It is my belief that creative people make the world go round. Creativity is the essence of all new ideas, nonstandard approaches, and groundbreaking innovations. Childhood is the best time to inspire human creativity. By regularly exposing children to works of art and classical music as well as helping kids to process their experiences through games, crafts, and dramatic play, adults have an opportunity to cultivate their creativity. Let the creativity blossom!
Whether you get snow this winter or not, you can still talk about winter with your young kids and use Vivaldi’s music too. All you need is your imagination (and your children got plenty of it, I bet!)
First, some background.
Vivaldi composed his 4 violin concerti (or concertos) Four Seasons as program music . It is believed that Vivaldi himself wrote 4 sonnets for the concerti describing the mood and events specific to each season.
How to Introduce Vivaldi’s Winter
- Talk about winter season. If your child had never seen snow, find an age appropriate YouTube video with examples of snow as well as people’s and children’s activities on snowy day. Relate to your child’s experiences (being cold; warming up with blanket or hot chocolate, etc.)
- Talk about Vivaldi and his idea of describing each season with music.
- Predict with your child what winter music might sound like (falling snow – soft or loud; shivering with cold – fast or slow, etc.)
- You might choose to share the Winter Sonnet or just invite your child to use her imagination as she listens.
- Invite her to act out or draw what music makes her imagine. Act out and draw with music too.
- Remember: there are no right or wrong answers! I just being told by one of my students that Vivaldi’s Winter reminded her of… marshmallows!
- Most importantly: have fun!
For years The Nutcracker ballet and its timeless music had been associated with Christmas. “This is Christmas music,” my students told me after I played Tchaikovsky’s famous dances in one of my classes. Indeed, the holiday season’s excitement is unthinkable without the Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy‘s music. But who is she? Why Sugar Plum Fairy? And what makes this music so magical?
The Sugar Plum Fairy was not in the original book by E. T. A. Hoffman. Neither did she appear in Alexander Duma’s adaptation of the book. She was created specifically for the ballet to showcase a famous ballet dancer, Antonietta Dell’Era, and to add a flare to the plot.
Sugar plums have nothing to do with plums. In fact, any type of confectionary that was round or oval used to be called “sugar plum”. I think it’s safe to believe that the Sugar Plum Fairy is a… candy fairy!
Have you ever wondered what makes the Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy‘s music so magical? Tchaikovsky used a new (at that time) musical instrument, celesta, to create a bubbly, bell-like sound.
Bring the Sugar Plum Fairy’s Music Home.
- Tell your kids about the Sugar Plum Fairy. Invite them to make or draw one as a candy fairy.
- Tell your kids about celesta. Watch with them a short video (2 minutes!) The Nutcracker’s Celesta with Kelly Zuercher from Colorado Springs Philharmonic.
- Invite them to listen and move with the music. Dance like a Sugar Plum Fairy? Use a pretend wand? Make some magic? Anything goes!
- Check out my other ideas of bringing The Nutcracker music to your home in my other blog.
As it gets colder, we tend to spend more time indoors. Here is an idea: turn off TV and electronics, and invite your kid to share an art book. Not sure where to start? Here are a few art books for young kids I came across recently. I found all of them… in a library! Not in my local one, but I was able to order them from other libraries. I hope you and your children enjoy them as much as I did!
- Dinner at Magritte’s by M. Garland. Imagine having a great surrealist Rene Magritte as a neighbor. The visit to his house is anything but boring! Your child will follow young boy Pierre into the painter’s house and his fantastic world. An idea. Have Magritte’s painting to look at and find the one’s that illustrations are based on. Discuss them with your child too!
- Klimt and His Cat by B. Capatti. Beautifully illustrated book with the story told by a cat. Just as in a previous book, illustrations are based on Klimt’s paintings. Unlike in previous book, there are original paintings at the end. They are small, though. That’s why I would have bigger ones on hand to look at and discuss. Beware. Just as many of Klimt’s paintings depict half and fully naked bodies, so do couple of illustrations and paintings included in the book. To me, it doesn’t diminish the value of the book.
- The Three Musicians by V. Massenot. Another wonderfully illustrated book in Picasso’s style. Unlike other two titles, the story is based on one Picasso’s painting (The Three Musicians.) The fairytale-like story will captivate young readers and the big reproduction from MoMa will give kids a chance to admire the Picasso’s work. The last two pages contain interesting facts and ideas for discussion about the paining.
Check out my previous Art Book Review.
Just look how creative the kids are when stimulated by interesting materials! And the best thing is… that we all have these in our homes or right outside of them. But… how do you present different materials to make creativity soar? Should you involve your kids in gathering them? What materials “go together”? I composed a few tips and suggestions below.
Involve or not involve?
It’s a good idea to involve kids in gathering materials. Scavenger hunt either outside or inside could be a lot of fun. On the other hand, sometimes you might want to surprise them with objects you prepared for them (“Look what I got for you!”) In this case, if children feel like having additional materials, definitely allow them add or replace whatever they like.
Collect some stuff.
- Collect some recyclable items, but go beyond toilet paper tubes and eggs cartons. Nowadays packaging comes in amazing variety of shapes and colors. Save some interesting ones.
- Consider saving scraps of construction paper from previous crafts: scraps have interesting shapes that inspire new ideas.
- Holidays and birthdays often leave wrapping and tissue paper as well as ribbons. They could be fun to use in combination with other materials.
- Plastics bottles, cups, yogurt tubs, and candy box inserts (cavities) could serve as a spring board for your child’s imagination.
- Collect small items like beads, buttons, bread clips, bag ties, etc. Toss them into mix too!
Make it interesting.
- Present combination of different types of materials: natural and recyclable, cardboard and play dough, plastic and tissue paper.
- Use more than one type of paper: cardboard, tissue, foil, napkin, parchment, newspaper, etc.
- Suggest adding stickers, magazine cutouts, and store bought materials (if already in a house), like pom-poms and pipe cleaners.
- Encourage different ways of using paper: tearing, crumpling, twisting, shaping, etc.
- Let your child know that anything goes: it’s his art!
What goes with what?
I like to organize items by the way they connect:
- natural materials and small plastic could be easily inserted into play dough or clay
- tissue paper could be glued to smooth plastic containers
- leaves, grass, and flowers are easily glued or attached with scotch tape to cardboard and plastic.
Dos and Don’ts.
Do let your child use her own ideas EVEN if you can’t appreciate them. Do help (if asked) to cut or squeeze (the glue.)
Don’t tell your child what to add or change. If you really want to make a craft, just make your own!
In a summer many of us get to spend more time with our kids, and, often, try out new activities. So, why not introduce your child to fine art? Visit local museum or exhibition. Look together at famous paintings. Watch a kid-friendly show about an artist on a YouTube. And, the simplest thing of all, get a book about art and artists.
I love browsing children’s books about art in libraries, on Amazon, or at book stores. One can find real treasures! Some books use very creative approaches introducing art to children. I wrote about a few of my favorite art books and book series in a past (see my blogs, like Introduce Your Child to Fine Art on Your Own! or Stories About Great Artists.)
This summer I came across a few new (for me) kids’ art books that are unusual and fun. Below are four such books.
This is a delightful book with simple ideas that will encourage your young artist to notice and create art everywhere. It also broadens our thinking about children’s art: it can be made anywhere; it doesn’t have to be taken home and attached to a fridge; it doesn’t have to be perfect. All you need is your imagination. In fact, a sandcastle your child is building on the beach is just an example of such art (this is my thought inspired by the book.) For ages 4-7.
A great book about power of human creativity and imagination. Based on life of Nek Chand who created a secret garden on the edge of the colorless city. Nek used thrown away materials, like broken pottery and metal items, among others. The book is recommended for readers ages 7-10, but most of it could be read to younger children. It could be used as a starter for discussion about upcycling and creativity. I would also pair this book with open-end art project using recycling materials. And don’t forget to check out photographs of Nek Chand’s garden online (the book has only one, unfortunately.)
What if you are about to move to a new house? What if it has been designed by famous architect, Gaudi, specifically for your family? Fun story full of imaginary interactions between Gaudi and Carmen Batlló for whose family Gaudi built famous Casa Batlló. The story is very engaging and could be used as introduction to Gaudi’s architecture. The book has a good photo of Casa Batlló. Recommended for ages K-2nd grade.
This book is part of series How Artists See… It presents children with paintings and sculptures each accompanied by a short story and questions that are designed to evoke their curiosity about the situations depicted by each artist. It chooses topics that kids are very familiar with: spending time with your family members. That makes artworks very relatable and engaging. The book is recommended for ages 6-8, but I would not hesitate to use it with 4 and 5-year-olds.
I suggest you first check your library for these books. I also hope you and your kids have fun flipping through them this summer.
Recently, I discovered a series of art books for children that I immediately fell in love with. It all started with the book Cezanne and the Apple Boy by Laurence Anholt. Right from the start, I was lost in a delightful story introducing young readers to Pull Cezanne, his life, his ideas, and his paintings.
Then, I remembered that some time ago I read a book with similar illustrations. And it was also about great artist: Picasso. And the book used similar simple and friendly story introducing kids to the artist, real events and people in his life, his ideas, and his art.
It must be a series, I thought. And what an awesome series too! I found other Anholt’s books about artists:
They could be used to introduce young kids to the number of famous artists! The only thing, I though, I would supplement each story with reproductions and photographs of the artworks.
I felt I must share this series with adults who are on the lookout for awesome art books. I hope you and your young art lovers enjoy it as much as I do. And, by the way, check out your local library first. That’s where I find my treasures!
For Creativity Classes Inspired by Fine Art check out this series of ongoing classes on Outschool. All classes include stories and crafts. All classes are for ages 4-7.
When it comes to introducing young children to jazz, one can find many great resources online as well as in the library. Here are some of them. I hope this irresistible music will get you and your young ones swinging.
Books and CDs
Make sure to get the books as kits with CDs or as Audiobooks. Words and pictures are great, but must be combined with audio!
- Jazz by Walter Dean Myers is a book of jazz poems that should be listened to or read out loud to be fully appreciated. Amazing pictures by Christopher Myers capture the energy and the bit of music. The book is for older kids (ages 8-12)
- Charlie Parker Played Be Bop by Christopher Raschka. Just book itself is not enough, it must be accompanied by CD. There is a comment by Chris Raschka, and original performance of A Night In Tunisia by Charlie Parker, but most importantly the performance of narrator, Richard Allen, really brings out the rhythm of the poem which is supposed to accompany the music. Unfortunately, the only place I found book with CD (as a kit) was a… library! So, try your local library, or check out performance on YouTube from episode of Between the Lions. This book is officially for ages 5-6, but I bet the younger children will fully appreciate the bit too!
- Nicky’s Jazz for Kids CD has a delightful collection of jazz classics, like A-Tisket, A-Tasket by Ella Fitzgerald, Ten Feet Off the Ground by Louis Armstrong, and The Umbrella Man by Dizzy Gillespie just to name a few. You’ll find yourself dancing with your kid!
- Duke Ellington’s Nutcracker Suite book by Anna Harwell Celenza is the story of Ellington’s creation of The Nutcracker Suite. The book is for older readers (ages 6-9.) If your child is familiar with Tchaikovsky’s ballet it might be fun to introduce her to the jazz version. Especially, if she has a favorite part, like Dance of the Sugar-Plum Fairy, it might be interesting to compare it with Ellington’s version. Ask your child if it reminds her of the original one.
Most importantly, have fun with any jazz music you listen to with your kid!
Many parents (and I used to be among them) feel uncomfortable with the idea of young children using Zoom. It’s totally understandable. After all, many parents felt frustrated with their kids’ remote learning due to the pandemic. Also, many would probably agree, that for a young child, learning in-person is best. Nevertheless, as I’ve discovered for the last year and a half, learning specifically on Outschool platform has many benefits. Some of them might not be that obvious to the parents who actually never tried Outschool. So, let me tell you why, as a teacher who works with young children and truly believes in the importance of in-person learning for this age, I still invite your kids to join my classes on Outschool.
- First and most importantly, Outschool is very safe. In Outschool, students’ security and privacy are at the heart of everything that’s happening there. We, as teachers, undergo thorough background check. In addition to the initial training, teachers are constantly informed and reminded about ways to keep all learners physically and emotionally safe. Before any class could be taught, it’s submitted to be checked for its content’s appropriateness.
- The variety of Outschool classes is UNBELIVABLE. This is one of the main reasons why parents are attracted to Outschool. There are so many subjects and topics that are taught on this platform for all ages and in so many forms! If you or your child can think about a topic he is interested in, I bet you can find it there. And these are not your typical classes. Among many other forms, you can find pods, tutoring, social clubs, and so much more.
- You get to meet people from all aver the world! Another thing that makes it very exciting, is recognizing that in the same class you can have learners from all over the world. I got to teach children from Japan, Australia, Korea, Finland, and UK, just to name a few places. What it means for your student, is that he could be exposed to views and ideas of kids raised in very different cultures. How cool is that!
There is much more that you can find out about Outschool on its website including teachers’ expertise and classes’ prices.
Meet me on Outschool!
The variety of classes and topics that one can find on Outschool makes it an ideal place for me to present subjects that are dear to my heart (classical music and fine art) with emphases on what I consider vital for young children (creativity, play, movement, and story telling.) Outschool also allows me to reach your child over Zoom even if I can’t reach her in person. It means she will join me on a journey into the magic worlds where imagination leads the way as we discover famous works of art and classical music. Welcome!
Do you have weeds in your garden? Do clover flowers pick their stubborn heads in your lawn? Let your kids use them in their play and crafts! That’s right: summer is a great time to use nature in creative ways. Here are some ideas.
- Make a plant soup or salad. Bring out toy pots, and pans, add water, leaves, and flowers, and let them cook.
- Make a vase for flower arrangement. It’s easy to use a yogurt container, small plastic bottle, or even toilet paper tube to make a vase for flower arrangement. Your child will have fun decorating the vase with markers, scraps of colorful paper, and stickers.
- Create a masterpiece. Kids can use flowers, leaves, and even grass blades to create their own landscape. All these natural materials can be easily attached with scotch tape. Provide your children with additional tools too (like markers, crayons, etc.) to let their creativity soar.
- Create a portrait. Remember Arcimboldo’s portraits? Your child can make a portrait inspired by Arcimboldo’s art with natural materials from your backyard. Show him one of the paintings and offer him to arrange flowers, leaves, and other materials into the portrait.
- Create art with sand and small shells. While visiting the beach, don’t forget to gather a few small shells, pebbles, and even some sand. It’s fun to use them in a craft. Elmers glue should work well for attaching both sand and small shells. Alternatively, sand could be replaced with whole wheat flour.
Check out Outschool for art and music classes as well as summer camps. All classes include stories and crafts.
What could inspire creativity better than outdoors in summer time? Running on a beach, watching fireflies, smelling wild flowers, or going for a hike, provides our kids with endless opportunities to expend their imagination. Let’s use it to connect with fine art. After all, nature inspired so many great artists. Just choose your favorite ones and introduce their artworks to your kids. Here are some ideas.
- Visiting beach: Monet Regatta at Sainte-Adresse or Camille on the Beach
- Having a picnic: Renoir Luncheon of the Boating Party, Monet Luncheon on the Grass
- Gathering flowers: Van Gough Sunflowers or Irises
- Looking at stars at night: Van Gogh The Starry Night or Starry Night Over the Rhone
- Going for a boat ride or fishing: Monet In the “Norvegienne”
- Playing in a garden: Klimt Farm Garden with Sunflowers, Monet Monet’s garden at Vétheuil or Camille Monet and a Child in the Artist’s Garden in Argenteuil
- Visiting park: Seurat A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte
- Going to the country side: Constable Wivenhoe Park
What should you talk about when you show your child a painting? Ask if she likes it. Listen if she has some remarks about it. Talk about colors, shapes, mood of the painting, and the way it makes her feel. Compare the painting with your child’s experience (visiting the beach, etc.) Ask what would she do if she could enter it.
Don’t stop at just showing the art and talking about it. Encourage your child to create his own summer art. Don’t worry about it not resembling great masters. The child might borrow ideas and develop them in his own way. Let it be drawing, painting, sculpting, or anything else. Gather with your child real flowers, leaves, beach shells, and other natural materials. Add stickers, play dough, recycling items, etc. Combine variety of materials and let your child create his summer masterpiece.