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Guidelines for Optimum Creativity

Eleven Golden Rules

  1. Always approach creativity as a process-oriented activity.
  2. Never ask children to paint realistically.
  3. Never tell children what to paint, or give them models to copy.
  4. Never correct children's paintings, or ask them to fix their paintings.
  5. Never grade, criticize, or praise children's paintings.
  6. Never ask children what their paintings represent, or why they painted them.
  7. Show care, respect, and interest for everything children create.
  8. Observe children's process with understanding. They must feel seen.
  9. Never compare children's work. Never encourage competition.
  10. When children ask for help to paint, don't show them "how to." Help them realize they can create anything they want.
  11. Appreciate children for who they are, not for what they do.
Twenty-One Recommendations
  1. Never provide creative assignments for children.
  2. Never use judgment words - like good, bad, beautiful, ugly, success, failure, better, worse - with them.
  3. Treat every painting in the same fashion; no preference of one over another.
  4. Don't allow children to destroy their paintings. Explore with them to find out if obliterated parts can be brought back.
  5. Guide children to keep going until they are truly complete with their paintings.
  6. "When children are finished, ask if they want to write their names on their paintings in any way, anywhere, and in any color.
  7. Never try to prevent or react to dark or violent images. They are part of children's expression.
  8. Listen carefully when children spontaneously tell you about their paintings, but don't offer your opinion.
  9. Ban all coloring and how-to books.
  10. Offer white paper rather than colored paper.
  11. Have children use good-quality materials (brushes, paint, and paper).
  12. Keep the painting setup simple. Don't offer a wide variety of materials (crayons, chalk, pens, collages, engraving, or others), which will distract children.
  13. If you are a teacher, keep paintings in the studio until the end of the term to avoid comments at home. At the end of the term, have a meeting with the parents to talk about process.
  14. Never hang paintings on walls or refrigerators, or anywhere else in view.
  15. Never submit children's paintings to contests.
  16. Avoid painting with children, especially if they copy you or compare.
  17. Write the date and the child's name on the back of each painting.
  18. Store paintings with care in a folder with the child's name on it.
  19. Show your care for children by doing little things like tying an apron or a shoe, bringing a step stool, or adding a thumbtack to hold their paper.
  20. Ask children not to comment on one another's paintings, in order to enhance the safety of the studio; if they make a comment, remind them that a painting is a private world where nobody should intrude.
  21. Never recommend a child for therapy because you worry about imagery in the painting. Find other reasons if you think therapy may be needed.

Exceptions: Parents and teachers must keep in mind that at special and rare times there might be exceptions for some recommendations and that their intuition should always guide them. When the basic principles of the creative process are understood, the teaching is done from the heart, not from a rigid set of rules.

More on: Crafts for Kids

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From Kids Play: Igniting Children's Creativity by Michele Cassou. Copyright © 2004 by Michele Casso. Used by arrangement with Penguin Group (USA) Inc.

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