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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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
I have to admit, I am a total marshmallow when it comes to pets. I’ve had a lot of pets over the years, all rescues. Presently I have three dogs and two cats… all of which are geriatric. My oldest dog is between fifteen and seventeen (we aren’t exactly sure of her age), and the youngest is eleven. We’ve had all but the 11-year-old for almost their entire lifetimes. Thankfully, we have the room, ability, time, patience, and finances to care for them and manage their needs. Their health needs are changing now and veterinary costs are increasing dramatically. But regardless, we took these precious creatures on knowing it was a lifetime commitment and were prepared from the start to see things through until their lives end. It’s a package deal. We love them and wouldn’t have it any other way!
So, if you are pondering the idea of getting a pet, there are some things to seriously consider beforehand. Pet ownership is a long-term commitment and requires careful consideration before actually bringing a pet into your home.
Why: Think about your “why.” What are the reasons you’d like to have a pet?
Lifestyle and Finances: Consider your lifestyle and what you can afford. Different breeds of dogs have varied needs. Some are high energy and need an outlet for that. They do best when kept very active or they have a job to do (such as herding sheep). Others are less active and are fine with limited activity. Certain dog breeds require daily and monthly professional grooming. This can get very costly. Then there is basic veterinary care (spaying or neutering, vaccines, routine health care) and the potential of unforeseen costs due to health issues that may arise. Can you afford these things?
Time: Do you have time to attend to a living creature in your home? Or can you afford to have someone come and let your dog outside, walk and feed them, or hire a pet sitter if you have to be gone for several days? Puppies require training which can be time-consuming and requires a lot of patience. Dogs require walks at least two to three times a day and need human interaction (playtime) and attention. Please, if you don’t have time for a pet, don’t get one! It’s unfair to the animal to take it on only to surrender it later because you underestimated certain needs, costs, etc. Instead, you might consider fostering or helping rescues/shelters by spending time with animals that are awaiting adoption (by walking, grooming, or reading to them). Another option is pet sitting—you can set your own schedule, and still get a “pet fix.” If you really want a pet but don’t have a lot of time for them, consider fish or small animals like gerbils, etc., that are easy for others to come in and care for.
Care: Dogs need more of your time and attention than cats, and generally do not like being left alone for long periods of time. There is also potential for noise with dogs. Do you live in a place that will tolerate this? Is there a yard or can you take your dog to a park? If there is a chance you will have to move at some point, are you able to take the pet with you? If you have children, make sure beforehand they are not allergic. If you have a family, are they all on board with getting a pet, and willing to help with its care?
Please do careful research and consider all aspects of your life before choosing to take on a pet. Be brutally honest with yourself regarding the overall commitment. It can save you and a pet a lot of heartache!
Jenny is a Certified Natural Health Consultant for pets and their people, Healing Touch for Animals (Level 2) and NES Bioenergetics Practitioner. Consultations are done over the phone and via email. To contact, call (906) 235-3524 or email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Adapted with permission from the Summer 2019 issue of Health & Happiness U.P. Magazine, copyright 2019. All rights reserved.