Freedom to Explore

Rules and boundaries are important, especially for young children, but, when it comes to artistic expression, they may be a hindrance to creativity and the reason a child ‘quits’ making art.

‘Hopper Trail’ by Ana

Recently, our martial art school celebrated its second anniversary and we had a party to show our appreciation for all of our wonderful members and their families. For the kids, we hired a face painter. The woman we hired did an amazing job, she was great with the kids, and her artwork was truly fantastic. All of the kids chose different designs and every single one of the pieces she painted was unique, beautiful, and highly detailed, especially given the time constraints she faced with a line of children eagerly awaiting their turns.

After the party, when it was time to pay the artist, she and I began chatting about children and artwork. I asked her if she taught art classes for children, explained that my daughter really enjoys painting, and that I want to encourage her to continue doing it. I told her that I was hoping that by having my daughter take art classes, by learning some of the skills and rules of art, that she would stay motivated. Her reply kind of shocked me at first, but made a lot of sense as it began to sink in.

The artist told me not to push my daughter into art classes yet, at least not at her age. She said that young kids need to feel free to explore art on their own terms and that it must remain fun. Art classes are great, she explained, but teaching a young child the rules of art too soon makes it feel like work. It is better to allow a child to freely explore art in whatever way he or she is drawn to it, to encourage this exploration, and to give them the tools to do it. If the child truly enjoys making art, he or she will eventually want to learn how to do it better and will want to take classes.

“As in life, so too it is in budo. As in budo, so too it is in life.

-Robert Van Valkenburgh is co-founder of Taikyoku Mind & Body and Kogen Dojo where he teaches Taikyoku Budo and Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu

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