Nurturing Children’s Creativity

When schools closed recently, I got asked three times in one day how to make slime😜. It got me thinking that parents might need some creative ideas to do with their children over the next few weeks. As a practicing artist, I know the benefit of escaping to a creative space when I need to block out the real world for just a little while. With this in mind, I decided to set up a closed Facebook group for parents to help nurture their child’s creativity.

It is my hope that the parents who follow along might try to take the time out of their day to sit with their child and work with them. I can’t stress enough how the power of doing something creative to still your mind and be present is needed now more than ever. I hope that it may not only start a new routine to engage children, but that parents may start to introduce it in to their own lives also.

All exercises provide only brief guidelines to follow. It is never my intention to ‘teach’ art to young children, but rather to encourage and facilitate their natural curiosity. While I am an Early Childhood Arts educator, I am offering these prompts to you as a parent, who is sharing the same worries and anxieties about our current situation as everyone else.

Teaching a creative arts module and implementing it are two very different things, as I have found out over the past three weeks. 😅 In between (far too little) school work, lunch, dinner, snack, tea time, logging in to work, housework, there have been many meltdowns and tears. What I have learned from it is that when I do take the time to sit with my children, Elsa (10) and Oscar (6), we all get to experience the relaxing benefit of just being present in our creativity.

Cora Cummins is a ceramic artist, Tutor at Dungarvan College and graduate of CIT Crawford. You can follow her on Facebook and Instagram at Cora Cummins Ceramics and join the closed Facebook group (Creative Prompts for Kids and Parents) for weekly updates.


Cora’s tips for parents to nurture children’s creativity

Tip 1: Process over Product.
Children’s art activities should always focus on the PROCESS of creating and not the end result. I rarely show children examples of what they are making as that is MY work and can feel theirs is ‘not good enough’ if theirs does not turn out the same. Children work from their right brain, they can work things out in their minds eye that an adult cant, so it is important to allow them the freedom to exercise this. The less direction you need to give the better.

Tip 2: Give Prompts, not directions.
But too little direction doesn’t work either. Handing a child, a blank white page and paint and expecting them to make an image can feel just as overwhelming as it would to you. They need small creative prompts to give them the confidence to begin.

Tip 3: Minimum materials
Keep activities simple and keep materials to a minimum. Introduce other materials as the activity goes on to make it last longer and holds the child’s interest. Never put out all materials at once, introduce extra materials as children are working or seem to be getting bored

Tip 4: Timing activities
Set a timeframe for each activity but always follow the children’s lead. I usually allow for 20 to 30 mins for a young child’s activity but always have a backup plan to keep it going longer by stepping in to introduce extra materials once they lose interest. For each exercise, plan to get 2 to three activities out of it. If you are going to go to the bother of making play doh, or mix paint, find ways to make it last longer by introducing extra activities using the same materials. ( I will show examples of how to implement this in each activity)

Tip 5: Let the child be the teacher
Sit down and work with the children, ask them to teach you by saying something like: ‘How did you make that green’, ‘show me how you drew that fish’, ‘what shapes did you draw to make it’. Let them be the teacher, Afterall, children are naturally more creative than adults and can teach us a lot. Allow the children to have full involvement in the activities. Allow them to do the cutting, pouring and mixing paint so that they feel they have full involvement in every aspect of their work

Tip 6: Slow Down.
Slow down activities. Allow the PROCESS of making be the focal point. If kids take ages to mix their paint colours, allow them. If they want to play with the materials at each step along the way, allow them. There is no rush to get to the finished line. (remember this is all about keeping them entertained)

Tip 7: Set up
Make the Set up of each activity a surprise for the kids. They will be so excited to find out what will be waiting for them . Have their art stations laid out in an inviting and fun way with materials and tools easy to reach between children.

Tip 8: Layout of room
Change the layout of the room if you can for some activities. In school children sit behind desks every day and might still feel the sense of being restricted. Let them stand at a table , work outdoors or try laying an old tablecloth or blanket on the floor. Movement during activities changes the energy and makes it more fun. Play music in the background to engage more of the senses.

Tip 9: Encourage and praise
Give the children encouragement and praise. Art should make them feel proud of their efforts. My son is a perfectionist and often crumbles up his work when he gets it wrong. I try to tell him that the best artists learned from their mistakes and if something goes wrong for them, they can’t start a big painting all over again so they need to ask themselves ‘What can I do to make this better’. Problem solving leads to a sense of achievement which leads to a feeling of self-esteem……all from one simple and enjoyable task.

Tip 10: …and most important of all…HAVE FUN
Make it fun, for all of you. Hold back on giving too much guidance, unless your child requires it. Once your child is happily working away, don’t worry if they aren’t following directions. This shows that they are tapped in to their natural creativity as a means of expression and we should never try to stop this flow. Try to sit with your child and work with them, you might be surprised at how relaxed it makes you feel.