As a parent, this holiday season is one of joy, laughter and family togetherness. It’s also a time when the arts surround us with their soft glow and beautiful sounds. From the songs on the radio to the lights twinkling outside, the arts at home are everywhere we look. Here’s a few tips for helping to use these artistic elements as learning experiences throughout the holidays.
1. Positive/Negative Lights
Strings of lights are a tradition this time of year. From the trees, to the house, to a set of fairy lights in your child’s bedroom, the night is a time for light! Explore how lights can be used to make shapes out of the light, or out of the night through positive and negative space.
While working with stringing lights may be dangerous for small children, fairy lights are a great alternative. Grab a set of pipe cleaners and have children create any shape they might like (a tree, a star, etc). Then, wrap the pipe cleaner shape with a string of fairy lights and plug them in. Explore the shape that the light creates on the wall and then discuss the shape of the black space. One shape is open (the positive light shape), while the other is closed (the negative dark space). You can extend this activity by combining different lighted shapes together and see what negative shapes are produced when the positive light shapes are connected.
2. Camera Compositions
With the convenience of having cameras on our phones, tablets, and as separate tools, we no longer have to wait for quick snapshots. Explore the world of math and photography by encouraging your child to play with taking pictures of a variety of holiday elements and to adjust the composition to bring out each subject.
Start with the rule of thirds: look through the lens of a camera and divide the image you see into thirds vertically and then twice horizontally until you end up with a grid of 9 imaginary boxes. By the rule of thirds, your subject should should be in one third of your viewfinder. Take it up a step further and imagine where the lines would intersect. Then, have your child place the eye of the subject on one of those intersecting lines. This will bring a focus to each image. As an extension, try printing out the digital images your child takes and creating actual grid lines on each image. Practice cutting on the lines and creating a collage out of each of the 9 boxes that emerge.
3. Bring on the Action
With all of the stories that help to make our traditions strong during the holidays, it’s the perfect time to explore the drama of the season. Take the children in your life to a classic play such as “A Christmas Carol” or watch a classic movie like “It’s a Wonderful Life” and explore the key elements of the story. Then, have your child create a new ending to the story and act it out for you.
What if your child isn’t into dressing up and performing for you or other family members? Try creating some puppets. Often, children who are self-conscious about performing in front of others open up if they have a prop or a way to hide themselves behind the creation. Give your child the opportunity to safely explore theater in whatever ways make them most comfortable. Remember, this is supposed to be fun!
Now is the time to embrace the creativity and beauty of the season. You CAN embrace the arts at home while simultaneously helping support your child’s learning of other areas. Enjoy these moments and savor the joy of being with your family in and through the arts at home!
Susan Riley is the founder and CEO of EducationCloset.com. She focuses on teacher professional development in arts integration, Common Core State Standards, 21st century learning skills, and technology. She is also a published author and frequent presenter at national conferences on Arts Integration and STEAM education.
Susan holds a Bachelor of Music degree in Music Education from the prestigious Westminster Choir College in Princeton, NJ and a Master of Science in Education Administration from McDaniel College in Westminster, MD. She lives in Westminster, MD with her husband and daughter.