How to encourage creativity in your child.
A guest blog written by Carla Gee.
Think back to the last time you sat down and drew, and really let your imagination go wild. Chances are, you’re back in your childhood again, eagerly drawing a fantastical city or a bizarre beast, or simply just scribbling and playing.
Early childhood is the perfect time to set your inner artist free. But for many new parents, the idea of introducing art and creativity to their little one can be a daunting task.
Having built my own career on creativity – I’m a former high school art teacher, graphic designer, illustrator, actor and current freelance writer – encouraging creativity in my two small children (aged 3 and 5) has been a big priority. It’s more than that: creativity is a lifestyle for us.
If you’re new to art, or find that it’s all too messy and stressful, don’t worry: I’ve got you.
6 Tips on Encouraging Creativity in Young Children
1. Do your art projects in the kitchen, or outdoors.
Why? Because kitchens have floors that are easy to wipe down (no carpet), and it’s easier to be messy in the garden! And who knows, these areas may inspire your little artist even more – salt sprinkled into wet watercolour paintings makes fascinating starbust shapes, and leaves and flowers can be used in place of paintbrushes.
2. Allow time to clean up – and don’t be afraid to use technology to help you.
I thought I’d put this one early, because often the mess of art time can be a real turn- off for parents. After your little one has made your home look very “artistic”, distract them and then dedicate yourself to doing a quick yet thorough clean-up of the area.
The longer you leave it, the worse it will get, trust me. My trick is the let the kids watch some TV as I tidy up – after I’ve washed their hands, of course!
3. Rules are boring.
“No, don’t mix the colours together!”
“Use the paintbrush, not your fingers!”
“Honey, why aren’t you drawing something nice? Why are you just scribbling?”
When I hear a parent saying these sorts of comments to their kids, my heart sinks.
By imposing too many rules on our kids during art time, it inhibits their creativity and makes them overly cautious. Loosen up, and who knows – you may find yourself joining in with some finger-painting!
4. Praise, praise, praise.
If your child makes anything – a scrunched piece of paper that’s supposed to be a
moon, a bunch of scribbles or a drawing of the family they’ve been working on for
ages – praise them. Don’t worry about “spoiling” them with nice words. What you’re actually doing by praising them is encouraging them in their creativity, and affirming them as an artist. And when they see how happy their art makes you, they’ll make more, and improve.
5. Point out beautiful things that you see in daily life.
It could be the bright yellow jeans of the lady crossing the road, the orange clouds
over the purple sky at sunset, some clever street art, the logo on a cereal box or a
freaky insect – whatever it is, draw your child’s attention to it, and encourage them to appreciate the interesting, beautiful and eye-catching.
6. Let them be creative and messy with almost anything.
This is probably the most daunting tip, but well worth it. If you see your child getting messy with a non-art materials – such as using their finger on a fogged shower screen to doodle pictures, smearing pasta sauce all over the table of their high chair or arranging dead leaves on top of dirt – take a deep breath before you tell them to stop. In these moments of messiness, kids are actually making patterns, drawing and experiencing textures. By allowing our children to play with these non-art materials, they are slowly and quietly (but not neatly) gaining skills that they’ll later bring to “real” artistic masterpieces. Remember to be sensible, though – only allow your kids to get messy with non-toxic and safe materials.
Carla Gee is a Canberra-based writer and content creator. You can find Carla on
Instagram as @bycarlagee (for selfies and snacks), @littlecloudcarla (for cartoons and sketches) and @fluffy.fiction (for enthusiastic reviews on chick lit and romance novels). Photo by Samantha Hurley from Burst