Nurture the Artist in Your Child
The Creative Impulse
All children have creative impulses. And while drawing or coloring isn’t going to get their heart rate up, it does stimulate the right/creative/intuitive side of the brain, which is important to “whole child” development.
Art projects will also get your kids away from their computer/video game/cell phone and let them stretch their imaginations. Art projects come in many different forms and involve super fun things, like glue and glitter, scissors and tape, crayons and markers, paint and canvas, just to name a few. Family trips to a museum offer inspiration as well as interesting diversions from whatever is currently on television.
“Teaching the children in your life to draw opens up a world of creativity to them, and it also develops crucial physical skills such as eye-hand coordination and fine motor skills,” says Vex Morgenster, from Howard University.
Though you may just see scribbles when your child first learns to draw and color, he or she is actually starting to develop small, exact movements used such activities as buttoning clothing or handwriting. The more children draw, says Morgenstern, the better they will also get at eye-hand coordination.
Further, drawing helps to stimulate a child’s imagination increase his or her creativity, and offers an outlet for them to give form to their ideas.
Putting pencils and crayons in the hands of children helps them to understand and interpret everyday situations, says Morgenstern. They often draw things they see around them, they depict things that happen to them, and they learn a valuable way to interact with the world around them.
Art is used frequently with children in therapy and in situations of stress and high emotions. Creative activities can absorb one’s mind, distract away stressful thoughts, and create a meditative “flow,” says Elizabeth Scott, M.S., wellness coach, author, health educator, and award-winning blogger with training in counseling, family therapy, and health psychology.
Art projects, which spring from the sub-conscious mind as well as the imagination, can also help children understand feelings that may be confusing or troubling to them.
Children don’t need a lot of encouragement or instruction for most art projects. Give them some blank paper or a coloring book, a box of pencils or crayons, and they’re off!
When the weather isn’t cooperating for outdoor adventures, a box of art supplies can come in very, very handy. Being stuck indoors without TV privileges doesn’t have to be a dreaded punishment. Rather, it can be a fantastic opportunity to drag out glue, scissors, paint boxes and other magic wands of creativity.
Indoor games that don’t require technology of any sort can also inspire kids off the couch. Juggling, for example, helps develop coordination for their everyday lives and has been proven to offer measurable improvement in hand-eye coordination for sports such as basketball, baseball, tennis, etc. Juggling has also been shown to raise SAT test scores by 10% when a person juggles for 10-20 minutes before a test.
Schedule Time & Space
Part of creating your outdoor routine will be keying in on your children’s favorite places and things to do. Repeat experiences they love, while introducing new things on occasion to keep them from getting bored.
We all like routines and rhythms we can rely upon in our days. If introducing outdoor recreation is new to your children or your family, it will be important to create a structure that reinforces this all-important time, until it becomes a routine part of your daily lives.
Schedule a time every day that you and your children know they can count on and can look forward to for outdoor fun. Write in on a calendar in the kitchen. Mix up the activities to give yourselves variety, but stick to the discipline of a daily time slot for outdoor experiences. Soon the groans and feet-dragging will turn into genuine enthusiasm.
More Than Just Fun & Games
This is not all just fun and games, though. While your child is engaging in outdoor activities, getting physical exercise, and exploring their world, they are actually getting smarter. They are developing critical thinking skills, balance, diversity and pure brain power.
Resources for Parents
• The National Institutes of Health website offers advice, news, and other resources
• Find Art Resources
• Art Therapy: Relieve Stress By Being Creative, Elizabeth Scott, M.S.
• Benefits of Kids Learning to Draw, Vex Morgenstern
In Part 1 of the “New Roadmap for Smarter, Happier, Healthier Kids,” we discovered the truly damaging effects that television and video games can have on young minds. In Part 2 we learned about the healing power of the great outdoors. In Part 3 we offered 5 things to do to boost grades, confidence & well-being . In Part 4, we explored how reading books can help your children understand themselves and their place in the world in which they live.
Stay tuned for Part 6 of “The New Roadmap for Smarter, Happier, Healthier Kids,” where we’ll discuss the importance of parental engagement in your children’s success.