For the 5 and under set, it’s all about process rather than product. That’s the word from John Bomhoff, art studio manager for the Children’s Museum of Phoenix. He suggests parents begin nurturing a love of the arts by setting up a designated art center at home.
It can be as simple as “a small, child-size table with basic art supplies,” he says. “That way, the child can choose to do art sometimes on their own without an adult supervising every step.” Provide inexpensive supplies like construction paper, white drawing paper, child-size scissors, crayons, chalk, water paints, markers, glue sticks, foam shapes, yarn scraps, magazines and other materials with a wide variety of textures.
Integrate your child’s unique interests into everyday arts experiences, suggests Bomhoff. If your child loves trucks, try making collages with that theme. Children’s books can be great motivators, too, according to Bomhoff. A child fascinated by Eric Carle’s illustrations might love a chance to work with brightly colored tissue paper.
Take projects outside if you’re worried about the mess, he says. Choose activities that are well suited to your child’s age, attention span and interests. Praise the act of creating instead of dwelling on the finished product. And let your child take the lead instead of telling your child what or how to create.
Children exposed to diverse arts experiences enjoy extra opportunities to develop the imagination, problem-solving skills and curiosity so essential to success in school and beyond.
MORE WAYS to introduce young children to visual and/or performing arts:
- Enjoy your own arts experiences. Children love to imitate grown-ups, so make sure they see you dancing, singing or drawing in your free time.
- Make the arts a part of special occasions. Spend birthdays at the puppet theater. See family-friendly dance, theater or musical performances during the holidays.
- Introduce the arts in familiar settings. If your child loves playing at the park, watch for outdoor concerts. If your child loves the zoo, check for camps and classes that include art-related activities.
- Look for art classes, exhibits and kid-friendly performances at libraries, community centers and performing arts venues. Also check with music stores, dance studios, art galleries and theater companies.
- Spend time at child-friendly museums, and museums that have special areas designated for young children. Many offer free or discounted admission on certain days, and also offer hands-on art activities for children.
- Choose arts experiences with a hands-on component—such as instrument “petting zoos”—before symphony concerts.
- Read books about art-related topics. Include kid-friendly books about art, music, dance, theater, poetry and such in your home library.
- Invite other children or families to join the fun. Encourage your child to bring friends along for concerts, dance performances and children’s theater productions.
- Choose items for your home that promote creativity and pretend play—a costume trunk, a puppet theater, a basket of colorful scarves or percussion instruments.
- Visit raisingarizonakids.com for directions to weekly craft ideas from the Children’s Museum of Phoenix.