20 Tips for Encouraging Your Child’s Artistic Expression
One of the worst things that a parent can do is to squelch their child’s creativity. Creativity is how children approach the world in order to learn about it and to learn about themselves. It is how they express the way that they are feeling and how they share themselves with the world around them. Creativity is how kids play and how kids work. And often, parents squelch that creativity without even realizing that they are doing it. Other times, parents just simply fail to nurture the buds of artistic expression that their children start blooming. Whether intentional or accidental, this failure of the parent to encourage a child’s self-expression through art ends up stifling the child, sometimes only a little bit and sometimes in a way that can be crippling for life. As parents, it is crucial to work on doing things that encourage your children to be expressive through creativity. This allows them to learn how to communicate their feelings and to be okay with what those feelings are and it gives them an appropriate outlet for sharing their fears and worries and dreams.
Parents who are interested in doing more to make sure that they are nurturing their children’s artistic expression can follow any of these twenty tips for making that happen:
1. Give your child lots of free time just to play. Many parents feel as though they must structure their child’s time with classes and sports activities. Those things are important but it’s equally important to give your children appropriately supervised but unstructured playtime (alone and with friends) so that they have room to just be creative with their play.
2. Make arts opportunities available to your child. There is definitely a time and place for arts classes. Let your child choose from dance and music and arts classes for afterschool activities and summer school. Don’t insist that your child do any one type of art but make that option available.
3. Praise the process not the product. When you tell a child that a specific piece of art is wonderful, it can create pressure around art. When you celebrate the joy of your child’s fingerpainting and drawing and the process of making art, you encourage your child to love that process no matter what the end result product is. All artists need to learn that!
4. Never force your kids to stick with an art form that they don’t like. Yes, you may see that your child is brilliant in his music classes but if he doesn’t love it and he really wants to take dance then you should let that happen. He may return to music eventually but as long as he’s got an outlet that satisfies him, you’re doing your job as a good parent.
5. Limit the amount of TV time that your child has. Any activities that involve passive activity should be limited. It is through active involvement in creative play that your child will develop artistic expression.
6. Encourage the enjoyment of artsy technology. Let your kids play with the old digital camera, teach them how to do some basic design stuff on the computer and let them know that art and technology can be combined in a fun way.
7. Take your kids to arts events. It doesn’t matter what they are as long as it’s something that you do now and then. Make that a regular part of your life and both of you will find yourselves being more creative!
8. Ask your child questions. Ask her what she thinks about life. When she asks you why the sky is blue, ask her what she thinks first. This gives kids the chance to use their imaginations.
9. Create a space in your home for art. It can be a room or a corner of a room but make it a place that is always meant for play. It’s where you keep crayons and fabrics and things that are great for make-believe. Let your kids help design it and figure out what to include there.
10. Tell stories. Most kids enjoy hearing their parents tell stories. Don’t just read them books but tell stories off of the top of your head so that your kids will learn that they can do this too.
11. Know what’s going on with your kids at school. School can often stifle a child’s creativity. Make sure that you keep an open line of communication with your kids about how they feel in school so that you can tell if this is happening.
12. Give your child choices. This is an important parenting technique anyway and one that ultimately leads to many different benefits for your child. One of those benefits is that the child learns that there are many options in life and that it’s okay to choose one and see what happens. Choices can be as simple as “do you want this or that for dinner” or as detailed as having kids help pick travel destinations or birthday event locations.
13. Encourage your child’s relationships with other artistic kids. Your kids should be friends with who they want but make it easy for them to spend time with other creative families to foster more appreciation of the arts.
14. Pay attention when your children show you their works of art. Sometimes parents dismiss things that they don’t realize are artistic like the mud pie that was made during outdoor play time. Notice your kids’ art everywhere and comment on it appropriately.
15. Make your home a DIY home. Try to do as much creative stuff around the house as you can and your kids will pick that up.
16. Find places where your kids can submit art for prizes. Many grocery stores and local kids’ centers have art contests and talent shows. If this is something that your child is at all interested in, make sure that you’re finding those opportunities for him or her.
17. Host all-ages art parties at your home. Have once-monthly potluck gatherings where your friends bring their kids, their art supplies and some food to share and everyone just gets messy and has a good time. The memories of these events will stick with your kids forever and the fun that you have will be enjoyed by all.
18. Never dismiss art as a career choice. Many parents fear that their kids will grow up to be starving artists. You know what? If they’re drawn to art, they’ll go into an art career whether you like it or not. Instead, encourage that option. Let your kids dream. It’s going to be awhile before they have to figure out what they want to do with their lives anyway.
19. Celebrate life together. Stop to look at the rainbows. Jump in puddles with your kids. Make cakes for every holiday. Celebrate life with creativity and you will be showing your kids how to do the same in their own lives.
20. Let your kids know that they are loved for who they are. Ultimately, art is self-expression. Children who feel safe to express themselves will naturally do so. Your job as a parent is to make sure that you create that safe place.
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