Cheri M. Gioe, Riche', Cassandra, Martin, Lauren, Merrill, Thomas A. | 4/19/2005 10:28:34 PM
Children are natural artists, and creativity in young children develops through a process of discovering and experiencing, says LSU AgCenter associate Cheri Gioe.
"Creativity shows up in different ways," says Gioe. "Children who come up with unusual answers or display a sense of humor are thinking creatively. Children who are nonconforming and unpredictable also may be thinking creatively.
"Creativity should be fostered and valued, because as children become adults, their creative abilities will make a difference in our world," she continues.
Parents and caregivers can encourage creativity in many ways, according to Gioe, who says the most important thing to remember is to allow children the freedom to make mistakes and respect their ideas.
"Children need to be able to experiment without the risk of failure," Gioe explains, adding, "Coloring books, patterns and pre-cut models stifle creativity. On the other hand, paint, clay, markers, crayons, cornstarch and collage materials help children express their individual ideas and feelings."
The child-care expert says as children work in groups on collaborative art projects they are able to see what it is like when the other children give their ideas and what it is like to work on a project together.
In addition, when children work individually, they see the importance of working on something until it is completed and what it is like to see their work posted in various places at school and at home.
"When children are allowed to mix paints and other media together, they are able to understand cause and effect, and through trial and error, they are able to see what happens when different things are mixed and combined," Gioe says, adding, "Through their art children are allowed to express how they view, feel and think of the world."
The LSU AgCenter experts also points out children sometimes can express things through art that they might not be able to or be allowed to express through speech.
"Art also offers opportunity for physical development," she says, explaining, "Using markers, crayons and small paint brushes allows children to use their fine motor control. And such tasks as pouring paint in small cups and gluing cotton balls on paper help children with their hand-eye coordination."
Gioe says the supplies provided in the art area of a school or child-care center need to be things that the children can use independently so they are free to experiment and explore.
Among such supplies are markers (which provide easier cleanup than paints), crayons that color evenly and steadily, chalk in white and colors, chalkboards in white, black or green, scissors for right- and left-handed children, white glue and paper in a variety of colors, sizes and textures.
"Children should feel free to use the materials in many different ways and forms," Gioe stresses.
She also says it’s important for adults to spend time in the art area talking to children.
"That is one of the best ways to show children their work is valued and appreciated," Gioe says. "When a piece of artwork is commented on, interest and awareness are shown for what a child is doing and an interest in their efforts therefore shows an interest in them."
When commenting on what a child has done, adults should avoid general words like pretty, great or lovely, she says, adding that adults also should avoid telling children what their work represents.
"It is a good idea to discuss with them what is seen by both you and them or to ask children how they made their pieces of artwork, and it is always a good idea to use words to encourage and support them," Gioe says.
She also stresses that making comments specific to the child’s artwork shows that you really are looking at it and that you have an interest in what he or she is creating.
"Art is enjoyable and satisfying for young children, and it enables them to learn many skills, express themselves, appreciate beauty and have fun – all at the same time," she concludes.
The LSU AgCenter’s "Be Child Care Aware!" educational program is designed to educate parents and child-care providers about quality child care. It is funded, in part, through a contract with the Louisiana Department of Social Services’ Office of Family Support.