From my earliest days, I remember being involved in some form of artistic activity – piano, dance, theater camp, you name it.
And, while I may not be a famous artist in anyone’s opinion, I do have a side that allows me to imagine and dream, to create and think outside the box. Now, raising my children, I know the value of this and how the arts truly open doors to explore worlds unknown.
An Artistic Introduction
In between your child’s current activities and interests, involving him in dance, music lessons, art classes, etc. can feel stressful. In lieu of beginning several classes or projects, look for artistic opportunities that will enhance your child’s current interests or personality.
“We started by purchasing a book that guided young children on how to draw dinosaurs for our 5-year-old son,” says parent Rob Grzelka. With their son’s enthusiasm for paleontology and art, the Grzelka’s took a few small, slow steps to further his interests. “We started with a three-day cartoon drawing class and advanced to an after-school art class that lasted one semester,” says Grzelka.
Simple acts such as strolling through a local art fair, attending a local theater production or purchasing a paint-by-numbers kit can be the springboard your child needs to launch an artistic interest. “Exposing a child to all forms of art can be as easy as taking him to a high school play,” encourages former high school choral director and mother of three, Kim Scherrer.
Kathy Mims, a mom of one, says, “We basically leave the art supplies out 24/7 so our daughter can dabble whenever she feels inspired.” It’s having the opportunity and the encouragement from parents and other significant adults in a child’s life that entices her to let down her guard and feel free to express her creativity. “She knows she can cut and paste and paint and create any time, and she’ll get praise for simply being herself. You should see some of her creations,” says Mims. “We’ve got a wall we call ‘Callie’s gallery’.”
Music is moving and can tell a story. It triggers a memory, and can be very beneficial to children. People have long recognized a link between their emotions, memories and music, but scientists and health experts now say that music may even boost intellectual development.
Wanting structured musical activities, many parents opt for enrolling their children in Kindermusik or the like … programs that include parent and child interaction with supplemented take-home activities. With the guidance of a parent and educator, children are introduced to music by singing along with songs, dancing, experimenting with instruments, clapping and learning about rhythm.
Summer Parker, mother of two, says, “Both our daughter and son did Kindermusik, and I think they are more advanced because of it – both socially and mentally. They’ve learned what comes from musical expressions – they love to sing and dance. They’re so carefree, and I really think the early exposure to music is why.”
The Cost of the Arts
Incorporating art in your child’s life does not have to be costly. “If your budget prohibits attending a formal studio, consider organizing artistic co-ops with friends or neighbors to let parents share their talents with children for nearly no cost,” offers Scherrer.
Author and pediatrician Norman Weinberger, M.D., points out that music doesn’t have to cost a thing. In his essay based on research called The Earliest Music Lessons, he says, “Parents have long given their children informal music lessons in the form of infant-directed speech and lullabies. Infant-directed speech is simply language with a sing-song character that involves repeated sounds, slower tempo and higher pitch.” Weinberger indicates that parents should continue these early music lessons, which may lead to a “greater development of musical and linguistic abilities, demonstrate better motor skills, math ability and reading performance than those who don’t.”
Something as simple as an evening lullaby can spark a creative side in a child, too. “It’s weird, and you don’t even think about it, but even singing to your babies at bedtime is special,” says mom Stacey Czarnecki. “My boys still like me to sing to them at bedtime.”
The Effects of Art
Mary Lou Williams is a speech pathologist and mother to 3-year-old Xander, and she sings the praises of music and art. “Xander has gained so much by attending tot music classes,” she says. Because he’s been taking music lessons since he was 6 months old, Williams believes these activities have “improved Xander’s motor skills and have helped build his language skills.” Since enrolling Xander in music, Williams and her husband have purchased a pair of music shakers and a small easel for him – simple things that really make a difference.
The Wonder of it All
What is it about artistic expression that makes a person feel so free? It’s the fact that no one else can or will ever create something exactly the same. When truly creating, there are no boundaries to stifle the imagination. You’re free … unhindered … to explore possibilities at your own rate, in your own way, through your own artistic expression. That’s the ultimate reason why we all need the arts … it leads us to ourselves.
Gina Roberts-Grey is a freelance writer and mother.