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Tips and Activities to Help Nurture Kids Creativity at Home

Sparking children's interest in art and ability to create it can be loads of family fun – and affordable. Detroit educators share smart ideas to get started.

If you think "making art" is hard, you're probably thinking too hard. Want to get some doable – and fun! – advice on nurturing your young artist at home? Education Detroit picked the brains of three Detroit art education pros: Roberta "Bobbi" Lucas with the El Arte early learning program at nonprofit Living Arts in Southwest Detroit; Carol Hofgartner, director of Art Road, a Livonia-based nonprofit that teaches art at two Detroit public elementary schools; and Ruth Goldfaden, a middle-school art teacher at Clippert Academy of Detroit Public Schools (her students' award-winning float ideas have wound up in a few America's Thanksgiving Parade processions in Detroit).

Dedicated art space

Create a nook for kids to create in. Start with a folding table, Lucas says, with decorated old boxes tucked under to store paint brushers, markers and glue. Try a porch or unused space as a teen-only "coffee/tea house" or "off-line chat room," says Lucas, where they can "write, paint and share poetry, stories, songs." They can even host a "parent night," where they share their work with you.

Recycle stuff

Hubcaps and acrylic paint are a great combo, says Hofgartner, who did this project with kids at Detroit's Heidelberg Project. They also painted old kicks for a Shoes of Others project – then asked children where their shoes could take them. Where to start? Simply raid the recyclable bin. Cereal boxes and empty paper rolls make great mini cities. Old T-shirts also are prime canvases.

Visual inspiration

Browse Google Images or visit a library and simply see what hits kids right, Hofgartner says. "That'll help visually just get your juices flowing."

Community influence

Free festivals are great ways to taste different foods, art and music – and many have free kids' activities, Goldfaden says. She asks her tween students, "What would you like to see in your dream neighborhood?" to get them thinking about float designs. They might explore parks, stores and libraries. Kids' sketches that turned into winning floats included Cinco de Mayo dancers at a fest and a community garden bursting with flowers, fruits and veggies.

Creating personalities

A box of dress-up clothes or fabric scraps can inspire kids "to create characters from favorite books or stories or games," Lucas says. Urge kids to invent their own characters, she says, or create story extensions.

Sounds and tracks

Make music and beats with drums, coffee cans or Home Depot utility buckets for a impromptu "stomp" band," Lucas adds. Recording basic instrumental tracks lets kids add their own lyrics or chants. "Ideas can be silly and simple," she says, "like, 'Let's write a song about food – or washing the car!'"

Photos

Living Arts also has done projects where kids experiment with "photo shoots," setting a scene and snapping pix of themselves or others. How would they look if you said, "Act casual"? Thrilled? Bummed? Like a visionary artist?

Discuss and display

Hone in on specifics when it comes to your kids' work, Hoftgarner says, like, "I love that color! Why did you use it?" or "Why is that zebra talking to the elephant" – vs. a generic, "Oh, I like it." It gets kids thinking and engaged. Finally, she says, tack those masterpieces to the fridge! "The more you value something, the more the child's going to value it."

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