed him how to animate his clay creations. We had so much fun together! View the clay creation here!
To add to the fun, you could create your own clay! Here is a simple recipe: 1 cup of flour, 3/8 cup of salt and 1 tablespoon of vegetable oil. You can even create natural dyes to make the clay colorful! (Brown – 1 tablespoon of hot water and cocoa powder, Fuchsia – liquid from canned beets, Orange – 1 tablespoon of hot water and paprika and Yellow – 1 tablespoon of hot water and turmeric)
3. Chalk drawing: Now that spring is finally here, it’s time to venture back outdoors. Take some chalk with you and make your driveway a work of art! Scavenger hunts work here too. Collect rocks, sand, leaves and flowers and have your child incorporate these items in their chalk pieces. Then all you have to do is sweep the items up after you are done.
4. Themed art projects: Imagination and art go hand in hand. Think of some projects your children can make related to their favorite characters. For example, this past year my son had a superhero party (since he was convinced that he was Batman), so I decided to do a mask craft the kids could enjoy. I cut out all sorts of shapes from colorful sticky foam boards, and I set out glitter, crayons, and markers. I gave each child a blank mask and let them have at it. The kids all wore their masked creations, and I was recently told by one of the moms that her son still has his mask from the party we had last July! Other themed project ideas are a pirate play date (give them the tools to make a map and see what they come up with), or a princess evening event (have the kids scavenge for a stick outdoors and turn it into a wand!). These great imaginative exercises can help your children transform into the characters they love, and that is one of the best forms of self-expression.
5. An art diary: Give your child a blank piece of paper and ask them to draw or paint something they observed that day. It can be anything. You can be as specific as you want (draw an animal you saw at the zoo) or as general as you want (draw something you did today). This is a great assignment to give your child at a restaurant, a play date with a friend, or during quiet time at home!
Over the past couple of weeks, I have seen a spike in coloring and art involvement, so I thought my son might benefit from an art class. I asked Nathanael if he would like to take an art class and his eyes immediately got wide and he yelled “YEAH!” That very evening I enrolled him in a six-week art course that starts next week. I can’t wait to see where my son’s art journey will take him next! This topic is very important to me, so much so, that I will be writing a series of posts on children and the arts and the influence of art on their cognitive development and problem solving skills. Art is an important building block for us all, so let’s do what we can to make sure we keep it alive and well in all our lives!
If you liked this post, please read my other write-up on children and the performing arts called “Lights, Camera and KIDS!”
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