Guest Post by Greg Lewis.
Anyone who’s spent time around kids knows that they’re natural artists. Crayons and little hands go together like peanut butter and jelly! And while kids of all ages love to create, and they naturally learn important skills like language and fine motor skills along the way, there’s no rule saying we as adults can’t benefit too. Here are some easy ways to let a little of that creative energy rub off on you.
1. Speak universally – Kids do this automatically; for us it may take a bit of relearning. Since children create art long before they can write or otherwise communicate with adults, their artwork tells a story with pictures instead of words. We can do this too.(Fundamentally, this is how communication began — as pictures serving as a universal language. A horse is a horse, visually of course, in any language.) Watch how kids use art to present what’s on their minds, and take the hint: Try drawing instead of writing, and tell your stories with your pictures.
2. Notice the details – Have you ever seen a kid’s drawing that *didn’t* have some unexpected little detail? Kids see things differently, and their artwork reflects that — in part through all the little “extra” stuff we adults tend to miss. Since kids use their art to examine people, places and things, learning about them and interpreting their place in the world, their attention to the seemingly unimportant can teach us a lesson about all that we may be overlooking in everyday life. An experiment in kid-like close examination of the world around us can give you a surge of creativity.
3. Focus – Walk into any preschool classroom during arts and crafts time and you’ll see a room full of kids with more concentration than many of us adults can muster. Little tongues sticking out the sides of mouths, bright eyes laser-locked on the task at hand… that is some intense focus. Society puts a preference on multi-tasking, but in getting more done, we are focusing less on each task, leading to subpar work. Learn from children’s focus on their artwork and try your hand a one-task-at-a-time mentality. Tongue placement is optional.
4. Build self-esteem – “LOOK! I drew it myself!!!” That’s the rallying cry of a child who’s proud of her artwork. No matter how scribbled, messy or unusual the artwork looks, the budding artist will be beaming as she holds that construction-paper canvas aloft. And it’s only natural for us as adults to receive the art with the same gusto, building up and praising the child for whatever she’s created. “That’s awesome, kiddo!” The lesson here? Self-esteem matters, whether you’re growing up or not. Praise for others goes a long way, so make sure you acknowledge when others do a great job, and help to build them up when they fall short. Be confident in yourself, too, and be proud of your accomplishments, small and large. Your successes are important to you, and what’s important to you will be important to others.
5. Have fun and be free – You might say creating art is the “happy place” for many youngsters. There’s something about a fresh set of crayons or bright, colorful markers or messy finger paint that deeply appeals to children. Arts and crafts time for children tends to turn into a wonderful mess, often without the kids even realizing it. That white canvas or blank coloring book is a place where they can be free to create whatever they want. We should look forward to each artwork — and each day, really — with this same approach. The brevity of childhood is a daily reminder that life’s too short to not have fun. So channel your inner little person, learn all you can from any kids you’re lucky enough to spend time with, and grab your camera or sketchpad for an enjoyable and important trip to your “happy place.”
:: Greg Lewis has been writing about children’s artwork as well as visual arts education for kids for more than a decade. When not writing, you can find Greg volunteering with one of Chicago’s many non-profit organizations.
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