From How to Raise Good Catholic Children by Mary Reed Newland

Give your child opportunities for creative activity

To be creative is to be like God. To know how to take the things God has created and extend them further in acts of our own creating, to search out in one’s head an idea, and work over it with a mind and hands, selecting this, combining with that, cutting away, discarding, adding, fitting, and finally bringing forth something new — this is how we are made to be creators like our Father.

To use love to create as God creates with His love — that is ours, too.

We pray to the creative Spirit of God, “Pour forth Thy Spirit and they shall be created, and Thou shalt renew the face of the earth.”

Out of this love we create families and friendships, and bind society where it is sick, and heal our enemies with our prayers, and work and pray and sacrifice with Christ so that His Mystical Body may be whole and continue to grow.

We serve Him in our fellowman with love, feeding him, clothing him, teaching, nursing, administering, interpreting, comforting, encouraging, and in a thousand other ways.

This is the creative work of man, who is given natural and supernatural powers of creativeness which, for all they are minute by comparison, are made in the image and likeness of God.

And to create is so necessary to one who is made to be a creator that from the beginning we struggle to create.

Babies begin to create almost before they can walk and talk. It’s very clumsy, but it’s in the image of God, for all its clumsiness. The first thing a baby does when he’s put outdoors to play unpenned is find a little dirt, squat down, and start to make something with it, even if it’s just the print of his hand, or a hill he scoops up and pours into his other hand, or mud he shapes into a little cake.

When you see it so often with so many babies, you sometimes forget to wonder that he should scoop up earth as God did; make his first thing with earth as God made man with it; look at it and crow in his way, “Isn’t it good?” as God did: “And He looked on it and saw it was good.”

Maybe it’s just because earth is such a willing element and surrenders so easily. Maybe there’s no more to it than that.

But if there is, it shouldn’t seem such a phenomenon that a child will create before he has mastered the other arts of living. It should seem more like a confirmation, at the very beginning of life, of the purpose of life.

The simplicity of his first creativeness is like the simplicity of his faith, neither questioning nor complex. As he believes, when told, in God who made and loves him, in the same way he sets himself instinctively to being what God has made him to be: a creator.

Creative activity for children is crucially important. It’s their discovery of themselves as individuals, different from other individuals, with ideas and the power to form them into something.

A small child is so honest and the things he creates so full of integrity that his character can be read from the things he creates.

For children growing up with the love and knowledge of God as a part of their daily life, as ever-present as three meals a day and sleeping at night, it would be almost impossible to give them the full measure of God without including creative activity. For, if they are to know God and praise Him for the gifts He has put into them, first they must discover the gifts.

They must learn not only to give praise for them, but to praise with them; and this begins the integration of what a child learns with how he lives.

To know who you are and the powers God has given you, and to serve and praise Him with them — that is the purpose not only of creativeness but of life.

Help your child to discover and develop his gifts

Discovery of these gifts almost always begins with art. It’s wonderful to hear children tell why they create, why they draw or paint or model or cut, because they’re so unabashed about explaining how important it is to be known as someone who can do something: “Because I like to show people what I can draw.”

And one little boy we know put all his pictures against the windowpane facing the street. “Or else how can everybody see what I draw?”

“Because I make things pretty good out of clay, and when I’m done, I have something I made.”

Out of all their impressions and knowledge, their most eloquent summations and delightful visions, in a way far more intelligible to them than any attempt at words, children will set down on paper how the world looks and what it’s all about.

And when their lives include a knowledge of the supernatural, they will make ever so clear how real spiritual realities are to them.

A five-year-old, hearing a news broadcast about a fire, came to his mother later in the day with a picture of it. This was the house afire, and this is the fire truck; here are the firemen and “the poor whose house burned up.” The poor were weeping in the front yard.

“And who is this in back of the house?”

“Oh, that. That’s an angel praying for the poor.”

Knowing the fiver quite well, I’m sure that a verbal explanation of it would not have included the angel. Alone with his knowledge of calamities and how God sometimes permits them for reasons He alone knows (but always so that some greater good might come), the addition of the angel was inevitable: one of the signs of Divine Love caring for the helpless.

Nor does the five-year-old’s wisdom manifest itself only in drawings of the supernatural. He has salty things to say about the natural, too.

Like the drawing, on the blackboard, of a man’s profile with a lot of scribbles in front of his mouth. “Talking real loud,” he explained. The grown-ups who heard were rather uncomfortable as they reflected how often they talk “real loud.”

All children can draw. Anyone who holds that they cannot, and can demonstrate with a houseful of children where there’s not a pencil mark on the wall, might have an argument. But I don’t believe there’s such a house on the face of the earth.

Until the children are older and it’s time to determine how much talent they have, how far it should be pursued, all they need to draw and draw and draw is lots of praise.

There’s a time to praise and a time to criticize. If some attempts are better than others, there’s always something good one can honestly say about even the least successful tries: “Nice sun, lovely rain, good idea, bright colors . . .”

Something in praise, even if no more than praise that they will to create: “How wonderful, that you can sit down and make so many pictures!”

I know a man who wrote stories all the time as a small child. A zealous adult, anticipating the “constructive criticism” stage by about five years, so discouraged him with well-meant criticism that he gave the whole thing up at the age of eight.

Thirty years later, he began to write — thirty years of lost training and practice in the art of self-expression.

Not all children will write, or draw, or sing, or dance professionally, but they should be encouraged to explore these fields, and in all probability, if we let them alone while they’re little, they will discover for themselves the medium through which they can give their most eloquent expression.

Coloring books, cutting out ready-made paper dolls, are not creative. They’re fun and exercise, and technically useful for teaching things other than art, but there’s nothing remotely creative about coloring blue where a picture is labeled “Color me blue,” or putting scissors to dotted lines labeled “cut here.”

To be entirely creative, children must invent with simple materials and the ideas in their heads. We must be careful to keep hands off, allowing them to reproduce things as they see them, not we, and above all discouraging tracing and copying.

There are some cutting and design projects where patterns are needed for tracing and repetition, some illustrating projects where pictures are needed for reference, but, by and large, children will provide and invent all by themselves.

It’s robbery of the worst sort to allow them to substitute the hackneyed ideas of others, slavishly copied, for the rich and imaginative pictures they have inside.

What is our conversation like each day, especially with the members of our family? Do we continually talk about depressing news, do we regularly voice our negative opinions about the people and situations around us? Do we talk about our own sufferings and our needs in a complaining manner? How about a different approach? Let’s talk about the positive instead. If we are talking of people, let’s make the effort to only bring up the good. Want to talk about heroes? Our grandparents, parents, ordinary folk and how they have overcome obstacles would be a good testimony to your kids. We all have stories to tell….make sure they are bringing out the best in those who are listening! – Finer Femininity 💖

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