As school began this year, parents bought books, backpacks and clothing. Parents may also want to include supplies for their child’s after-school needs for creativity.

Youngsters are wrapped up in getting to school, being at school, studying after school and group activities away from home. Then what? Is it television, Facebook, Instagram or texting? Aside from a few chores and homework, children tend to hide away or sit and play video games, plop on the nearest soft surface to snooze, text or cry, “I’m bored.”

One of the most creative activities parents can do with their children is to take them on walking, bicycle or vehicle trips around town and have them make a map of their trip. Parks make great objectives, as do the library and historic buildings. Making maps and drawing pictures of old buildings makes for an interesting and involved pastime.

Non-fiction, fiction and do-it-yourself books like Boy Scouts of America handbook helps spur childrens’ thoughts. Add a large drawing pad and drawing pencils, and there’s an education in a book shelf. Creative kids like figuring things out (sans adults).

A parent who draws ideas on paper and leaves those drawings around creates curiosity. Children mimic us.

Drawing makes words and ideas clearer. It’s one reason why art is so vital in every child’s educational curriculum. It’s the go-to means of explaining an idea when words just won’t get it done. Having tools that allow a child to do just that provides them with a second language that is the oldest language of all - pictures.

The drawing experience is enormously valuable for developing mental links for studying. Even for older people, the act of drawing engages the brain in ways a keyboard does not. It keeps the brain young and increases greater depth of thought and concentration. It does the same thing for all ages and is nonthreatening. It can be a valuable tool and can even help them stay safe.

By exploring their neighborhood with family members and making their own map, children become more secure in their corner of the world. Doing it with their parents helps them network with trusted neighbors and friends. Children benefit from their parents knowing the route to and from school and where their friends live. Maybe a map to the Arts Center would be a good place to start.

Downtown, at the Arts Center, instructions are available for after-school and Saturday classes. One of the University of Jamestown’s art majors, Tiffany Armstrong, is teaching its second Saturday program. It offers a good support system for creative minds. A map would be a good starting point.

Mostly, the art experience is beneficial for children because it changes how they think and learn. It improves absorption of new material and helps with memory. So if the school’s art program is not sufficient to keep them curious, do your child a great service. Buy materials yourself and keep them where the youngsters can access visual arts supplies.

If anyone has an item for this column, please send to Sharon Cox, PO Box 1559, Jamestown, ND 58402-1559.

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