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7 Ways to Engage Your Creative Children

I love that my daughter loves art and music, and I’ve dedicated a large part of our fairly small house to art supplies and her projects. I also know that how I respond to my daughter’s creations affects her deeply. Courtesy of PBS Parents, Patti Saraniero at ArtsEdge.org gives us seven suggestions about how parents can talk with their kids about their creative work.

1. Be thoughtful.
Your young artist has put effort into his work. Generic praise that we all use —“that’s great, honey”—gives us away that we aren’t really looking or listening. It can be discouraging. On the flip side, highlighting a weak spot in the artwork can also undermine a young artist. Often your artist is aware of where the artwork doesn’t work as well. If your young actor cannot be heard from the stage, encourage him to talk about what he is doing well and what he wants to continue to work on. When your actor identifies that he needs to better project his voice, offer to help. If he says no, accept that, but be willing to lend a hand when your child is ready for your help.

2. Don’t take over.
For parents who have a special ability or interest in the child’s art area, it can be tempting to “help.” Hold on. Let your child find her own way and wait for her to invite your participation. For example, let’s say the theater has been a very important part of your own

childhood and adulthood. It makes sense that you would want your children to enjoy it, too. So absolutely take your kids to the theater. Speak to them afterward about the experience, and let them know that you are willing to take them again.

3. Get beyond yes and no.
Use open-ended questions that encourage your child to discuss or explain his work. Listen closely to what he says. Try asking “Tell me about your sculpture” rather than “What is that?” Questions such as “What was your inspiration for this song?” encourage young artists to articulate their artistic thinking and process. The arts offer a valuable opportunity for children and teens to practice self-reflection.

4. Teach to learn.
Ask your young artist to teach you about the arts concepts and skills she learned to create the artwork. Teaching is a great way to reinforce learning and build mastery. What kid doesn’t love the opportunity to show an adult how something is done?

5. Encourage the process.
The artistic product is what you see at the end of your child’s hard work. The process of creating the work is as valuable as the product—and, for many kids, more so. When producing a piece of art, student artists must create, revise, polish, and persevere. All of these experiences are useful both in and outside of the arts. Music, dance, and theater rehearsals are great opportunities for your artist to practice not only the art form but also collaboration, compromise, and patience.

6. Effort counts.
Not every artistic product will be perfect (or even “good”). Interestingly, it may be the effort put into creating it that matters more in the end. In each of the arts, there are technical skills that need to be developed. Not every child may be artistically gifted, but with education and practice, every child can develop artistic skills. Encourage practice. Remember the old joke, “How do you get to Carnegie Hall? Practice, practice, practice…”? The reason the joke still works is because practice matters!

7. Let their light shine.
Find ways for your child to share his work if he chooses to. With visual artwork, encourage your child to photograph his work to create a digital “catalog” of his accomplishments. Videos and recordings of performing artworks also allow student artists to “collect” their body of work.Parents are an artist’s first and often unabashedly best audience. Whether your young artist has career aspirations in the arts or not, your support, interest, and commitment underscore the importance of her artistic work and viewpoint. Remember, the arts are valuable ways for kids to make sense of life and the world. You can further illuminate the way for them.

For more articles about kids and the arts, visit pbs.org/parents.

Fun "Cookie Thief" Games for Kids and Adults

Artwork is disappearing from the Museum of Modern Cookies and Cookie Monster is the prime suspect. Can Elmo, Abby, and Chris clear their friend’s name?

That was the premise of the “classic chewdunnit” The Cookie Thief, which aired on Sesame Street today. If you and your kids enjoyed the show, keep on learning with games and video clips from PBS Kids.

Right now on PBS Kids, find several video clips from The Cookie Thief. And over at Sesame Street find a whole bunch of related games including Cooking With Cookie and Cookie Thief Puzzle. There’s even one Pac-Man-inspired game that will be most fun for parents.

Learn more. Watch PBS Kids Video and Play Sesame Street Games with your kids now.


"Odd Squad" Saves the World!

Odd Squad Saves the World logo
Watch Monday, Jan. 19 on WPT

Calling all Odd Squad fans! Join us Monday, Jan. 19 at 7 a.m. and 3 p.m. as WPT premieres a one-hour special of Odd Squad, a live-action series from PBS KIDS designed to help kids 5-8 build math and collaboration skills. In “Odd Squad Saves the World,” kid agents tackle high-stakes cases and work together to overcome obstacles and save the day.

Parents, did you know your kids can sign up online to become Odd Squad agents? It’s true! And, they can earn rewards as they play math games inspired by the series. Check out the Odd Squad website, which offers fun and engaging games, activities and videos for kids, as well as parent and caregiver resources.

New to Odd Squad? See what it’s all about in this behind-the-scenes video with creators Tim and Adam.

Watching, Browsing and Surfing with Intention

Welcome to 2015. I started out this year a little differently than most. I didn’t make resolutions for myself or my family like I usually do. I am not going to “lose 10 pounds by Valentine’s Day,” nor am I instituting “family game night” every Sunday. Not that those aren’t admirable goals. But this year, I am trying something different: I am going to be more intentional. In particular, I am going to be more intentional with regard to my use of technology.

Like many of you, my childhood television viewing habits consisted of turning on the television after dinner and watching something until bedtime. Maybe there was a show I really wanted to see, but more likely I would simply watch whatever came on, one show after the next. As a kid, I never even considered turning off the television when the program I wanted to watch was over. Unfortunately, that practice follows many of us into adulthood. But now, as a parent and in my job as the Early Learning Services Manager for WPT, it is intentional television viewing that I practice and preach.

As you may have guessed, my family and I are big fans of public television. Each month, we sit down with our Airwaves program guide (mailed free to members!) and choose the programs we want to watch. I actually put them on our calendar. When that night arrives, we make our popcorn and head to the television. We watch our show and then…wait for it…turn the television off. You read that correctly. We choose the programs we want to watch, we watch them and then we turn the television off. We view television with intention.

Regrettably, this habit has not made it to the rest of my technological life. Therefore, it is my goal in 2015 to extend it to my computer and iPad as well. What exactly does this mean? It means no longer searching for a rainy day craft project for my daughter and ending up waist deep in wedding cake topper ideas on Pinterest. It means not getting sucked into taking one Facebook quiz which leads to the next and the next and looking up blurry-eyed an hour later wondering why my coffee is cold. It does mean I will consume my media intentionally; I will choose what I want to see, not just take whatever is put in front of me. Will this be a challenge? Yes. Will I sometimes get distracted by the cute animal videos and celebrity gossip? Yes. But I am going to try it and I encourage you to try it as well. I will keep you posted!


Make PBS KIDS Holiday Programming Your "Special Thing"

One of my earliest memories is sitting on my grandma’s lap watching holiday shows together. It was something we did for many years — long after the time when sitting on my grandma’s lap was cool — but it was our special thing. And as one of 20 grandkids, I cherished those special things whenever I could.

This week, we get the premieres of many PBS KIDS holiday shows. Peg and Cat, Daniel Tiger, and Thomas are off on holiday adventures that you can share with the children in your life. Each show is airing several times, so take a look at the WPT schedule and set aside a half hour or two to put your child on your lap and share a special moment with your favorite PBS KIDS friends.

Here are just a few of the episodes airing over the next week.

In “The Hanukkah Problem,” Albert Einstein teaches Peg and Cat how to make a 2D piece of paper into a 3D dreidel.  When Santa Claus is in trouble in “The Christmas Problem,” Peg and Cat have to figure out how to make and wrap presents for all the children of the world and deliver them using 100 sleighs.

On Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood, Daniel learns that if he takes one step at a time, he can overcome his fear and learn to do new things. He learns to sled and ice skate in “Daniel’s Winter Adventure” and performs The Nutcracker Ballet in “Neighborhood Nutcracker.”

A huge snowfall in Sodor means that Thomas, Connor, and the other engines will have to work together to clear the tracks and get the passengers home in time for Christmas in “Coming Home for Christmas.”

Have a wonderful holiday and don’t forget to take time for the special things.

Simplifying the Holiday Season for You and Your Kids

The holidays are a time of joy and excitement, and no small amount of stress for mom and dad.  For young children, the anticipation and change in routines can cause anxiousness, too. It can be hard to remember that while there is value in creating memories and traditions, it’s far too easy to go overboard and get overwhelmed.

Author Katrina Kenison shares some tips with PBS Parents to help simplify the holiday season. She says, “As the holidays approach, it helps to pause and ask:  What part of this season is most meaningful to me?  What message do I want my children to absorb from our celebration?  What brings us true joy?  What activities and expectations are we ready to let go?”

The holiday season can be an opportunity to make decisions about what is really valuable to your family, and what might be some things you can let go of. Here are some specific ideas from Kenison for paring down your holiday commitments, and getting back to that joy and excitement:

Downscale holiday plans and expectations.  Keep the focus on family, on meaningful traditions and simple activities that replenish rather than exhaust.

Whether you’re decorating the Christmas tree, baking cookies, or making gifts for grandma, remember that the process is more important for your child than the outcome.  Keep it simple, and you and your child will enjoy it more.

Ask your children what they most love about your family’s holiday.  You may be surprised by their answers.  For my sons, it was:  reading our Christmas books aloud, opening the doors on the advent calendar, our annual carol sing with the next-door neighbors, lighting the ting-a-ling on Christmas Eve. . .

Take away the pressure of going “all out” with every occasion, and you may find that your whole family enjoys time spent simply being together even more.

Go to PBS Parents for more tips on simplifying your holidays.