In my almost 10 years of teaching art to children, I have often been asked the question “Is my child old enough for an art class?”. This is not a question that can be answered by giving the parents a specific age, as age is not as important as the interest in creating art. You cannot force someone to create art, but you rather encourage them to try out different materials to express their ideas and feelings.
Children are ready for an art class when they are eager to express themselves and let their imagination run free. It is not important if the teacher and the parents can “read” their pictures. For me, a sign that they are ready is rather that they are excited about the class and so immersed in their art that they do not care about the time passing. They can hardly stop at the end of the class. I will never forget the little boy that was in one of my first classes. His dad wanted him to pack up because the class was over and his answer was that he was not finished because his painting still needed a certain blue. His answer still makes me happy.
In my classes, I teach kids that are between 5 and 12 years old. I have young kids that are more focused on creating their images than older kids. I find it sad if a child cannot “finish” an artwork fast enough and is then refusing to work on anything else or to try anything new. I am not talking about finishing the artwork in a way I would as an adult. This is something that is hard to understand for many parents. Sometimes, they look at their kid’s work and compare it to the image I drew onto the whiteboard. Then, they ask me worriedly if their son or daughter is following well in class. Creating art is not about staying in the lines and carefully colouring shapes. While I try to show the children how to create the basic character or object, I encourage them to make it their own by changing features and colours and then making it part of any story of their choice. If they are excited about their artwork, this energy is visible. While older children often have better technical skills, often the artworks of the younger children are more raw and powerful in their expression.
Creating art is about the process, not the result. Even as an adult, concentrating on the result will take out the joy from creating art. Sometimes, you are not happy at all with an artwork but you still had lots of fun. For a child, the joy of creating should be the most important aspect. It is a time to explore and learn about their world. I am happy when the children create unique artworks and I encourage them to present them to the class so that they can tell their story.
If you are not sure whether your children are interested in art, register them to a short session or an art camp before committing to a course that stretches over a couple of months. For more suggestions on how to boost your children’s creativity, please continue to follow the rest of my February blogs.