Paints! Noise! Mess! Action!

You can't teach creativity. But you can have great fun learning it. Here are some suggestions
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The Independent Online

1 Do a blow painting

Mix two colours of paint with water, making sure you keep them runny. Colours such as blue and green, red and orange, or red and purple look good.

Pour a little of each on to some thick paper, close together. Place a straw above the middle of the paint and blow hard. Chase the paint outwards to make spiky shapes. Keep on blowing out in different directions.

Gently blot the middle of the paint with the corner of a damp rag. Then go round and round wiping the paint into the centre to create the shape of a face. Leave to dry. Then paint on eyes, eyebrows, nose, lips and ears with a fine brush.

2 Play art detective

To kindle an interest in the works of the great artists, encourage children to find out what is really going on in a painting, look at the evidence and ask questions about it.

Every painting is like a mystery waiting to be solved, according to Lucy Micklethwait, author of Discover Great Paintings, a selection of famous paintings with questions about what each one shows, facts about the painter and explanations about what you see. What are the people wearing? What is the weather like? Is it a noisy scene? Is it sad, happy or frightening? Look at the shapes, colours and textures. Try to work out the age of the painting and identify any unfamiliar objects.

"Imagine you are travelling through a tropical forest. You are hot and tired. Suddenly, you come across this scene (Rousseau's Tropical Forest with Monkeys). You hardly dare breathe," says Ms Micklethwait. "In the clearing before you there are monkeys, lots of them. Some are quite still, while others are swinging through the branches."

Q1. How many exotic flowers can you count in the picture?

Q2. Do you think that the artist painted this scene in a real jungle?

Q3. How many monkeys can you count altogether?

Q4. What are the different monkeys getting up to?

Q5. Can you spot the possible danger?

3 Act up

Professional actors preparing for any performance will do warm-up exercises. Often, these are little more than playground or party games. Getting people to play tag, Chinese Whispers, Grandmother's Footsteps, Sleeping Lions – all these games can help to unlock creative potential.

Encourage younger children to play these games and help them to understand the skills that this sort of play can develop, says Paul Sutton, director of C&T, a theatre company based at University College, Worcester, that runs theatre projects for children exploring themes linked to young people's issues and to the National Curriculum.

"Most of these games work at two levels," he explains. "First, you have to pretend to truly enter into the spirit of the game. Second, they involve developing listening, co-ordination and language skills."

Having played the game, encourage your child to consider why the winner won. Reflect on the skills that gave them an edge – creeping up behind grandmother quietly, perhaps. Then play the game again, this time concentrating on particular skills.

4 Get it taped

Make a tape of all the songs you know, recording friends, family and neighbours singing a variety of nursery rhymes, playground songs and chants – and the games that go with them – tongue-twisters and clapping games. "Parents can then rehearse with their children the songs that they already know, and also teach them some new ones," says Sarah Hennessy, who is the music/programme director for primary education, at the University of Exeter.

 

5 Create a musical story

A broad range of musical activities can be tailored to any age to encourage an interest in music and performance skills, says Professor Graham Welch, head of music education at London University's Institute of Education.

Younger children might like to take a poem or children's story book and put in sound effects. You don't need formal musical instruments for this, just household items with which you can make contrasting sounds. Kitchen utensils such as pots and pans are good. Plastic bottles with ridged sides are also good for scraping. Cut bases to different lengths for mini-drums.

Also worth getting are wooden spoons, shakers, cheese-graters, egg-slicers, seed pods, sticks, logs, shells, sand and pebbles. Look for items to create high sounds and low sounds, loud sounds and soft, ringing and dull sounds.

"Practise. Perform it with someone reading the story out loud and someone else doing the sound effects," Professor Welch says. "The record and have fun listening to the results."

Meg Carter

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