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Imagination: Where the Wild Things Are.

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!

    Featured

    And All That Jazz!

    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!

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    Why Creativity Classes?

    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!

    NEW! My Creativity Tools

    Art Books: Great New Finds

    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.

    Stories About Great Artists

    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.

    Here is why I’m inviting your kids to join my classes on Outschool.

    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!

    Creating With Nature

    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.

    Summer, Creativity, and Fine Art

    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.

    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.

    Go Further

    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.

    Find out more about this class and other ones too.

    Let’s Celebrate Spring With Vivaldi!

    Yes, the spring is finally here! Our children can spend more time outside after being cooped up in houses during the long winter. Don’t you just love spring air? And gentle crocuses and snowdrops pushing their pretty heads through the soil? Everything is so full of vitality and exuberance! Just like Vivaldi’s music in his Concerto No. 1 in E major, Op. 8, RV 269, Spring (La primavera). More widely this timeless piece of music is known as being a part of four Vivaldi’s violin concerti The Four Seasons. And this is a perfect piece to use for introducing your young one to classical music.

    Here are some of the activities you can do with Vivaldi’s Spring:

    • Talk with your child about spring, then listen and enjoy the music together!
    • Try guessing together, while listening, what some fragments of music remind you off: singing of birds, rain, thunderstorm, etc. You can check out sonnets supposedly written by Vivaldi to get some ideas.
    • Move together with the music, pretend doing different things related to spring with the music.
    • Read children’s books before or after listening to Vivaldi’s Spring. For younger readers I recommend The Story Orchestra: Four Seasons in One Day by Jessica Courtney-Tickle. Older readers might enjoy the story behind Vivaldi’s creation of Four Seasons. For that purpose I love Anna Celenza’s book Vivaldi’s Four Seasons.
    • For even dipper immersion into Vivaldi’s world, listen to  Vivaldi’s Ring of Mystery by Classical Kids CDs. Can’t praise enough this magical story that will make Vivaldi and his world so much closer to young students. For kids ages 6+.

    More Awesome Books Introducing Young Kids to Art and Artists

    There are so many books introducing young kids to art and artists. Not all of them are created equal, though. Some look like they have promise, but in reality they just fall short of being moving for young readers. So, how does one chose the art book for a young child? Here are a few things to consider.

    Here are a few things to consider.

    • Your child’s age
    • Your own expectations
    • Whether or not your child had previous experience with fine art

    Of course, in any age you can simply show to a child an artwork and observe her reactions. You can talk to your kid about the subjects, feelings, colors, shapes, etc. In that case, you don’t need any special art book; your favorite “grown-up” book with artworks’ reproductions will serve this purpose quite well.

    But what if you want to introduce your child to the world of fine art with children’s book? What if your child is still pretty young, like 3-4 years old? I would ask myself, first, what do I want to accomplish? Do I want my child visually remember the art work? Do I expect her to remember artists’ name and style? And, most importantly, why do I want my child to be introduced to fine art?

    If my goal is for her to have factual knowledge, like artist’s name and style, then it could be easily accomplished just by “showing and telling” kind of book. I always felt that this is the wrong type of books for young children. To me, art must stir emotions and many biographical books for young readers fail to do so. I believe, that factual knowledge will “stick” better with older kids, not to mention that it’s wide availability online makes it easily accessible. It doesn’t mean that children should not be told artists’ names, artworks’ titles, styles or any other information you wish to share. It could be mentioned, of course, as long as it doesn’t become the main point of learning.

    I’ve noticed that for some young kids who never experienced art before, it takes some time to get used to looking at artworks. That’s why a good children’s art book that uses creative approach could be invaluable. It’s like a good teacher: sometime through game, other time through story, and yet another time just through cleverly chosen artworks, a book creates an exciting emotional experience. And this could be the first step into a lifelong love for fine art. Isn’t that what your goal should be?

    Here are some amazing children’s books I “found” and want to share with you.

    I love children’s art books by Bob Raczka. Many of them are so original and thought provoking. 3-D ABC is not your regular art ABC book. Unique assembly of sculptures in the book provides readers with delightful visual experience and serves as great conversation starter.

    Another Raszka’s book Art Is… makes one feel like visiting art museum while being guided by a playful rhyme. The book could be read first and then revisited multiple times posing at each image like one would in each room of art museum. Feel free to explore, guess, discuss, and learn.

    The Noisy Paint Box by Barb Rosenstock is a story about the artist Vasily Kandinsky. Like I mentioned before, there are many children’s books with artist’s biographies, but this book has qualities of a fairy tale. The magically spun tale with handsome illustrations by Mary GrandPré (best known for her illustrations of Harry Potter series), transforms the young reader to the world somewhat similar to Clara Stahlbaum’s family from The Nutcracker. Even though there is no magic per se in a story, you feel like it’s about to happen anytime. You might want to supplement this book with some bigger size images of Kandinsky’s work because the ones in a book are rather small.

    For more art books ideas check out Introduce Your Child to Fine Art on Your Own!

    Click here to check out my Creativity Classes Inspired by Fine Art

    Follow me for more ideas on inspiring children with classical music and fine art

    My Tools to Inspire Creativity

    CREATIVITY TOOL # 5: CRAFTS *

    All crafts have potential for creativity, especially if children are allowed to add their own ideas. Even store-bought craft kits can become original creations if your child is inclined to go beyond what kits have to offer. If you would like to nurture her imagination through crafts even further, consider a few following ideas.

    It’s all about materials

    Encourage creativity by offering variety of materials. There is no rule here. As long as they could be attached (glued, connected, inserted, etc.) somehow, they could be combined. Remember: using materials in a unusual ways is both fascinating and creative. And thinking of how to make them work together is problem solving too!

    How do you connect many different materials? With young kids I prefer to use basic stuff, like glue, scotch tape, duct tape (or colorful duck tape), playdough, and modeling clay. That’s right, I like using modeling clay for connecting parts and decorating plastic and cardboard. It’s a little harder than playdough, but it never dries up (unlike playdough), could be reused, and sticks to different materials. Multiple things, like beads, sequins, and natural materials could be inserted in it too.

    Using Recycling Materials

    I LOVE using recycling materials. Call me weird, but when I look at some plastic and cardboard containers, lids, hangers, candy trays, and other recycling materials, I see possibilities for creating toy vases, masks, bird nests, and buildings. And when I brought recycling materials to my students, they saw their own amazing creations in them too!

    Make Them Active Participants

    I often see parents’ tendency to create things, like simple toys, play scenes, or cardboard houses for their kids rather than with their kids. I’m not sure if this happens because parents strive for perfection or enjoy creating themselves. I, personally, don’t see any reason, why these kinds of simple projects can’t be made together with kids.

    Yes, they won’t look perfect, but there will be great opportunities for adult’s and child’s collaboration and inventiveness. Just trust your kids!

    Also, make them active participants in collecting materials for future craft. Of course, you can go on scavenger hunt for natural materials. But you can also do the scavenger hunt at home. Look together in a kitchen for drinking straws, plastic bottles and yogurt containers, lids in all shapes and sizes, etc. Look through the old clothes and cut off some buttons. Check out cardboard boxes, packaging materials, wrapping and tissue paper, magazines’ and greeting cards’ cutouts. Don’t forget broken or unused jewelry. Voila! You have a great mix of materials for many different crafts.

    Joseph and His Little Overcoat

    I discovered this book only recently and immediately fell in love with it. This is not a craft book, but a fun story about a very creative man. It also carries an important message:

    It’s true that Joseph’s creativity was driven by necessity. His ability to make a new thing out of original one, however, is not just an essence of repurposing, but also is essential quality of creativity.

    As you gather stuff throughout the house, ask your child, “What this container looks like (reminds you off, can be used for in your craft?)” When she sits down to make her craft, ask her, “How can you use these buttons in your craft?”

    Make Connections With Fine Art and Classical Music

    I love to pair painting (or drawing) with classical music. Here are few steps you can follow to give it a try:

    • Listen with your child to classical music, watch a YouTube performance or some segments from favorite ballets.
    • Talk to your child about their experience
    • Set up drawing or painting activities while playing the music she enjoyed.

    Here are some of my favorite pieces to play for this activity:

    Fine art is an amazing source of inspiration for young imaginative minds. Any painting , sculpture, and even architecture can lead to an interesting discussion followed by an art project. Need some help? I bet you can find plenty of projects online. In my earlier blogs, I introduced many children’s books that can help with ideas too. One thing to keep in mind, though, is your goal: do you want your child to copy an art project, to create a neat art project, or just let her be guided by her own imagination? The choice is yours.

    *Click here for my other  CREATIVITY TOOLS

    All my classes include crafts that are made of materials found around the house or in nature. Sample some of the classes by click on each image below to see a short movie. Check out Outschool for art and music classes as well as summer camps.