Whenever one of my children shows more than a passing interest in something, I like to encourage him to continue. When my oldest son wanted to learn blacksmithing, we found an apprenticeship program for him. When our daughter started reading cookbooks for pleasure, we enrolled her in cake decorating classes; because you never know when a childhood hobby will become a future vocation. Now, my sixth child spends hours drawing, coloring, and creating works of art in all forms. To encourage him in this interest, I've done five things that have made a difference.
Most parents already keep basic art supplies handy for their children—crayons, coloring books, colored pencils, etc. But if you want to encourage a child that would rather spend an hour drawing and coloring than watching TV, go beyond the basics and buy a few sketch pads, paints and brushes, or pastels. If he sees that you are willing to invest in his interests, he will feel encouraged to continue practicing and improving. For Christmas or birthday, a collection of different sized canvases, matting, or easels to display his work makes a wonderful gift.
Introduce a Light Table
Like most kids, my son is a perfectionist. He can be almost done with a drawing and just the slightest mistake makes him tear it up in frustration. Then, he has to start over from the beginning. That was until we bought him a light table. With a light table, he can trace the good parts of the drawing that he made the mistake on and then finish it the way he wants. Using the light table has saved him a lot of time and tears.
If your child would like art lessons but you cannot afford them, purchase instructional DVD's or books for him to use. Or, you can barter. Last summer a mom in our church asked me if I would give her daughter creative writing lessons. Remembering that she worked as an artist for a publishing house before she had children, we struck a deal. Now we meet together on a weekly basis and swap lessons. I teach her daughter writing and she teaches my son to draw.
Our local electric cooperative publishes a monthly magazine. Each year they sponsor a youth art contest. They have a theme and different age categories and offer handsome awards. Look for opportunities like this for your child. Checking with his teacher or online just might turn up the perfect venues.
Display His Work
Our homeschool group has a yearly Exhibit Fair. Set up like a science fair, our event includes exhibits from the children on any given topic. Historically, they have included history, science, and geography studies. One year, one of the moms had all the children in her art class display pieces of art they had created throughout the year. She brought a huge pile of mats to frame their drawings and paintings. She then hung them on the wall—art gallery style. The children were thrilled; and so were their parents. Since that time, I have dedicated a wall in my home office to my children's artwork. It tells them that mom cares about their interests.
No matter what your child's interest, a little encouragement from mom and dad will always take them to the next level. Only time will tell if that level will be a hobby, or a future business. But either way, your encouragement tells him you care.
Carol J. Alexander has been encouraging her children's interest in hobbies, crafts, and entrepreneurial pursuits for 25 years.