Encouraging Creativity

According to Martin F. Gardiner of the Center for the Study of Human development at Brown University, training children in arts and music may enhance their acquisition of reading and mathematics skills. In a study of first grade children, those students who received visual and musical arts training as a regular part of their schoolwork demonstrated improved reading skills and were significantly ahead in mathematics skills in comparison to a control group of children in another classroom who did not receive the arts training.

Since art is important for physical, social, emotional, and cognitive development, how can you encourage their creativity?

Here are some Do’s and Don’ts (from Fresno Family):


Understand that when children draw huge hands, construct unreal proportions, or leave out items that you might consider essential, they are concentrating on what is important to them at the moment. Their work should be accepted as they create it. Often observing what is emphasized or omitted will give you important insight into a child’s development.

Don’t correct or add to a child’s work.

Understand that children’s coordination and muscle development will grow as a result of creating their own artwork. Art for the young child is a developmental process that provides the opportunity for physical, emotional, intellectual, and social growth.

Don’t believe that coloring in pictures in a coloring book will improve a child’s coordination.

Remember that children need continuity. They will not be bored if you offer them opportunities to paint, draw, build, paste, and model every day. Personal growth takes place through repeated experiences with open-ended materials.

Don’t offer a particular art material only once a week. Children need an ongoing experience with the materials so that new growth and discoveries can be made.

Offer children open-ended materials (paint, clay, crayons, wood, blocks) so that they may make discoveries for themselves; this will help them meet their intellectual and emotional needs.

Don’t offer coloring books or precut patterns to children. These are just another way of saying, “You are not capable; you do not have the ability.”

Tell children why you like their work; comment on the red line near the blue circles or mention the two blue dots. Commenting on what you see helps children become more consciously aware of their work. Help the children think about what they want to paint, draw, build, or model; for example, ask, “How does a cow eat?” or “How many legs does that animal have?”

Don’t ask a child, “What is that?” Don’t even try to guess. Don’t casually say that a painting or drawing is “beautiful,” “great,” or “terrific.” This does not make a child aware of his or her individuality. Don’t make models for children, even when they protest that they “can’t do it.” They cannot possibly duplicate what an adult has created. Your model is a way of saying, “I know you are not able to do a good job.”

Help children to feel confident about their work and to take pride in it. Stress the individuality of each creation. Respect the many different ideas children have, as they use the same materials.

Don’t compare children’s work or show preferences. Don’t allow their comments on other children’s work (“oh, that’s just a scribble”) go unnoticed. You can respond by saying, “That’s his design” or “That’s his idea.”