Creativity LOST

I’ve had a little something on my mind lately. OK, for years.

I have had the pleasure to run after school art classes for quite a few years now. Subjects I have developed classes for include cartooning, painting, fine art, animation, and drawing. Now, some children come to these classes already loving art, and others come with no real artistic leaning at all. I love ’em both! They always end up doing well regardless of how they begin.

What always surprises me though is the BAGGAGE they bring!

The kids who have had formal art classes before are often “afraid” of making mistakes. The kids who are new to art are afraid to try, or fear being “bad at it.” I always nip these fears in the bud- in my classes, there is NO right and wrong in terms of the end product, and the kids quickly learn to not worry and have fun. But time after time, I find that I must undo these insecurities.

Why? Well, I have a couple of theories- for one, art has been turned into this:


“Arts and Crafts” like these are not exactly harmful ,and are maybe better than nothing, but they do NOTHING to foster actual creativity in kids. They are too spelled out, pre-fab, and defined. The kid doesn’t have to DO anything here- the shapes are cut, the arrangement is pre-determined, the colors have been chosen for them, etc. If you want children to work on their motor skills, these are swell- but so is putting together a puzzle, or setting the table.

But wait! Here are some fine alternatives to those kinds of things!


These are open-ended items that foster TRUE creativity! Open-ended is good. Kids should NOT have everything spelled out for them in an instruction book. If that’s all they have to go by, they positively flounder when asked to come up with their own ideas and methods. I know most of the people reading this blog are creative types, but if you see yourself in any way here, fill your house with supplies (they don’t have to be expensive, dollar store stuff works fine). Real supplies and a dose of encouragement can keep a kid busy and happy forever.

Don’t even get me started about the demise of the toy business and playtime in general…another post for later.

9 comments on “Creativity LOST

  • on Monday, January 29, 2007 at 11:23 am, Barbara said:

    Hey, Liz, they didn’t even have those “kits” when I was a kid! Good thing! My favorite artistic memory was simply a blank sheet of paper and crayons laid out before me.

    I had to figure it all out myself. Maybe that’s why using different art materials doesn’t scare me at all.

    Not sure what we can do about it all except encourage kids, as you do, to have faith in their ability to create.

  • on Monday, January 29, 2007 at 12:15 pm, John Nez said:

    Let them have crayons!

    People are by nature creative… at least children are. They just need the freedom and confidence to go ahead and make a mess.


  • on Monday, January 29, 2007 at 12:16 pm, jenny b harris said:

    I hear ya, Liz. There are two kinds of creating… one is making stuff and the other is making stuff UP. Now making things from kits or patterns is fine, but how much more fun to be free to experiment, imagine, brainstorm, invent, concoct and devise something that is truly your own! That is TRUE creativity, and our society is less about that than the instant gratification of putting together a kit that requires no creativity, and limited moter skills. You are great to try to counter this trend! Keep up the good work!

  • on Monday, January 29, 2007 at 12:17 pm, jenny b harris said:

    Oops, I do actually know how to spell motor.

  • on Monday, January 29, 2007 at 1:08 pm, Christine Tripp said:

    Liz, you have so hit it on the head!!! I was in Michaels craft store on the weekend and it was a sea of crafts that aren’t. Stickers (to stick down on something, big deal, those foamy shapes such as you have pictured… and you make a picture frame out of them??? What happened to scissors, paste, construction paper, paint, crayons and nothing else but imagination.
    Good for you and those are some lucky kids in your classes.

  • on Monday, January 29, 2007 at 1:24 pm, June said:

    I ran kids activities at the Library for many years, and all we had was paper/card, coloured pencils/paint/crayons, glue and knitting wool at our disposal. Just household basics with a few paper fasteners maybe.
    You would be surprised (or maybe not) at how many kiddies never even had access to these basics at home, and would take a few spare bits away with them to complete their project.
    Sticky tape, glue and string was particularly unavailable at home it seemed!

    We were inventive and creative. We built and constructed, and supplied the starting point of a project to get their creativity flowing, but left parts for the kids to work on themselves. Children came to us (aged 6 – 10yrs) with little or no knowledge of holding pencils, using scissors etc…. but they all progressed once shown. It was their creative input that made the projects shine.

    And I used to do sponge printing with thick paint in trays, and let the children get covered in colours all over their hands… but today it is frowned upon as it is a Messy Craft! That is why we have cover-up aprons for them all!!!!

    I left the job a few years back.
    Now the crafts are more ‘defined’, with things all cut out ready to assemble because the staff say they fear that the child gets disappointed if they don’t have a ‘success’ to go home with.
    I think this shows the staff’s fears more than any child’s fear.

    BUT… I am pleased to say that the most popular activities are when they have an ‘open craft’ session, with all the bits and pieces and odds and ends spread out on the floor, and the children can make anything they want from all the scraps.

    Why don’t families have scraps boxes anymore? So much fun to be had when you can sew/stick/create from bits and pieces of leftovers.

    There… you got me started for a moment.
    Calming down now.


  • on Saturday, June 9, 2007 at 12:08 pm, TriangleQueen22 said:

    I AGREE WITH YOU,MOM!!!!! Kids don’t get creative with arts and craft kits.if I only used those kits I wouldn’t create happy triangles.

  • on Saturday, June 9, 2007 at 12:14 pm, TriangleQueen22 said:


  • on Saturday, June 9, 2007 at 2:16 pm, AmericanIdol247 said:

    i agree w/ TriangleQueen22!

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