How to Naturally Encourage Artistic Development in Young Children

Today, Daniela Baker shares some easy-to-do activities that will help develop the creative side of your child.  Enjoy!  ~EMP

It is important for parents to understand that physical development and cognitive development do not occur at the same rate.  While physical development may progress over a period of years, creativity peaks during the early childhood.  As the parent of a young child, it can be exciting to know that you are witnessing the most creative period of his or her life! Creativity is shown by your child’s ability to take current information and make new connections. This differs from knowledge which is the process by which we store information for future use.

According to Arlene F. Harder, MA, MFT, in her book Distinguish Between Your Child’s Needs and Wants, it is not necessary to buy expensive toys to develop creativity in your child. However, you do need to provide your child with a rich diversity of experience that encourages them to develop creativity in different areas.  Creativity takes many forms: art, dance, music, writing and it is important to expose your child to each so they may learn where their special talents lie.

Ask open-ended questions.  When your 2 or 3 year old toddler asks a question, resist the temptation to provide a direct answer. In many cases, your child has already developed their own theory so reply with an open-ended question, such as “What do you think is the best way?” or “Why do you think that happened?” His or her answer may be right on target or be a theory based on some combination of their past experience Keep in mind that the logic of children may wander way off course but this is to be appreciated and enjoyed as it provides you a wonderful window into their thinking process as they develop the cognitive skill of cause and effect.

Encourage Creative Thinking. When you have time during the day, show your child an everyday object and ask how this could be used in different ways. For example, a cup can be used to drink milk, hold pennies, or be even act as a flower pot!  This activity encourages your child to apply creative thinking to common objects and events in their daily lives.

Read Stories. Dr. Seuss’ Cat-in-the-Hat series is one of the most beloved children’s stories of all time.  Who else but Dr. Seuss can make “green eggs and ham” sound like a delicious breakfast? The idea of Green Eggs and Ham expanded into a sixty page story teaches your child how to think-outside-the box and make connections to one central idea.

Engage in Dramatic Play. Dramatic play provides an opportunity for your child to take internalized thoughts and act them out in social situations. For dramatic play between parents and children, ask your child to tell you a story and then act it out among family members Expect that your child will take the director’s role and change the scenario as s/he watches their ideas come to life. Act out all new versions so your child can see how their different ideas play-out in the “real-world.”

Make some music.  All children love to make music with unusual items! For example, place some pennies in a empty soda can for home-made castanets. Alternatively,  turn over some Tupperware for a fun drum set. Have the whole family join each with each member playing a different instrument.”

Engage in art-based activities. Art activities are the classic means to develop creativity in children. The activity needs to focus on the process, not the product. Encourage your child to combine material in unique ways. The following are some ideas for children of different ages:

  • Provide a two year old with pre-cut shapes such as squares, rectangles, and triangles made out of multi-colored construction paper which they can the glue together an a large piece of cardboard.
  • Provide a three-year old with a mound of play dough which they may shape and offer some raisins, cheerios, marshmallows, and jellybeans to stick into it.
  • Provide a four-year old with different color ribbon from which they may create flags or banners.
  • Give a five year old a collection of pre-cute magazine picture and have him glue the pictures together into a montage.

Each of these activities focuses on the process of creating, rather than the materials used to create. This is an important distinction because what a child learns about their abilities while exploring and engaging in creative activity is an invaluable learning tool.

Photo Credit, girl drawing.  Photo Credit kids playing music.

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  1. Daniela, I love how this post has ideas that are applicable to kids of all ages, especially the open ended questions and thinking creatively. Those are good reminders for us to use in homes and classrooms across the board. And, let’s face it. It’s fun to do just about all those other creative activities. Thanks for the great ideas!

  2. Jessica says:

    I love using Dr. Seuss’ books in the classroom for the messages behind the stories. I am inspired to think how I could expand upon this idea and combine the arts into these lessons in the future. I think that the creativity that he shows in his detailed descriptions as well as the illustrations will produce some inspired art!

    • I love reading Dr. Seuss books to my kids and we have lots of Dr. Seuss inspired artwork on the walls.

      “Children want the same things we want: to laugh, to be challenged, to be entertained and delighted.” Dr. Seuss

  3. Mary-Ellen Uhlarik says:

    The idea of open ended questions as well as open ended activities is so key in developing those higher level thinking skills. Offering young children a variety of materials to just create and be!! I feel as though that aspect can be looked over and often lost in the rush to ‘get things done’! There are so many distractions around us and I often feel that we need to be focused and offer children time let theilr creative juices flow1

    • It’s pretty sad to see how uncreative kids are these days. They’ve lost the ability to play and create.

    • Marianne says:

      I agree Mary-Ellen. And as those open-ended questions/activities develop higher-level thinking skills, they are at the same time strengthening that child’s self-confidence in him/herself and how they see themselves in relationship to others. It’s like an open door for a small child to find out who they are and where they can go!

  4. Marianne says:

    As a kindergarten teacher in my 17th year, I have seen many changes in curriculum and expectations put upon our students. My goal through it all has been to keep it developmental, fun, and meaningful for the children. To do this, I have had to rely on my own creativity and out of the box thinking skills to balance instruction and allow for creativity at the same time. In turn, the creative process embedded within each activity leads to new discovery and insights for us all! When one child makes a discovery, it inspires another and a whole new idea/concept may emerge; driving the curriculum to explore that concept at a deeper level or on to new possibilities!
    So inspiring!

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