A Creativity Game To Play With Your Kids

DG covAs an artist, I am sometimes asked by parents about how they can foster creativity in their kids. Do I teach children’s art classes? Can I recommend a great art curriculum for home-schoolers?

Ironically, since my wife and I are both professional artists we may not be the best people to ask. Art was simply part of the environment within which our kids grew up, and we naturally incorporated the arts into life because that’s what we do. I would say as a general rule, though, parental enthusiasm plays a big role in fostering creativity. My wife and I both happen to love children’s art, and we did get pretty enthusiastic when our kids would create things we thought were cool. We hung a lot of it, and saved some of it.

Perhaps indicative of our enthusiasm was that our most entrepreneurial son used to try to sell his drawings to people who would come over to our house. I suppose because that’s what he saw me doing. (For a living, I mean. Don’t worry – if you come for a visit I won’t try to hard sell my art to you.) He would make little pictures of cellos (we don’t know why) and write “25 cents” at the top of the page. When people would come over he would show them, and ask them if they would like to buy one of his cello pictures. We like to think this was a reflection of our supportive parenting, rather than our poverty-level artist income.

When I was a kid, I was obviously artistically gifted, but my parents had no clue as to what to do with me. What they did right was encourage me, not only with their words, but also by making sure there was always plenty of paper and art supplies on hand. Even though my dad was a manly, blue-collar guy, he never gave me the impression that he thought I was an overly-sensitive, skinny, weird little artistic kid. (Even though I was.)

Looking back, I think what my parents could’ve done better was to provide some art materials other than the usual color pencils, which tend to be not very visually impactful and may be a bit tedious to use, depending upon a child’s personality. We usually supplied our kids with Crayola markers because of their bold and bright colors, especially when the kids were small. We would also let them paint, but this requires more time, supervision, and commitment, especially for parents who may not be as comfortable with paint.

Also, it might have been nice if my parents had exposed me to some fine art, but I think this was simply outside of their bandwidth. (Mostly I pored over my big brother’s Marvel comic books.) My third grade teacher, whom I did not particularly like, once got permission from my parents to come to my house and take me to the St. Louis Art Museum, which kind of freaked me out in general. Miss Cunningham. I suspect she must have been an art-lover. I now think this was a pretty amazing and outside-of-the-box thing for her to do.

A Simple Game to Play With Your Kids
Today I want to share with you a simple art game that I often played with my kids. We think we invented it, and we called it “The Drawing Game.” (Admittedly, not a terribly creative name for a game about creativity.)

It’s not much of a game, really. The main point is to think creatively and to make each other laugh. It is also a bit of a challenge to keep the game going, because it’s possible to shut the game down by limiting possibilities too soon. The game also teaches patience and forbearance in relationships because the other party will be taking something you’ve drawn and changing it, usually not in a way that you would’ve chosen. Kind of like in life.

I was reminded of the game in my previous post. You may recall that I quoted a researcher who said that over the past decade American children have become:
“…less humorous, less imaginative, less unconventional, less lively and passionate, less perceptive, less apt to connect seemingly irrelevant things, less synthesizing, and less likely to see things from a different angle.” The largest drop has been in the measure of “elaboration,” or the ability to take an idea and expand on it in a novel way…”

Well, The Drawing Game is all about thinking creatively, synthesizing, and expanding on an idea, just for the fun of it.

You will need:
A piece of paper
A pencil or marker
your kid or kids
your creative minds

How to play:

  • Someone starts off by drawing one simple shape, geometric or organic, on the page.
  • That player passes the page to the next person, who adds a new, simple element to the page.
  • The page is passed to the next person, who adds a new element. The page may be turned sidewise or upside-down to help in imagining new possibilities, and to keep the game going.
  • Continue on in this way as long as everyone is having fun, or until the page becomes too cluttered. Your kids can color the picture in when the game is over.

Rules of play:

  • No making fun of anyone’s lame drawing. The point is to enjoy each other, not make awesome art.
  • No obliterating anyone’s drawing. You can only change the drawing by adding to it, or changing the context. (For example the scene may suddenly become an underwater scene if someone adds a waterline.) If you feel you would like to cover part of someone’s contribution, ask their permission. Like in real life.
  • Be complimentary when someone draws a creative idea. Say things like, “That’s a great idea.”
  • If you have boys, you may want to place a limit on the number of times they can add blood or projectile vomiting to the drawing.

I asked my 17-year-old daughter if she would play with me, so that you could see an example of how the game is played. It was still fun.

I drew the circle first. I thought it might become a sun. Or Renee might have added a long string to it to turn it into a balloon. Or it might have become an eye on a giant face. Or the wheel of a car. Part of the fun is seeing how other people’s minds work, and watching the “story” develop.

Drawing Game-1
Below I show the subsequent stages without comment…

DG 2-3DG 4-5DG 6-8DG 9-11DG 12-14Let me know if you tried The Drawing Game, and if you and your kids enjoyed it!

 (Click the Book Store tab to order my new kids’ storybook, The Cocky Rooster.)

4 thoughts on “A Creativity Game To Play With Your Kids

  1. Great post! My husband plays a similar game with our kids that he learned at home with his artistic parents… They call it “doodles”. One player gives the other a simple but unusual shape, line, or squiggle that they, in turn, create into an image, figure, object, or scene. Some of the best drawings our kids have done are on a doodle page with dozens of wacky drawings.

    • Thanks for sharing, Joanna. One thing I like about these games is they can be played with only a pencil and paper – while we’re waiting around for a concert to start, or for an appointment to be over, or whatever.

    • It might. I taught art in a small private school for a couple of years, and several of the elementary age boys thought it was awesome to somehow work blood into every project.

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