Do you remember creating art as a child?
Do you remember how proud you were of it and how good you felt it was?
Do you remember getting praise or criticism for it?
As a child I was very shy and insecure (and still am sometimes) but the one thing that I wasn’t insecure about was my art. My mother painted, sketched and did handcrafts so I did, too. When I was given colouring in books I copied the images as well as colouring them in. I made tiny sheets for tiny dolls that slept in empty match boxes. I was the one that was asked to do drawings of Santa Claus as a decoration on the blackboard in school. (No digital stuff or whiteboards then!) I also remember vividly being complimented at the age of about 7 or 8 on my embroidery skills by Miss Moody, our lovely school headmistress. She said that she couldn’t believe how straight and neat my lines of stitching were. All of this encouraged me to continue and to practice and refine my skills.
I read an interesting article recently that pointed out how this confidence in children somehow dissipates at around the age of 12 or 13 and we often don’t get it back again. Very few artists or art lovers have confidence in their ability. We feel that we aren’t good enough and we certainly aren’t as good as the next artist down the line! How do we lose this confidence? How can we stop our children and grandchildren from losing theirs?
A couple of months ago some of my close friends and I spent the weekend in Brisbane. We have been friends forever and our children have grown up together. One couple had recently moved to Brisbane to be with their daughter and her family. It was a great chance to catch up, see their new house, and have a general get-together. On the Saturday night their daughter and her family came over to dinner. Her sons are 4 and 2yrs old and are simply gorgeous. Eli, the 4yr old, is a little shy these days and I sat down with him to sketch. We had a piece of paper to share and we decided that he should try drawing a portrait of his father. The concentration in Eli’s face was wonderful. He really wanted to do a good job and he certainly did. He was seriously proud of his effort and happy for me to take his photo with it. Mark, a long-term friend who has been a volunteer for Camp Quality for over 25years, came over to join in and showed Eli some lovely tricks on how to draw funny elephants, images that started out as one thing and ended up as others, and stories that went along with the drawings. Eli was fascinated. He really seemed to enjoy the adult interaction and forgot his shyness. The three of us had a wonderful time.
The importance of showing children how much you appreciate their work never diminishes. It will always be important to them. It will help them with their confidence and give them skills for a lifetime. Remember that embroidery that my childhood headmistress praised? When my mother passed away very suddenly it was, of course, a hugely stressful time. I had to organize family from interstate and look after a father who was expecting to have heart surgery within a few weeks. I also had an injury of my own but couldn’t think of myself because there was so much to do. The day of the funeral I started looking through drawers in my parents’ house to get ready for the wake and there it was – that piece of embroidery. My mother had kept it for almost 50yrs. That was when I finally had a good cry. It meant so much to me and now I have it back again.
Remember to praise the children in your life. Remember to spend time with them and do arts and crafts with them. You don’t have to be good at it yourself. They will know in their hearts and minds that you are good. The time is the important part and the encouragement. We learn to be critical of ourselves as we get older. Let them be happy with their accomplishments for as long as possible and they will thank you for it.
Do you have any similar stories? Do you have suggestions on things to do with children? Please comment so that we can all learn.