By Katie Wall Podracky
There are many fun ways to help support art education and develop creativity in children. To help your local art teacher, introduce yourself and offer to volunteer. You could help arrange a bulletin board for her, or provide supplies. Personally, I’m always in need of copy paper, baby wipes, and toilet paper tubes. I’ll also gladly accept any unwanted old art supplies you have at home. I use old markers to make my own liquid watercolors. Google it if you’re interested—it’s awesome fun and inexpensive. Ask what the teacher needs. Sometimes it’s really simple to help. You could also offer to come in and help on messy days. Clay day is a blast. You’ll see the joy and the thrill of the art room first hand.
For the little ones, read them one of these excellent art books. Beautiful Oops! by Barney Saltzberg is a pop-up book about how to turn mistakes into opportunities. My toddler nieces and nephew love it, as well as my younger elementary students. It turns drips of paint into little pigs riding cars and crumpled paper into fun surprises. After we read the book, I often give the children a paper with a mistake on it. Then it’s their job to figure out how to make great art with it anyway. It’s easy and good fun. Students get to practice recovering from their mistakes, and you get to put scrap paper to good use. It also teaches not to waste! Yay!
Another book along the same lines that helps develop creativity is The Perfect Square by Michael Hall. Again, it teaches resilience, creativity and alternate points of view. It’s about an optimistic little square that gets torn up, shredded, and crumpled. That poor little square goes through the wringer and turns it around to create beautiful experiences out of hardship. What a metaphor for life huh? For the activity, all you need is a construction paper square, scissors and a glue stick—let the kids tear apart poor little square and then practice re-creating beauty out of a mess.
My last favorite children’s art book is an oldie but a goody. Harold and the Purple Crayon by Crockett Johnson teaches students that they have the power to change their environments and to solve their own problems with imagination. All they need is a silly little crayon. It doesn’t even have to be purple. For an art project, I often give students a purple crayon as well as different purple shapes. It’s their job to take it from there and create whatever masterpiece their heart tells them to make.
Other art activities to develop creativity at home can include:
Sidewalk Chalk Paints: Mix water, food coloring and cornstarch in a muffin tin. Hand over a brush and let the little ones go to town outside. They can learn color mixing, develop fine motor skills, and build observational skills critical for science class later on. When you’re done, hose everyone off, especially the toddlers. It might be the best part.
Homemade play dough: With simple ingredients and 30 minutes, you can create a huge amount of play dough. For tons of recipes, just Google homemade play dough or homemade salt dough. Children develop fine motor skills while they practice making tracks, rolling logs, building houses or even cooking. It’s great, cheap fun and puts your child in control for a bit. See a tutorial here.
Cardboard Fort: It’s every kid’s favorite. So what if an expensive toy came in the box. Sometimes the box is still the best part. Offer crayons, construction paper or paint, depending on how messy you’re willing to let it get. See where the box can take your child. It could be a spaceship, a battleground for superheroes, a veterinary office for stuffed animals, or a doll’s dream house. Fun!
Build it Box: Put clean recyclables and random doo-dads in a box. When your kids are bored, get out the “build it box” and have them create an invention. Brainstorm about what kind of robot they could make and inspire them with some online research.
Stop Animation: If your child is a little bit older and technologically savvy, get him away from the video games by making him a movie producer. There are lots of stop-motion animation apps that are fun to play with and fairly easy to figure out… especially if you’re 8. A few of my favorites are: iMotion, StopAnimator and OSnap! Lite. Most of these are free downloads in the app store. Kids can take multiple pictures of their toys in different positions and really make some awesome and hilarious video shorts.
Remember when you’re arranging group activities with siblings or neighbors, allow kids to set roles for themselves. I do an amusement park engineering lesson with students where they create a ride from simple machines and recycled materials. There are always roles like safety engineer, lead designer, lead engineer—make it sound fun and give everybody ownership and specific roles for a more successful collaboration.
I sure hope these ideas help get you started to develop creativity with your children! If you try some of these, please let me know. I’d love to hear from you.
Katie Wall Podracky is an artist and art teacher in North Carolina. To learn more visit her website at www.katiewallart.com