If, as a parent, you needed to help your child to make more active lifestyle choices, you would play games and walk, swim etc. along with them. Similarly, encouraging a child’s artistic flair is much more effective if they can see the family value art activities. A love of art is more ‘caught’ than ‘taught’. You don’t have to be an expert; that’s not really the issue here. You don’t even have to indulge in the practical if it’s not for you; but, as the best and most supportive audience your child will ever have, you must be perpetually encouraging. With creative participation you can get the child to take the lead if your talents are modest. They will love the teaching role. Just don’t ever say: ‘I was never any good at drawing/painting (etc.)’. This negative message, if repeated often, can undermine all your attempts to be supportive.
For secondary school arts and crafts, your encouragement will often be a background role. However close family relationships are, art for children in their teen years is sometimes private, and needs to go public’ at the moment they choose. Naturally, you will want to praise, but it is more likely your child will want your appreciation of the creative concept/skills/techniques on display before you. This involves a focused discussion with plenty of listening on your side. Teens in particular may value art as a means of expression and a real opportunity to shape and control their own work. The freedom to make choices and decisions helps them grow as individuals.
Having a quiet space to work uninterrupted is a basic requirement; it confirms too that art activities are important. Similarly, making space for visual display reinforces the same message and also provides an important opportunity for recognition and celebration of creative work. You will also need a table, shelves and a dedicated storage. With materials for arts and crafts, good quality matters more than quantity. Working with the best tools is vastly more encouraging. Where children are working at, or towards, National Curriculum Key Stage 4, the following list is an example of the kind of materials they may require:
- set of 6 Sketching Pencils (graphite), grades from 2H to 6B,
- set of 12 Acrylic Paints,
- pack of 4 Drafting and Sketching Pens, with different weights,
- set of 4 White Nylon Artist Paint Brushes, in different sizes,
- set of 12 Oil Pastels,
- set of 12 Art Pastels,
- 6b Graphite Crayon,
- Soft Eraser and Sharpener (Double Hole),
- Spiralled Sketchbook (A3) 140gsm,
- Polyfile (A2) + card insert.
To find these materials to buy, have a look at Hope Education’s arts and crafts resources.
Support a broad range of experience
For children in their teens who show artistic flair, art should be a broad experience. Abilities are best nurtured in an environment without any external pressure to specialise. The school arts curriculum can only cover so much. Plenty of motivating community arts experiences are usually available in the form of displays, exhibitions, workshops, groups etc. Family trips to museums and galleries also give invaluable access to real life examples of art for children with developing arts abilities. Remember too that ‘art’ encompasses a whole family of experience beyond painting and drawing – photography, art and design, architecture, graphic art, and web design to name just a few.
The calendar of family activities may include activities and occasions for both art and design work. Birthdays may present an opportunity to design cards or produce a painting or sketch as a present. Festivals and celebrations such as Halloween and Christmas may do likewise and offer more creative and inspirational possibilities besides.
Making good progress in art inevitably means confronting and overcoming challenges. Artists make mistakes, learn from them and, by such means, they move on to a better place. Your child will be doing the same. Creative problem solving is a necessary life skill for everyone in all environments. The creation of art work is a golden opportunity to develop flexible thinking, resilience, the ability to reflect and many similar attributes. Your interest in your child’s art is a great way to stay connected and give them the confidence to be the best they can be.