One of my favorite memories from my childhood was listening to my mother play the piano. I loved how smoothly her fingers went from key to key, playing each note. She furthered my interest with an interactive musical game for my siblings and me. She would play various tunes, each offering different tempos. When she played the faster music, we would dance with quick moves around the whole house. As it slowed, we would too. It was a marvelous way for my mother to introduce us to the world of music. The bonus may have been that it also tired us out eventually. This was the beginning of my love for music and dance. My mother was always finding ways to nurture our creativity. Our house always had a supply of simple visual arts materials, and no end to creative ways to keep our imaginations blossoming.
The impact of the arts on the developing brain is essential.
The brain is stimulated in positive ways while creating art, dancing, or playing an instrument. The research for this is even included in the Search Institute’s forty developmental assets for youth. These are building blocks to help children grow up healthy, caring, and responsible. The more assets our children experience, the healthier they will be—not just as young people, but as they transition into adults as well.
By introducing creative activities into our children’s lives, we can help them develop skills that will create healthy habits. The arts can support creative problem-solving as well as celebrate our individuality, uniqueness, and diversity. Creativity encourages self-expression, a way to create something from personal feelings and experiences. This can increase self-worth and self-esteem.
Though here in the Upper Peninsula we may have fewer offerings such as art museums, programs, and concerts than a larger metropolitan area,
we do have abundant opportunities to share the arts with our children in many ways. We have art galleries and art centers in many of our communities. It is my belief that children are never too young to start interacting with or in art. Bring them to an art gallery, outdoor art fair, symphony concert, or take the time to pick up books about the arts at the library and start conversations with your child. If discussing art makes you feel nervous, that’s all right. Learn with your child.
This type of conversation does not have to happen only in a gallery or concert setting, though. You know the game of lying down outside on a blanket and looking up for images in clouds. That is a creative activity that can help stimulate your child’s imagination. Point out what you see and ask your child if they see it. Then ask them to find something. Observational skills are important to your future scientist, mathematician, artist, or engineer. The arts help greatly in fine-tuning those skills.
Studies have concluded that it’s very important to introduce art education at a young age because children are developing their critical thinking skills.
Our children fine-tune their motor skills while creating art. The cognitive processes involved in learning to draw, choosing shapes and colors, and creating detail in visual work help develop the skills associated with these tasks. The musical arts can translate into better math skills. Musical rhythms can provide a way for students to learn fractions, counting, and patterns.
We do have opportunities to meet artists, musicians, dancers, and performers in the Upper Peninsula. You know the Michigan State motto, “If you seek a pleasant peninsula, look about you”? Well, I truly believe if you seek creative activities in this pleasant Upper Peninsula, look about you. Here we are more likely to meet talented artists face-to-face. We are a personable group of neighbors. Ask local friends and family about local opportunities. We have galleries, art class opportunities, creative businesses, and children’s museums.
As you introduce your children to these types of skill-building creative activities, you’ll be having fun right along with your child.
Try collaborating on a painting or drawing. One of my favorite drawing opportunities as a child was having an adult draw a simple scribble on paper. Then I would take it and see if I could make an image from it. A simple figure 8 might turn into a twirling dancer or an animal. That kept me occupied for hours. The adults seemed to have fun coming up with odd scribbles just to see if I could find anything to make out of it. I did this with my own children, and you can try this too. You might ask your child to make a scribble for you and you try to make something out of it. This type of dialogue between adult and child can help to develop not only the budding artist in the youth, but also help further communication between you and your child.
Through the arts and nurturing creativity, both you and your child will have fun while developing lifelong skills and the blossoming of imagination.
Joy Bender Hadley is an award- winning art educator working in schools and as an artist-in-residence throughout the region. She believes in the importance of art education in the development of all youth. Aurora Artworks, her art service business, offers creativity coaching for adults.
Reprinted with permission from the Summer 2019 issue of Health & Happiness U.P. Magazine, copyright 2019. All rights reserved.