FFC is thrilled to welcome back Guest Contributor Amy Dennison, Director of the University of Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music’s Preparatory Department. Creativity is a trait we all hope our children carry, but how to nurture such a gift can be a daunting task. Read on and find ways to GET CREATIVE in your parenting and bless your kids with skills that will help them in all areas of their lives.
Creativity is defined by Webster’s as “the ability or power to create, to bring into existence, to invest with a new form, to produce through imaginative skill, to make or bring into existence something new.”
So what’s the big deal about creativity? If you play an instrument are you creative? Does creativity only exist in the the arts? Why is it important to engage in creative activities? Much has been written about creativity: Creativity in the workplace, creativity and mental health, the relationshiop of creativity to intelligence and personality, etc. etc.
So let me share my own simple examples and proof that creativity is a powerful tool, and how the arts are an excellent vehicle to explore creativity. And I start with something that happened many years ago when I started thinking about and infusing creative exploration into my teaching. My daughter was in the third grade I believe. She has a great teacher – lots of reading, integrated learning activities, free pizza coupons, etc. But what I remember are her bulletin boards. This is what makes teacher stores stay in business – decorations. She had every bulletin board frame, cut out picture, cutesy phrases, etc. that you could buy on her boards. I must say, they were eye catching. I remember being at a parent event and a parent said to me, “(teacher) is so creative. Just look at those bulletin boards.” I did and I thought, that’s not creative, all she did was go out and buy a bunch of premade pretty things. What is creative about that? Where was the creating something when before there was nothing?
So since then, I try very hard to infuse creative experience into the musical experience. You see, music (and art, dance and theatre) require huge amounts of skill training. Building skills are left brained experiences. They require methodical structures to learn in an orderly fashion, just like learning to read. If you observe students learning in the arts you will see a lot of repetition of technique building that is hard work. The right brain doesn’t have a lot to do with this work.
The right brain is where expressiveness and emotion reside. Creativity is associated with these subjective rather than objective skills. So how do we do this in arts education, especially with the young learner?
There are several ways that parents AND teachers can infuse creative thinking into arts education.
The teacher: So the student is learning finger placement — no creative expression there. But creative thinking can occur. Using metaphors, imagery and other skillful questioning to help students think creatively can help a student with skill based learning. I watched one of our teachers recently who was teaching a young student. There were constant references to non-musical images – highway road lanes and how animals move for example, that students can imagine and then transfer it to technique. Using imagery and similes challenge students to think creatively.
On the professional level, creativity is pretty easy to see or hear. You just see the passion, internalizing and love of the art form come out of the musician, dancer, actor or painter. It becomes obvious that something is being created that never existed before.
So how can we begin to nurture this inward expressiveness to outward appearance?
The parent: Allow your child to explore – be it sounds, stories, pictures or movements. Put on a piece of YOUR favorite music and just move to the music – no rules or expectations. Let your child move in any way, self exploration is the key.
Let your child loose in the kitchen. Challenge them to find three ways to make sounds, not just banging! You might find that you finally have a reason you have all those mismatched plastic containers!
Here’s my ultimate favorite art activity for children, keeping in mind that I am not a visual arts teacher, nor have any talent in that area. Find your old record player (yes, that thing!) and get some paper plates. Put a paper plate on the turntable and start it – 33, 78 – doesn’t matter! Give the kids a bunch of crayons or markers and let them draw on the paper plates. Bingo! Your own spirograph! That was my favorite toy as a child. You do something simple, make a few choices and come up with an original product. Now that’s creativity!
And here’s what I suggest. Let your child take (insert your favorite) dance, music, acting, painting, lessons. They’ll start learning valuable skills that will help them in both the artistic side AND the academic side (yeah, you’ll be helping them in school!) and then interject simple creative activities to exercise their right brain skills. You will be doing so much to help your child become a successful person. And you’ll never have to use a dreaded worksheet! Now that’s good parenting!
Be sure to follow more of Amy’s writings at her blog: Oboeamy’s Blog