Give children an ‘art center’ at home

     Children are our most precious resource.  They will develop into the people who will shape the future.  But did you know that by the time most American kids reach the age of eight, they have spent an average of two years sitting in front of a television?   A lot of children’s television programming is a mindless mush of negative role models and extensive violence.  When children watch people solve problems by blowing up one another, how will they choose to solve problems in their own lives?  Add to this bombardment of garbage the time kids spend playing on the computer, and there is a serious possibility that many of our future adults will have the creative thinking capacity of a marshmallow. 

     It is our responsibility to equip children with creative thinking tools to help them build their future – and ours.  Every day kids are challenged by dozens of problems that require quick creative solutions.  How can we help them learn to think outside the box in order to respond to these challenges intelligently?

     A team researching the positive effects that visual arts have on a child’s thinking and problem-solving skills has had some very encouraging findings.  Kids who are exposed to a rich visual arts program have demonstrated remarkable improvements in all areas of their curriculums.  Art programs help develop fine motor, visual motor and visual spatial-skills, which can help students in handwriting, reading and math.

     In addition, hands-on drawing and painting activities promote right-brain use for more equal and total brain development.  It helps to teach very young children about concepts such as right and left, up and down, in front and behind, in and out, size, surface, density, shape and geometric shapes. 

     How can parents help encourage children to get involved in art?  Think about having a “yes to art, no to television” time, perhaps an hour a day or more if the child wants more time, when children can go to an “art center” in the home and play with art materials without pressure from anyone to do a specific project.  You could assign a table or special corner in the house to be used as an art center.  Provide plenty of pencils, crayons and watercolor painting materials.  You can provide typewriter paper, or get a roll of butcher paper so there will be plenty of space to draw on.  Make it a place where the occasional spill, drip, or messiness won’t result in yelling from an adult. 

     Some of the best artists working today got this kind of encouragement from their parents.  Artist Mark Kistler says, “When I was growing up, my mother gave up an entire storage closet so I could build my own art studio.”  Mary Englebreit’s mother also gave her a closet and a table because Mary wanted her own private studio.  Mary says, “It was hot in summer and freezing in winter, but I didn’t care – I had a real studio where I could shut the door and create on paper what was in my head, with no one to criticize or offer well-meant suggestions.”

     Mark Kistler also commented that, “My family had a rule when we were kids, that books didn’t count.  What I mean is that books were considered a staple of life just like water and air.  Books were always available; one just needed to ask….After I had converted the storage closet into my art studio, my mother declared a new rule:  art supplies don’t count…They’d be as available to me as books were.  I’m not sure how my mother afforded all my paints, pencils and art books on a school nurse’s salary, but she did.”

     Simple art books and basic supplies, and a place to use them, may be the key to pulling children away from TV and the computer to explore the wonderful creativity of their own minds.  The time they spend playing in their “art center” may be the key to a more successful future as well.

Viewpoint by Kay Sluterbeck/AAPJ

Published by on January 2011. Filed under Archives, Back Porch Section, Commentary. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

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