A Guide to keeping your creative child active while stuck at home.
By: Teri Miller
As I write this, my ballet dancer son is taking an online ballet class in our kitchen, using the island as his barre. I am very thankful for all the online resources we have available to help navigate this course of distancing ourselves for the sake of those most vulnerable to sickness right now. However, as parents, we may not want our children, especially younger ones, relying on a screen for extended periods of time. Here is the good news! If you have creatively-minded children, now is the perfect time to have them fully explore their creative gifts!
This one is kind of obvious. Your child can create their own dances! Just turn on music, clear out some space and let them go! To make it even more fun, let them put on a dance concert for you. They can make tickets, costumes from old clothes, and a program naming their different dances.
Play Freeze dance. Younger kids love this game! Turn on music and let them dance around. When the music stops they must “freeze”. If they move, they must do a “penalty” activity like jumping jacks, push-ups, sit-ups, etc. You can also change up how they move while playing. Maybe they can only jump while the music plays, or they have to move in slow motion, or only on the floor.
Tell a story through dance. This is basically what a ballet is. Have your child pick a favorite fairy tale, children’s story, or nursery rhyme, and have the child try to “tell” the story through movement. To make it more challenging, try to guess the story, kind of like dance charades!
For older kids, besides trying to take online classes in the kitchen, or wherever they have room, challenge them to create a dance film or video. This puts them on the creative side of the screen! There are several free videos and audio editing software available that can be used to put together almost professional-looking videos. Try dancing in different environments, like outside or try using different kinds of lighting for cool shadow effects. You might actually end up with a very special keepsake!
The possibilities are endless, but here are a few ideas to get started. Charades! My family loves this game! There are several versions that can be bought, but you can easily just make your own. Pick some categories (song titles, movie titles, actions, etc) and then make some lists that go in those categories. You can make cards or write everything on small pieces of paper and draw them out of a hat. You can play individually or as teams. Lots of family laughs will be the result!
Puppet shows! Especially for younger kids, puppets are wonderful tools of expression. All you need are some old socks and markers. If you have fabric scraps or yarn, then even better! Using a doorway with a blanket strung across, you have a puppet theater. Puppet shows are also a great way for kids to express and deal with the anxieties they might be facing during this time of fear and uncertainty.
Improv games. Gather some objects into a box and see if your child can use them in ways that would be unexpected while acting out a silly scene. Try to only speak to each other with questions for a set period of time. Write down some silly sentences on pieces of paper and put them in a bag or box. Have two people act out a scene, (going to the movies, first day of school, etc.) then at different times during the scene, have the players take turns drawing out a silly sentence that they must use in the scene. Hilarious!
Finally, have your child create their own play. It can be based on a story or an original idea. If you want to link it to their schoolwork, maybe they could base it upon a historical period they are studying or a science topic. This involves a lot of creative thinking. They can write out the play, create costumes and props, and plan when and where the “production” will take place. Along the same lines, you could also have them make a movie. Hey, that’s how Steven Spielberg began…
Obviously, children can spend plenty of time practicing an instrument or singing songs, but here are some other ideas for using music at home.
Create LEGO music. This is fun for reinforcing note values. If your child has some simple sheet music, build each measure with LEGOs. A “1” brick represents a quarter note (1 beat), a “two” brick represents a half note (2 beats) and a “4” brick represents a whole note (4 beats).
The beauty of the time in which we live is the availability of all kinds of music. This next idea involves visual art with music. Create a varied playlist for your child and supply lots of paper and paints or markers. As the music plays ask your child to draw or paint what they hear. Encourage them to use colors that are inspired by the music. This is an abstract concept, but can really encourage focused listening. If the music is fast and sharp, they might paint little zig-zags in red, or if the music is soft and slow they might draw waves in blue and purple. It’s fun to “see” what they hear!
Build an instrument. Provide some materials and challenge your child to create a playable instrument. It can be anything from a simple drum to a stringed guitar-like creation. Encourage them to decorate their instrument and give it a unique name too!
Write a song. Lots of possibilities with this idea. For younger kids, it could be new words to a familiar tune or nursery rhyme. For older kids, they could do a parody of a popular song. If your child plays an instrument, they could compose the music and the lyrics and they could become the next Lin-Manuel Miranda!
This is a challenging time. Fear and anxiety are trying to pervade our lives, and it is certain that our children are being affected by these emotions as well. The arts can be a healthy way to express the emotions we feel, as well as a pleasant escape from stressors. Encouraging your children to be creative while being “stuck” at home will not only help time go by, but will keep their minds and bodies engaged while inspiring imagination. All the things we are usually “too busy” to do, now are available. Turn off the screens, play games together, watch homemade “performances”, and build an environment that encourages creativity, and maybe we might realize that wrapped up in this time of challenge, is a gift of time together. Let’s use it well.