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Can you see what I see?

There's so much that your child can learn through art, and getting creative - whether with crayons or clay or sand - is fun, too! Find out more about helping your child to learn to express him or herself creatively.

The value of art and creativity

Over the years, educators, psychologists, and philosophers have come to appreciate the value of children's art and its important role in early childhood education. It is now agreed by many in the field that exploring and creating with art materials helps children become more sensitive to the physical environment (for instance, shape, size, and color); promotes cognitive development (decision-making, nonverbal communication, and problem solving); and increases their social and emotional development (a sense of individuality, appreciation of others' work, and sharing). Young children who are encouraged to engage in expressive art activities also gain a sense of accomplishment and grow toward achieving independence and autonomy.

No formal training required

Fostering an appreciation for and the desire to create art during the early years is not limited to museum trips or formal training. In fact, parents and caregivers need only provide inexpensive art materials, interest, and encouragement. Following are some useful tips to inspire the Picasso in your child.

  1. Provide safe materials. Check labels for warnings about toxins and steer clear of items that may cause splinters or abrasions. Drawing tools (crayons, markers, and chalk) should be thick enough for young hands to grasp and strong enough to prevent breaking.
  2. Limit the use of coloring books. Preprinted coloring books may keep children quietly occupied, but they block creative impulses and do not teach fine motor control. It's better to have children draw their own pictures and color them by staying within their own lines.
  3. Raw materials, such as natural clay, sea shells, and beach sand offer a variety of nonstructured possibilities for creativity.
  4. Provide an abundant amount of inexpensive paper. Newsprint is ideal for children who wish to make large drawings on the floor, and colored construction paper can be used to create cutout shapes, collages, and paper plate masks.
  5. Demonstrate the use of materials but resist the urge to tell children what to do and how to do it.
  6. Try to organize space that is more inviting for artwork. For example, clay and paint centers can be placed near the room's water source. If there is no sink or bathroom in the room, fill buckets of water for paint brush dipping and cleaning.
  7. To work creatively with art materials, children need to be freed from constraints and worry related to keeping themselves and their work spaces clean. Smocks can be made from discarded shirts or blouses -- worn backwards, they provide the best coverage for clothing.
  8. If possible, the decision to stop working should be the child's. To ask a child who has stopped to add to what has been created or to evaluate the item for reworking can violate his integrity.
  9. Engage children in conversation about their creations. It is important that their art be understood, commented on, appreciated, and taken as serious work. In a supportive atmosphere filled with encouragement from caring adults, young children will begin to create their own symbols for the world around them and allow you invaluable insight into their thoughts and feelings.
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