If you want to raise an artist, let him fiddle

2012-01-13 00:00

DA, dum, dum — da, dum, dum — da, dum, dum, dum, dum, da, da — dum, dum, da. Aaaargh!

I feel my brain being slaughtered by my nine-year-old at the piano. Try, try, try — getting it right — error — oops and so we start Waltzing Matilda again and again and again, hour after hour, day after day. On occasion I can let it play, other times I walk away, sometimes I encourage “outside time”, and often I declare “silence!” and retreat to the furthest corner of the property.

When, however, I’m in a quieter frame of mind, I know that this is all part of the creative and educational process. By choosing the same piece and working it out himself and playing it over and over, he’s not only learning to play Waltzing Matilda but he’s learning about music, sound, the piano itself, composition, endurance and so many other skills. Mostly, he’s expanding his ability to create. No, he’s not creating his own new piece but he’s looking at a well-structured piece of music, breaking it down and, although he doesn’t realise it, he’s learning from this how music works and how to place different sounds together to create beautiful pieces of music.

We teach children never to copy and yet how did all the great masters learn their skill? They were apprentices to other great artist, composers or writers. Unfortunately, our children don’t always have direct access to masters but the Internet does provide us with a wealth of excellence from which we can work.

I recently watched a YouTube video titled Deadlines (find the link on my blog www.castleforkeeps.com) where children were asked to reproduce a creative artwork using a clock face as the centre of the picture. They were only given 10 seconds in which to complete the task. In this time they all managed to draw the clock face only. However, when they were given 10 minutes they produced some great pictures. The concept being that creativity takes time. This very simple video had a powerful effect on the way I see human activity. When I see children apparently wasting time on fiddling around on instruments, drawing endlessly, kicking the ball back and forth, back and forth I know that this is often not simply messing around but instead brain connections, thought processes and creative understanding are being established through these seemingly pointless and repetitive activities.

As parents we so often focus on the end product, on excellence from the start and our child progressing forward. However, these are times that they need to be able simply to be. To make mistakes, some of which are intentional to understand why that doesn’t work or fit together. In order for them to be truly creative we need to allow them the space and time to work things out for themselves. We also need to realise that as humans creativity is often not about the end product but about the process. So as we head into the new year and our children are tempted to spend every minute after school engaged in a constructive, organised sport or activity, we need to step up and say “Enough”. It’s up to us to ensure our children have time to fiddle on the piano, scribble hundreds of cars or to pick flowers and arrange them on the table for dinner.

As I sat and listened to my son play some beautiful Christmas carols, and watched him beam with pride at what he’d figured out, I knew every off note and my head-banging moments were so worth it.

• Go to my new blog at www.castleforkeeps.com and read about easy ways to encourage your child to be creative within the home.

• Joanne Madgwick is a parenting and educational consultant. Find out more about her at www.susaparentcentre.com



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