How to take your kids on the creative journey by river bennett

River bennett ( Photographer River Bennett)

I am a huge believer that we are all born creative.

I am still waiting to find a child who doesn't have an imagination - one who doesn't play with toys or get lost in their own dreamland. Even now as I write this I can hear my 4 year old in the other room destroying the "bad guy" with Kung-fu blackflip kicks (I'm so glad he is here to protect us), and my 6 year old humming a song to himself while he’s drawing. 

I don't know the exact age when a child's creativity is undermined, but I feel as through many fall victim to being told they aren't ‘creative’ so they stop thinking they are, and thus they stop pursuing the very thing that came so naturally to them. 

Here are a few thoughts on investing into our children's creativity. 

1.  See, and speak into, their potential. 

After a school excursion to an olden-day school classroom my eldest son told me about the way school used to be. 

They had chalkboards instead of iPads, he said, and wooden desks instead of laminated ones, and there was no such thing as a ‘smart board’. He told me how the teacher had told her class that when kids were naughty they got the cane. (Don't remind me. Ha) 

The teacher also shared a story of how her husband got the cane once because he coloured the sky purple and not blue. Little did his teacher know he was actually colour-blind. And little did that teacher know that this would stick with him his whole life and he avoided Art as much as possible from then on. 

As a passionate Art lover this story broke my heart. 

My Dad recently told me a story of when he was Art teacher many years ago. He had a student who was a brilliant artist and yet he didn't believe in himself. He would give up and throw teenage tantrums saying that he didn't want to create or be part of the class, and yet my Dad persisted and made him come and join the class and encouraged him in his work, went the extra mile to help him produce different projects.

Years later my Dad thought about this student and wondered where he would be today. After a search online he found out this student had become an animator in Hollywood for kids’ movies. Dad made contact with him saying how proud he was that he persisted and pursued his Art. In the return email, this student said that Dad’s influence, patience, and encouragement to stick with his dreams back in his school days had played a big part in leading him into the successful career he now enjoys.

Two stories of teachers with two completely different outcomes. 

What a huge responsibility we have as our children's teachers to invest, and input positive encouragement into their spirit. May we never tell them what's right and wrong when it comes to colour, design and invention but gently teach them to navigate through their own Art experience. 

2. Include them in your creative process.

Both my husband and I are in the creative industry. Our schedules are different every week and to the outsider it may look completely unorganised and yet it somehow works for us. 

We venture out to different events and shoots and meet with people all week long. 

We decided early on that we wouldn't allow our kids to be babysat every time we need to go out. But that we would include them, where possible, on the journey with us. They learnt from an early age to sit through meetings and find something play with on set. And stay close and not whinge. Ha. We spend time and effort investing in them what we expect from them, and then in return we would include them in what we are doing. 

You will often find me asking them their thoughts, and make them help me edit a few images, or write something for a blog. 

Recently in the school holidays I photographed THEWOLFPACK for a fashion label and afterwards I wondered how I could involve them in the process. So we printed up some of the images (let's be honest kids love drawing themselves) and I got the boys to create over it with pictures from magazines and chalk and textas. It was art on art. My images with their special touch. Generation to generation. It was just a little way to involve them in my work, challenge and invest into their creativity and let's be honest, I'll will treasure it forever. 

 

I hope we never have different "work" and "children" compartments in life where we can't do one with the other one around. I believe we can do both well. I believe we can pull them in on the journey and invest in them a wealth of knowledge and experience they won't get anywhere else. 

And I also believe as families we contribute to what each of us are doing. We live it out together. We are a pack who are better together than we are apart. 

I hope you have a chance to pull your kids into your life as a Creator, Inventor or Designer. That you would release the wisdom you have to your kids and take them on the creative journey with you. And in turn as they give you their input I hope you see your art with new eyes and give you new inspiration for the season of work ahead.