The Belen Art League just finished up their two week kids’ art program. Classes included trivet-making, using polished stones, watercolor basics, abstract impressionism, recycled art, jewelry making and cardboard sculpturing.

Working with these young people on a daily basis allowed me to observe changes in their self-confidence and willingness to try new forms of art. This got me thinking about all the ways and that creating art helps children learn to navigate in the world.

Fostering creativity in children helps them develop mentally, socially and emotionally. Creating art can boost young children’s ability to analyze and problem-solve in myriad ways.

As kids manipulate a paintbrush, their fine motor skills improve. As children experiment with materials, they dabble in science. Most important perhaps, when kids feel good while they are creating, their self-confidence increases. And children who feel able to experiment and to make mistakes feel free to invent new ways of thinking, which extends well beyond the craft room.

Art stimulates both sides of the brain. There are studies that show that kids who make art read better and get better grades in science and mathematics. The kids learn by using their senses and art is ideal in this process.

Art encourages kids to give more attention to the physical space that surround them. Art stimulates perception. Art teaches kids to think openly. Art teaches that there is more than one solution for a problem. Art teaches kids to think creatively to solve problems. Art nourishes the human soul.

Kids are natural innovators with powerful imaginations and creativity offers a bounty of intellectual, emotional and even health benefits. One study found that kids’ imaginations helped them cope better with pain. Creativity also helps kids be more confident, develop social skills and learn better. Parents can encourage their kids’ creativity in a number of simple ways.

Designate a space for creating. It can be a tiny corner with a stack of Legos or a box of your old clothes for playing dress-up. The key is for your child to feel like they have power over their space. Keep it simple: paper, crayons, glitter, glue and inexpensive paints will provide hours of creativity for a child.

Help your kids activate their senses by getting them to use their imaginations. Pick up a leaf and encourage them to see the various colors besides the obvious green, ask them what green would smell like or what sounds would a leaf make.

Avoid over management. Give them the space, materials and lots of positive input. Do not be an art critic, just keep encouraging.

Finally, be sure to take the time for your own creativity. Since kids learn from watching their parents, be creative, too. Join your child when they’re drawing or building or coloring. Quiet your own inner critic and pretend you are a kid experiencing the freedom of expression.

It’s often hard for adults to feel free about creating art, especially if it’s not something they engage in regularly.

The Belen Art League is holding two paint and sip nights in July — on Friday, July 12, and Saturday, July 13. Tickets are $25 and available at the gallery; call 861-0217. Come and act like a kid.

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