Creativity scholars increasingly point to perception as a key to creativity.   Gregory Berns of Emory University argues that to think of things differently, which is the first step toward creativity; we need to stimulate our senses with phenomena our brains have yet to encounter.  This allows our minds to move beyond our typical way of thinking and imagine new alternatives.

This is no different for our children, and we can stimulate our children’s creativity at home through a number of techniques.  Today I want to talk about one of those tools:  modern and contemporary art.

Ask your children them to look at an abstract image and discuss what they see.  While there are many places to find such images, two great places to start online that include fun art games as well are the Art Safari at the Museum of Modern Art or London’s  Tate Museum website for children  at  My seven year old daughter and I love to play the Memento Mori game at the Tate site in particular.

With my older boys, we used to love a large painting by Robert Mangold that was essentially a few big squares, but felt as if it was a portal to another universe.  Whenever we went to the museum, we could stand in front of it and do a small jump and pretend we entered another world and describe it for a few minutes.

You can also just type “modern art” in a search engine and look under “images” to find great starting points.  Ask your kids to tell you what they see, but don’t stop there.  Ask them to look at the images from different angles and see if their perception changes.  Ask what emotions the art conveys.  Ask if they could guess what the artist was thinking.  The key is to let our kids stretch their imaginations without fear of being corrected.   Many children will want to draw their own works after seeing artwork.  Rather than have them copy what they just saw, ask them to try to create the same emotion or artistic idea in their own style.

Do you use art/galleries/museums/websites in this way?  What works for your kids?

Mark Rothschild

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