That is my daughter Khari in the photo above. She is one of the most creative people I know. Art seemed to be an instant fascination for her. At one year-old, when she got hold of crayons, she immediately got to work, artfully using them to add a splash of color to my previously bare white walls. When she got her plump baby fingers into the cool wetness of finger paint soon after, there was no white space safe in her presence if she had her way with it. Khari has always gravitated to visual art. Once she turned three and could differentiate between animals and people more clearly, her drawings seemed to depict the life around her more often to the delight of those of us around who waited patiently to see what new creation she would churn out. More times than not, the images weren’t always so easy to decipher, but in her mind, she knew what she was drawing, and that was good enough. At 8 years-old, she still delights in drawing, coloring and painting and even has taken her love to digital art on her computer. When folks ask me what we’ve done to raise such a creative young lady and my immediate response is, “She was always a creative artist. Our job has been to make sure she doesn’t forget it.”
Children are born creative. If we are to believe that creativity simply means doing something in a new and inspired way, then children are naturally creative. Because the bulk of their experiences are new as they grow, then they are constantly finding ways to approach life, originally intent on finding that which is most delightful. Children gravitate naturally toward opportunities to express themselves and that natural instinct grows and does not wane unless they are raised to believe that that natural instinct is not of value. So, how do you reinforce the value of the arts while supporting your child or special young person in your life in remaining creative? I came up with some suggestions below.
Praise Their Creativity While Paying Attention
“Oh, how handsome you look.” “Oh, what a little doll baby. She is so cute.” We lay on thick the accolades when we see a cute little person– or a big grown person for that matter. But, when was the last time you praised a young person for how creatively they did something? Does your child draw characters in their spare time? Does your child have a certain attention to colors, always coordinating things in a particularly compelling way? Is your young person a great storyteller when they’re playing with their dolls? The creativity of young people often manifests during their play time, but as they grow and play time becomes less and less often, children often yearn for opportunities to display their gifts– whether its sketching on notebook paper during downtime in the classroom or designing that perfect outfit for their doll collection that you don’t think much about. Pay attention to the things they are doing naturally and with little direction and support them by praising their efforts and showing interest. This little bit of acknowledgment will actually reinforce that there is value in being creative.
Pay for Classes or Find a Mentor
You overhear your child fooling around on a computer keyboard making music on a computer program you’re not really familiar with. What you hear sounds strange, but, as you peek into their room, you see this focused concentration on your child’s face that you had rarely seen before. Later, at dinner, you ask your child what they were doing earlier, and they shrug, “Oh nothing, just fooling around on my computer.” You dig deeper and learn that they had downloaded a program months ago to practice making beats for some songs they had written. You have just learned that you have a songwriter/producer on your hands.
Before you get scared and begin having images of them growing up to be a broke, 40 year-old aspiring rapper still living in your basement, imagine how encouraging it would be if you looked up some summer programs for young aspiring producers? What about asking your child if they would be interested in talking with someone who actually engineers and taking them on a field trip to a recording studio where they can see first hand how music production works? A lot of times we see popular performers and believe that they became well-known and successful in the arts because they struggled and taught themselves everything. The reality is, for a lot of well-known acts, they had the support and guidance of grown-ups who acknowledged their talent early and invested in their talent, either by working as a mentor or paying for opportunities to learn their craft.
Be Willing to Be An Audience Member
It has happened before, I’m sure. You are home from a long day of work, finished making dinner and feeding the kids and finally made it to the couch to rest before bedtime. Before your hand reaches the remote, though, your 6 year-old is downstairs, dressed up in one of your dresses and high heels (too big, of course) and wants you to watch her sing the entire chorus of Beyonce’s new song “I Was Here”. You are tired, but you look at her excited expression and decide to listen, it should only be three minutes. She starts and her young voice sounds so precious. You don’t realize until the next day that she memorized the song in less than five minutes after watching the song air for the first time right after dinner. You have a pitch perfect little songstress on your hands. But what’s best is that you have a little singer on your hands whose sense of self was supported when her mother took three minutes out her day to pause and play audience.
Provide Opportunities For Them to Express Their Talent
My daughter’s paternal side of the family celebrates Kwanzaa every year with extended family coming from all over to celebrate the seven principles of Kwanzaa while gathering as a family. One of the activities that mark the celebration is a showcase of the young people, an opportunity for the children and youth to perform or express. Also, at this event, one of my daughter’s great aunts leads the festivities by playing the djembe drum. My daughter is used to this celebration that she has been attending since birth, and finds it not unusual to see her family members perform at family functions nor extend space for her to perform as well if she wanted to. Not many families spend gathering time for creativity time. We come together for funerals, weddings, cook-outs and birthday parties, and graduations.Think about how often we carve out time during these gatherings to promote the talent of our young people in our family. Celebrating our talents should accompany our celebration of good grades, cute looks, and job promotions.
Add Creativity to Your List of Values
As a parent, you should always be thinking about what it is that you can do to make sure your child understands that their artistic creativity is of value. Think about the important messages that you try to instill: honesty, integrity, hard-work, courage, etc. How does artistic creativity fit into these messages? What I’ve found is that supporting your child’s artistic interests is synonymous with teaching the message of self-love. If you see that your child is creative and you honor their creativity, you are reinforcing a part of who they are naturally. This stresses to them the value of loving every part of who they are, which, is the most important message they can receive from a parent.
Khadijah Z. Ali-Coleman is a writer and editor of several books, including the anthology Liberated Muse Volume I: How I Freed My Soul. She offers editing, proofreading and creative coaching services to authors who self-publish. Contact her at KhadijahOnline@gmail.com for a free consultation.
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