Weaving the arts into your days
Though the days of fingerpainting and singing the ABCs may seem long gone, there are many fun and easy ways for you to incorporate a healthy dose of the arts into your children's lives. Here are some ideas to try:
Tap into what interests them most. If they're all about anime, a book like How to Draw Anime & Game Characters, Vol. 1: Basics for Beginners and Beyond by Tadashi Ozawa can teach them how to draw the characters they love to read about. If hip-hop's what they listen to, a class in hip-hop dance can expand their interests while giving them a healthy workout.
Help children learn about art forms that were created by artists/performers of their own ethnic or racial heritage and about family members who have a particular artist talent. This is a great way to teach them personal and global history and to possibly spark a new interest.
Use the computer for creating, not just chatting. There are many wonderful online resources that teach about art and artists and let children create with their computers.
Play music you love and listen to the music that your children love, too. Even if it's not your taste, listening to the music your kids are into can teach you a lot about what matters to them. Music can be a great conversation-starter and a way to build connections (e.g., "You know, this sounds a little like a band I listened to when I was your age. Let me play some of that music for you.") The public library is a great resource for music-new, vintage and world beat-for you and your children to explore.
During the middle school years, children are learning a lot about who they are. Journals and sketchpads can give them a safe place to try their hand at poetry, to record their deep thoughts in colorful language and to sketch their dreams. Make sure to provide a collection of writing and drawing tools, such as gel pens, colored pencils and pastels.
Expand your art library. Borrow or invest in a few good books on famous and popular art for your family library and/or bookmark any of the many online museums.
There are many biographies on the lives of artists of all types that can be an inspiration for your own budding artists. At local booksellers and online at www.kidsart.com, you'll find books and other media that will introduce your children to the artists they love.
Watch recorded and live art performances. Local high schools, colleges and other performance spaces host live dramatic performances. Check the local newspaper for upcoming events. Public television and the local library are also good resources for pre-recorded art performances to view at home.
Practice photography. During the middle school years, some children find it more comfortable to express their creativity from behind the lens, rather than out in front. Inexpensive disposable cameras that they can tuck into backpacks and purses can be great tools for photographic expression.
Summer art camp activities can expand their interests. There are so many creative, dramatic and musical art experiences for children during the summer months. Talk with your children's guidance counselors and/or check the listings in local newspapers for summer art camps and workshops aimed at young teens.