Wow! God created us in His own image. Think about that. God is the original Creator! He made everything! He made us to be like Him. So clearly, God wants us to be creative.
I guess that’s why He gave young children such amazing imaginations. And, as long as the adults in charge step back, keep their hands off and avoid the temptation to draw for them, guide, direct or otherwise “help” them paint, draw and sculpt, the kids can create really cool pieces of art all on their own!
Above are pictures of lions that were created by some of the kids in our Kindergarten Life Group yesterday. They had just learned about Daniel in the Lions Den and their wonderful teachers invited the kids to use paint, paint brushes and large sheets of plain paper to create pictures of lions. Sophie painted a lion and then was inspired to paint another big cat, so she painted a tiger as well. Don’t these paintings bring a smile to your face? I know they do to mine.
And here’s why! Young children (up til somewhere around third grade) need to have lots and lots of open-ended art opportunities. They learn so much about line, color, proportions and perspective. They develop the small muscles in their hands, fingers and wrists. They learn how to control various media. And they learn how to put their ideas down on paper. Being allowed to scribble and draw and paint in their own way helps them get ready for later reading and writing tasks.
An added bonus is that kids tell us a lot about what’s on their minds and in their hearts when they have opportunities to draw and paint freely. I had the privilege of spending time with a three-year-old boy yesterday who very vigorously drew wild looping circles all over his paper. I asked him to tell me about his drawing and he told me all about a tornado that came and blew everything down and broke all the trees and the houses. What an opportunity that provided me to talk and pray with him about his fears and feelings in our post-Harvey world! Kids can use art to express feelings, fears and thoughts that they’re not yet able to express in words. Their art can give us a lot of insight so that we know how to help them.
So the next time you’re tempted to give a child a coloring sheet, draw for him, tell him how to draw or give him a “craft” activity in which you do most of the work, please stop, step back and ask yourself the following questions:
1. Who is benefitting from the activity.? Is this activity for the child or is it something that you’re doing to amuse yourself? Do you like to draw and enjoy showing off your skills? If you’re a teacher, are you doing it to impress the parents? While it is great for you to express your own creativity in your own way, there’s a time and a place for that. Drawing for a child or doing a craft activity for him just reinforces the notion that he’s not able to draw very well. It can be discouraging and make him hesitant to try his hand at creative expression.
2. What is the child learning from the activity? If your answer is that they’re learning to color in the lines, take a look at what they draw and paint on their own. Kids stay in the lines of their own drawings and paintings really well. Maybe not so much when they’re presented with a professionally created line drawing that has no meaning to them.
3. If you’re in a classroom setting, does each child’s art look unique and different or are they all basically the same? If they’re all alike, then there’s probably very little creative potential in the activity.
So what can you do for art activities? Give the kids large sheets of paper and various art media – washable tempera paint, water colors, chalk, crayons, markers, finger paints, shaving cream, playdough, clay, sponges and eye droppers and more (not all at the same time, of course). Then stand back to watch their creativity flourish!
As they work, talk with the kids about their work in encouraging ways. Instead of asking, “What is it?”, ask them to tell you about their drawing. Instead of passing judgment with remarks like, “I you’re your painting”, make specific comments about the colors and lines and other features that they’ve put into their work.
You can even turn this into a literacy experience by writing down what they tell you. Respect their work, however, and refrain from writing on their art paper without asking first if that’s OK. You can write their words on a separate sheet of paper and the kids can attach the paper to their artwork with tape or glue.
I would love to see examples of your kids’ creative artwork! Please email them to me at firstname.lastname@example.org or stop by the Children’s Ministries Office at First Baptist Church any Sunday or Wednesday evening. I can’t wait to see your kids’ creations!