Art at Home: How to Encourage Your Child's Creativity in a Mindful Way

Childhood art is more than just a pretty drawing or painting. Toddlers, preschoolers, and young children enjoy the process of creating art and have endless creativity. Parents and caregivers have the important task of encouraging this creativity without pushing our children to seek external validation. These tips for talking to children about art are a must read for every parent.

“Our task, regarding creativity, is to help children climb their own mountains, as high as possible. No one can do more.” 

Loris Malaguzzi

 

The benefits of art for children are clear. From language skills to self-expression, art is a beautiful and important part of childhood. Perhaps you go to Pinterest to find fun arts and craft ideas or you want the planning done for you so you became a Play to Learn member. Either way, you are ready to go. Your art activity is prepped and it’s time to start creating.

Now what?

While your child is busy mixing colors and gluing on sequins, what should you be doing?

The answer might surprise you.

A parent's or caregiver's role should be limited during art time. Staying close to supervise is important, especially for younger children. But the more you can step back and don’t interfere with the creative process, the more a child benefits from art.


What does this look like?

There are 3 roles you can take on as a caregiver during art.

1.Observer

  • Stay close but be a quietly supportive presence.
  • Limit the amount of samples or modeling you do. If needed, show a brief sample and then put it out of sight. Model the technique if it is new and then take a step back.
  • Wait to be invited in. Your child may want you to create with them, but wait to be invited into the activity.

2. Boundary Keeper

Set any boundaries upfront for safety (no running with scissors) and to control messes (paint stays at the table). Within the boundaries you have set, let your child get creative. It may look different from how you planned it. That is often where the creative magic happens. You may need to restate the boundaries a few times.

3. Art Talk

  • Allow your child to work for a while before saying anything.
  • Ask open-ended questions if your child seems stuck or to encourage reflection.
  • Avoid providing value-based statements or generic compliments.

 

Let’s Talk About Art

Once your child has worked for a while, you can begin to discuss their work with them. There are a few ways to do this.

 

1. Sportscast: Narrate what you see without giving opinions. This shows your child that you notice their work without feeling that you are complimenting or critiquing it.

“You are mixing yellow and blue together. It makes green.”

“I see a big brown house with a yellow cat next to it.”

 


2. Open-Ended Questions: Ask questions that are not yes or no answers. These questions should prompt your child to share their creative thoughts and think about things in new ways. If your child does not respond, try rewording the question or letting them work in silence.

“How did you make green paint?”

“What could you try next?”

“How does this art make you feel?”

 

3. Careful Feedback: Avoid guessing what a child is creating. Adults will often guess incorrectly. This can make a child feel their work is done incorrectly. Take a long moment to look at the child’s art before commenting. 

“Can you tell me about the red circle?”

“You used a lot of purple paint today.”

 

4. Avoid Corrections: Art is allowed to be “ugly” or unrecognizable. It is even encouraged. Avoid saying things like:

“You forgot the cat’s ears.”

“Giraffes are not really purple.”

 

5. Specific, Effort-based Compliments: Parents are often quick to say, “That’s so beautiful.” Even if the child’s artwork is a masterpiece, this generic compliment does not show genuine interest or value. Instead, take a moment to look at the art. Then provide a compliment based on something specific that you like or praise the effort put into the project.

“That spider looks so realistic.”

“I love your self-portrait. Your smile is so bright, just like in real life.”

“You worked so hard to mix the colors.”

 

The goal of art is to encourage children to find value and meaning in their work instead of looking for external validation from adults. That starts when children first pick up a crayon or paintbrush. Children naturally have an abundance of creativity. As parents, we should work hard to make space for that creativity to grow. That starts with how we talk to our children about their artwork.

                                        

If you have a question about childhood art, send me a message. I would love to talk!

                                        

Is your house overrun with your child’s masterpieces? 

Try checking out Artkive. This is an amazing service that helps you to save all your favorite pieces of art in a beautiful way takes up less space. Check it out here.

 


Follow us on Instagram for more childhood art and play ideas @wondertreekids

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