It’s not enough to teach your children the basics of personal finance. Nobody will deny that it’s crucial that young people be taught how to manage their money and resources, however it’s also important to nurture their creativity and emotional intelligence to help them grow up to be creative, resilient adults who can weather any storm.
Exposure to the fine and performing arts is important for all children, not just those who show signs of being artistically gifted. All of these experiences will add to your child’s bank of inner resources and help them grow emotionally and intellectually.
The good news is that even parents on a tight budget can provide a childhood full of the arts with a bit of planning. Here are a ten suggestions:
1. Visit your local library. Libraries not only have a wealth of wonderful literature for children, but also music and films that parents can borrow. Most libraries have a resource center for parents and early childhood educators filled with books and other instructional materials that detail activities that incorporate art, music, dance and wordplay.
2. Ask around to find the best places to buy art supplies in your area. Dollar stores can be a good source of some arts and crafts supplies, however some of the materials might be very low quality and frustrating to use.
Most larger areas will have teacher supply stores where you can buy paints and paper in bulk and save. Stock up on crayons, pencils and papers during back to school sales.
3. Get on the e-mail newsletter list of local museums, galleries and performing arts centers or follow them on Facebook/Twitter to get the scoop on low or no cost activities. Many offer a limited number of pay what you can performances, family days or special demonstrations for the community.
If friends and family members ask for gift suggestions, steer them in the direction of experiences for your child. Depending on their budget and prices in your area, you could suggest tickets to a play or musical performance, classes or lessons, a session at a local paint your own piece studio or an annual membership to a museum or gallery.
Don’t think you are limited to professional level exhibits and performances, either. Take your child to an older cousin’s school play or high school art exhibit. Look at the art in local coffee shops and take a minute to listen to street musicians before going on your way.
4. Music and dance lessons can be expensive. Local community centers, places of worship or colleges might offer lower cost alternatives or charge on a sliding scale. If you can’t get discounted lessons, find out if buying used instruments and/or other gear is an option. Be sure to understand how much notice you are obligated to give if you decide to cancel and the instructor’s policy on missed lessons.
5. Make your own art supplies at home. If your children are old enough to help, be sure to include them in the fun. Here is a good list of links to instructions on how to make your own play dough, gak/flubber, sidewalk chalk and paints.
6. Spend plenty of time outdoors and let your child have plenty of time to putter and observe. Do take the time to talk to your child about what they see, point out interesting and beautiful things but also take a step back and let them experience the joy of scratching the ground with a stick and daydream.
7. Turn off the TV. Television not only encourages children and adults to be passive consumers of entertainment but it can also promote materialism and obesity. A little planned viewing is okay, but screen time should be limited and monitored for children.
8. Choose toys that promote creative play like blocks and lego bricks over things that only do one thing. Help your child keep them well organized and instruct them to only bring out a few things at a time and to tidy up before pulling out the next things. Giving a child reasonable boundaries can help them not feel overwhelmed by a pile of toys and art materials and encourage more imaginative play.
9. Ask a lot of “what if”, “why” and “what do you think would happen if”questions and don’t be so quick to jump in to correct them or provide the right answer. Children should be encouraged to ask questions and to not be ashamed that they don’t know something. The stupidest question is the one you don’t ask because of pride or shame.
10. Let your child see you enjoying your hobbies and trying new things. Children want to emulate their parents and will learn from your example that you don’t have to be perfect at things to give them a go. Just as importantly, if you let your well run completely dry, you won’t be the best parent you can be. Make sure to devote some of the family’s resources to nurturing your creative side, too.
If you are a parent, how do you encourage your children’s creativity while keeping on budget? Does anyone have any memories of how their parents encourage their creativity without spending a lot of cash?