Most of us have an unfortunate tendency to judge everything by “practicality”—how well it serves our material needs and our prospects for “success.” By thinking this way, we stifle our souls’ need to create and experience beauty for its own sake.
Loving art and music has many benefits:
Even if your children’s school places little emphasis on art, you can do much at home to influence interest in that direction.
Expose Your Children to Art from a Variety of Cultures and Time Periods
Never mind whether they understand much of it at first—just let them experience it. Multicultural influence will help them grow up with open minds, prepared to learn from everyone they meet.
Learn about Context and Circumstances
Every artist is influenced by his or her upbringing and individual experiences. Looking up the circumstances under which an artwork was created—along with details on the artist’s life, personality, and other works—will enable a greater understanding of the individual piece and of how people influence and are influenced by their environments. Plus, this is a way to uncover some great bedtime stories!
Take Them to a Play/Concert/Art Expo
Contrary to popular skeptical opinion, kids are not invariably bored, restless, and disruptive in the presence of “good culture.” They become that way when they are dragged, “for their own good,” to programs that they understand little of and that are longer than their attention spans—and when they have to listen to angry “shushing” throughout.
Get your own kids interested in art and music at home, first. See where their tastes gravitate. Then pick an outside program that includes art styles everyone already likes, doesn’t run too long, and doesn’t overlap regular nap- or snack time. And don’t make too big a deal of “I expect you to behave”; trust that your children will behave as well as they always do in public. (If that has obvious room for improvement, correct everyday-habits problems first, and don’t try to combine new training with brand-new experiences.)
Let Children Create, as Well as Experience, Art
What makes art “great” isn’t how realistic it looks or how well it conforms to popular concepts of “beautiful,” but how much of the artist’s soul goes into it. Give your children access to a wide variety of media and set them free to use it as they please. If nothing else, they’ll have fun while discovering new aspects of reality. And who knows? They may progress to creating works that are carefully planned and meticulously executed—and will be widely admired for generations to come!