Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Creative Learning

God, the Artist, created a world that not only declares the beauty of His handiwork but also the splendor of His character. We look upon breathtaking mountain peaks and see that God is majestic. We examine the complexity of an ant and know that God is detail-orientated. We study the uniqueness of a platypus and realize that God has a sense of humor.

Genesis 6:9 says, “In the image of God has God made man” (NIV). Like God, man was made to think, act, feel and create. Yes, create! Yet what has creativity become for our children? Coloring in the lines? Following step-by-step directions? Assembling pre-packed art kits? “A rigid academic program does not develop creativity,” says Dr. Wesley Sharpe Ed. D., author of Growing Creative Kids. “The ability to dream up unusual ideas is key.”

So how can you help your child exercise his imagination and explore his creative nature? Here are five ideas.

Follow God’s Footsteps
“To know how to access God’s creativity, we have to learn to pay attention to what He’s made and given to us,” say Silvana Clark, author of 150 Ways to Raise Creative, Confident Kids (Vine).
Help your child discover God’s creativity by exploring your yard, neighborhood, or local park. Ask questions like: “Why do you think God made clouds white?” or "How is an birch leaf different from an oak?" Point out special occurrences such as a rainbow-sherbet sunset. Comment, “God made that especially for us to enjoy tonight.” Also, have your child memorize Bible verses such as John 1:3, "Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made."

Combine Interests and Art
Just as Monet’s style varied from Rembrant’s, realize that your child has an artistic personality all his own. Think about what makes your child tick, then revolve art around those subjects. If your son is interested in archeology, encourage him to draw a dinosaur that has yet to be discovered, or ask him to create ‘artifacts’ with clay. Give him a license to bring his interests into art. His art personality will flourish as he spends time exploring his interests in a creative manner.

Step Out of Bounds
“It’s not enough to tell our children to ‘be creative.’ They need examples, tools, and an environment conductive to creative thought,” says Clark. “Encouraging creativity in children means setting an example for them. They need to see us being creative.” Do you express creativity at home? If not, look to everyday tasks and family activities with new insight. Playing a board game after dinner may be a tradition, but what about painting the snow with food coloring instead?


Encourage Effort and Enthusiasm
Take time to encourage your child’s creative process. Pin artwork around your house, or design a special “art center” for displaying masterpieces. But remember, “encouragement” is different from offering excessive praise. Just like the villagers ignored the boy who cried wolf, your child will close his ears to your praise if it is given without merit. Instead, spend time discussing your child’s creation. Ask him to explain the story behind the scene. Take time to notice the specific patterns, lines, shapes and colors used to bring his ideas to life. And remember, the creative process is more important than if the picture “looks right.” It doesn’t matter if child colored with a red crayon on red paper. Your focus should be the reason behind it.

Think to the Future
Finally, remember that creativity will not only help your child’s imagination while he is young, but it will also benefit his future. “Business leaders are lamenting the lack of creativity in our young people today,” says Clark. “Employees come to work, do their jobs the way they’ve always done their jobs, and rarely, if ever, have a new or innovative idea about how to ‘build a better mousetrap.’ ” By helping your child be more creative now, you are growing an adult who will be willing to explore all life has to offer. “Every small discovery we make by being creative is an adventure and a delightful experience in itself,” Clark adds. “Through all this we learn and grow. We become active in making the world a better place to live in.”

Now that worthy goal is sure to make God, the Artist, proud.

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