and he has filled him with the Spirit of God, with wisdom, with understanding, with knowledge and with all kinds of skills— 32 to make artistic designs for work in gold, silver and bronze, 33 to cut and set stones, to work in wood and to engage in all kinds of artistic crafts. Exodus 35:31-33

God created you in His image. God, who created everything, created you in His image. And God filled you with His Spirit so you could be a creative being!

Now, let’s see a show of hands. How many of you adults would say that you are highly creative at this point in your life? Hmmm. I see a few hands. What happened to the rest of you? Where did your inborn, God-given creativity go? In all likelihood, you had the creativity taught right out of you at an early age – before the age of nine.

How did that happen? Did an evil someone come along and intentionally do you harm by taking away your creativity? No. It was most likely done by a loving, well-meaning person in your life – probably a teacher in preschool, kindergarten or the early elementary grades – who thought she was doing a good job by providing color sheets and teacher-directed craft activities for you and your classmates.

So, what can you do now, as a parent? How can you ensure that your child’s creativity is encouraged and allowed to flourish as God intended? Choose the activities you provide for your child carefully, and share your criteria for making these choices with your child’s teacher.

Following are some questions to ask yourself when evaluating an art activity for your young child. These questions are from a presentation at a National Association for the Education of Young Children annual conference that I co-presented with colleagues Alissa Levey Baugh and Cathy McAuliffe.  We are currently working on developing these materials into an article for publication in the professional journal, Young Children.

So, when looking at an art activity for a young child, ask yourself:

1. Is the activity open-ended or is it closed? An open-ended activity has a great number of “right ways” to do it. A closed activity has only one right way.

2. Can the child express his own ideas, feelings and relationships through the activity or must his thoughts be confined to a predetermined, adult-chose, adult-directed idea? For example, can he draw a scribble, a design, a lion or a picture of his Mommy or must he color an adult-made line drawing of an elephant?

3. Can the child choose her own materials and work independently or does the activity require a great deal of adult preparation, direction and/or assistance?

4. If a group of children have participated in the activity, is every piece original and unique or do they all look alike?

5. Does the activity emphasis the processes of doing or is the focus on a finished product that is “cute” and appealing to the adult eye?

If you were able to say “yes” to the first choice in each of the above questions, then rejoice. Your child’s God-given creativity is being allowed to flourish. If the answer to most of the questions was in the second choice, then it is time to step back and consider making some changes.

In order to support your child’s growing creativity at home, set up an area where he can reach and freely choose from a number of materials such as child-safe scissors, a wide variety of types, sizes and colors of plain blank paper, glue, crayons, markers, washable paints, glitter glue, clay, play dough and more open-ended materials.

Then stand back and allow your child to explore the materials. No drawing for him or showing him how to draw! Show interest in his work. Make comments about specific features. Say, “I see you’ve used a lot of yellow,” or “Look at all the curvy lines you’ve made!” Display the work proudly on your refrigerator door. And rest assured that you are helping your child’s creativity continue to grow and develop along with the rest of him.

Is there a time for crafts? Sure, there is. Fourth grade and up. Save those big kid experiences for the big kids in the family and enjoy the creativity that your littles show you every day.

If you’d like to talk more about creativity and young children, come see me or give me a call. This is one of my favorite topics of conversation!

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