Dear Moms and Dads:
Every field of endeavor needs a creative spark. And your brilliant kids can provide it! How can you encourage that spark? Consider . . .
- When your four year old proudly presents you with a drawing of what looks like a porcupine playing piano and eating pizza on the porch, invite them up on to your lap and talk about it. Don’t ask, “What is it?” Instead oooh and aaah. Then ask them about the decisions they made in the creative process. “How did you choose these two colors?” “These lines are straight and these are curvy. Why did you choose that?” Partner with them in the discovery of their own creative abilities and help them see how they have control over the creative choices they make. You can even suggest that their efforts have led you to think new thoughts.
- Anytime your kid expresses an interest in a new artistic endeavor, make a financial investment. But start cheap. Buy a beginner guitar, basic set of watercolors, or single lined journal. Sign them up for an inexpensive park district ballet class or children’s theater class. Let them know that if they commit to the quest, pursue it enthusiastically, fill the journal with deep thoughts, or really use the paints, you’ll invest even more. My dad was a master at this. For Christmas, Papa bought my son, Alec, a cheap harmonica and said, “Play me a song and I’ll buy you the best one in the store.” Later that afternoon, Alec surprised us all by playing a snappy rendition of “Jingle Bells.” Before the New Year, Papa took his grandson out for a pretty nice Hohner Harmonica. Alec used that same instrument on stage more than a decade later.
- Occasionally, your son or daughter may invite you to comment on something they have created. Take it in. Don’t comment too quickly. Listen to the entire song. Examine the fabric. Look at the sculpture from all sides. Ask for time to read the entire article, script, novel or short story. Then come back in a reasonable amount of time and use the 80/20 rule. After delivering four encouraging comments, you have earned the right to make one gentle suggestion. Especially if you are critiquing the work of a young artist, err on the side of grace.
- Talk about art. Define art. In 1998, two human artists founded The Elephant Art & Conservation Project, which features and sells “artwork” painted by elephants. The most talented of the pachyderms will hold a brush in their trunk and create abstract works of art. The humans place the empty canvases in front of the elephants that have been trained in some cases to create colorful and eye-pleasing designs including self portraits. Ask your child, “Is this art?”
- With your kids, open your Bible to Genesis 1:27. “So God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them.” There’s much packed in to those words. The passage describes God as a Creator and describes humans made in the image of God. Which means that we must also have the gift to create. All of us. Including you and each of your children.
Dads and Moms, you are in a unique position to help your kids uncover their creative gifts. And harvest those gifts to build God’s Kingdom and give glory back to Him.