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Giving Your Kid an Art Smart Edge in Southeast Michigan

Drawing and trips to the DIA in Detroit are just part of the puzzle. Learn cool ways parents can help children blossom creatively with cameras, paint and tons more

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You're probably keeping an eye on your child's IQ, but what about her CQ? Although no definitive test exists to measure the "Creativity Quotient," there's no denying its value.

For older children with an artsy bent, the focus should be on helping them understand that creativity can lead to a clear-cut – and lucrative – career path, and to begin to get portfolios in order for the college application process.

For youngsters it's all about exploration, and it's never too early to start. Traditional media like painting and music are fundamental, but there are many other ways to foster a child's CQ. Here are some ideas.

Photography

Amazing things happen when you give a child a camera, says Birmingham-based photojournalist Linda Solomon. Photography is a great medium, she explains, because cameras are inexpensive and readily available – and kids as young as 4 can manage not just to point-and-shoot, but to convey their ideas.

Through photography, they learn to see the world differently. "It's very important to give them a theme; just don't let them go wandering around," Solomon says.

Solomon says it can be anything from asking children to photograph their heroes, document their bedrooms or snap photos of siblings in the family car. Ask children to write down their ideas or discuss them with adults first.

"I always ask children to capture their hopes and dreams. Each time they capture a dream with their camera, they've got that treasure forever. It's life-changing."

Sculpture

Yes, there's Play-Doh and clay, but sculpture can also be explored in other ways.

A new class in development for Schoolcraft College's Kids on Campus program in Livonia encourages fifth- and sixth-graders to create sculpture using found objects.

Michele Bialo, program manager for continuing education and professional development at the southeast Michigan college, says the class asks students to bring in materials from home or the great outdoors to use in their work.

"The focus is on taking everyday items and turning them into a masterpiece," she says. "I think there's beauty in everyday items, and I think oftentimes kids can see things that adults might not be able to."

The annual Plymouth Ice Festival, held the third weekend of January every year, also gives children a chance to experience sculpture in an unexpected way as ice sculptors create cool, glistening works of art out of big blocks of ice. The event, which is held in Kellogg Park, includes interactive displays for families – not to mention a dueling chainsaws speed carving show.

Architecture

According R. Rocco Romano, students with a solid grasp of both art and mathematics have a strong foundation for architecture – and there are ways to expose even the youngest of children to the principles behind the profession.

Romano, a principal at TMP Architecture in Bloomfield Hills and chair of the elementary education committee for the American Institute of Architects, says parents can encourage children to study their surroundings and think about how humans interact with the world around them.

Romano helped author Architecture: It's Elementary, a free, web-based guidebook for educators and parents with specific lesson plans for grades K-5 – which was updated in 2012 to include "green" design principles.

Activities in the book encourage children to do such things as draw their rooms from memory, measure their classrooms, explore their neighborhoods and plan entire cities.

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