Episode 21 – Inspiring Creativity in our Children

In this episode we look at books to inspire creativity, teach about the humanities, teach art skills, and a couple for parents to read to inspire themselves.

Books Discussed in This Episode

Books to Inspire Creativity in our Children:

Books with Examples of Great Artwork:

Books for Working on Art Skills:

Books to Encourage Mom and Dad in the Calling to Creativity:


Welcome to books that spark a podcast for parents and caregivers, celebrating books, that spark imagination, emotion, questions, and discussion, leading to teachable moments with our kids. Today. I have some great books to share with you. We’re going to be talking about creativity. And first I’m going to talk about a few books that can spark the desire to be creative and the encouragement to help our children take that step. That is sometimes a scary step to show their creativity and to enjoy it and to celebrate it.

One of my favorite books about this is called The Dot written by Peter H. Reynolds, and Reynolds has written several books about creativity that are really, really good, and also about being yourself and taking a chance and stepping out of your comfort zone to express yourself and to make a difference in the world through your own creativity and your own style of creativity. But this a very sweet book. It’s about a little girl named Vashti who doesn’t think she can draw. And so her teacher has her draw an orange dot on a piece of paper, and she said, “Sign your name to it.” And then her teacher frames that picture and that encourages Vashti to try more and more and more. She winds up making a whole gallery of pictures. The book ends with another child coming up to her and saying, I love your artwork. I wish I could draw. And it says, “Vashti smiled. She handed the boy a blank sheet of paper, show me the boys. Pencil shook as he drew his line, Vashti stared at the boy’s squiggle. And then she said, please sign it.” We see her passing on the same thing to another child to encourage him to try to be creative. I just, I love the book because it celebrates, even if we think we don’t have a whole lot of talent, what we can each do.

He has two different three-book collections or boxed sets. One is called The Big Dreams Collection and it includes Happy Dreamer, The Word Collector and Say Something. There’s the box set Creatrilogy by Peter Reynolds. That includes the book, The Dot that I just mentioned and a book called Ish, which I just love. And a book called Sky Color. In Ish, it’s also about a little boy. Who’s drawing pictures and his older brother makes fun of him. And so he stops drawing because he thinks he’s draws terribly. He tries and tries and tries and he just keeps walking up the paper and throwing it down. And he notices his little sister comes along, takes his crumpled paper and disappears with it. And he’s chasing her down like, “What are you doing? Give me back that picture. You know, it’s, it’s not good. It’s trash.” And he goes into her room and she has covered her walls with all of his pictures. And he says, why are you doing this? These aren’t any good. He’s she’s like, that’s supposed to be a vase with flowers in it, but it doesn’t look like a vase with flowers. And she said, yes, it does. It looks vase-ish. Every picture is something-ish. And so it’s like, even though he doesn’t feel like it’s a perfect drawing, it’s elephant-ish. It’s, you know, dog-ish. And so that’s why the book is called Ish. And it’s so cute. And, of course, the pictures are really cute that he’s drawing, but it encourages him to keep trying and to keep having fun with his drawings, even if they aren’t what he would call perfect. And even though his brother gave him a hard time. Sky Color says, “Marisol was an artist. She loved to draw and paint. And she even had her very own art gallery.” And her art gallery is on the refrigerator. “Not all her art hung in a gallery. Much of it she shared with the world. She painted posters to share ideas she believed in.” And it shows “save the ocean.” “At school Marisol was famous for her creative clothes, her box of art supplies in her belief that everybody was an artist. Yes, Marisol was an artist through and through. So when her teacher told the class, they were going to paint a mural for the library. Marisol couldn’t wait to begin the classroom buzzed with the sound of brainstorming. The students talked and sketched together. They made a great big drawing. Then they marched to the library. Marisol shouted, ‘I’ll paint the sky!’ Marisol rummaged through the box of paint but could not find any blue. How am I going to make the sky without blue paint? The bell rang. It was time to put their brushes down for the day. As she climbed aboard the bus, Marisol kept wondering all the way home. She stared out the window. The sun lowered closer to the horizon later at home. Marisol watched the day, turned into night. That night, Marisol settled into a deep dream. She drifted through a sky swirling with colors, the colors mixed making too many to count in the morning. Marisol stood waiting for the bus in the rain. The sky was not blue. She smiled at school Marisol raced to the library. She grabbed a dish and began adding colors. This one, that one, she swirled the brush to make an altogether new color. Marisol then began painting on the wall. The boy asked what color is that? That Marisol said that is sky color.” And then it shows the mural, and the sky is full of all the sunset colors and stormy colors and everything else. And it’s really quite beautiful.

Another fun book to just encourage children to play with color and paint is an old one, but a good one called Mouse Paint by Ellen Stoll Walsh. In this book, there’s three white mice and they’re trying to hide from the cat. And so, they stand on a piece of paper, and they just blend in. The cat can’t find them. But then one day while the cat was asleep, the mice saw three jars of paint, one red, one yellow, and one blue. “They thought it was mouse paint. They climbed right in. One was red, one was yellow, and one was blue. They dripped puddles of paint onto the paper. The puddles looked like fun. The red mouse stepped into a yellow pedal and did a little dance. His red feet stirred the yellow puddle until ‘Look,’ he cried. ‘Red feet in a yellow puddle, make orange.’ The yellow mouse hopped into the blue puddle. His feet mixed and stirred and stirred and mixed until I looked down and said the red mouse and the blue mouse, yellow feet in a blue puddle make green in the blue mouse, jumped into the red puddle. He splashed and mixed and danced until purple. They all shouted blue feet in a red puddle make purple, but the pain change on their fur got sticky and stiff. So they wash themselves down to a nice, soft white, and they did that in the cat’s water dish and painted the paper. Instead they painted one part red and one part yellow, and one part blue. They mixed red and yellow to paint an orange part, yellow and blue to paint a green part and blue and red to paint a purple part, but they left some white because of the cat.” I think it’s such a cute book.

When we’re talking about creativity there’s also more than just painting and drawing. Of course. And so, I’ve got one about dance. This is Giraffes Can’t Dance by Giles Andreae and illustrated by Guy Parker-Rees. In this book, Gerald is a tall giraffe, and he’s got these long legs, and he’s kind of clumsy. He buckles at the knee and falls down, and so then he’s dreading it because they have a jungle dance every year, and all the animals go to the jungle dance and they just love it. But he feels really bad because he just can’t dance. So he just kind of leaves the party while they’re all having fun. And he’s out in the middle of nowhere and there’s a cricket in a tree that talks to him, and he sees the moon and it inspires him. He finds that he just can start swaying to the music he’s hearing. And he starts to do this beautiful kind of like a ballet. And after he’s been dancing a while, says, “Gerald felt so wonderful. His mouth was open wide. I am dancing. Yes, I’m dancing. I am dancing,” Gerald cried. Then he goes back to the party and he’s dancing. It shows him doing kind of a ballet. And then he ends in almost a disco pose, but anyway, he’s able to dance and it ends with the idea that “We all can dance,” He said, “when we find music that we love.”

And then there’s a couple other books and I know I’m sharing a lot, but in this section, I have more than in some of the other sections that I’m going to be talking about.

There’s one, it’s called, How Do You Dance by Thyra Heder? And in this one, it’s really cute. It goes through all the different moves and different ways people dance and just celebrates dance in general. And then there’s The Beautiful Oops by Barney Salzburg. The book itself is part of the story, the illustrations, but also the pages like it starts out with a tear. There’s actually a tear in the page, and then you turn the page and that becomes the mouth of an alligator. It’s showing how a pop of color can become this or that. It’s really cute. And of course I love, and I’ve mentioned before in another episode, My Mama Had a Dancing Heart by Libba Gray is an excellent one for inspiration. And another one for inspiration that I just love is Hailstones and Halibut Bones by Mary O’Neill, and it’s illustrated by John Wallner. And I have mentioned this one before, but I think it’s a very powerful book when it discusses color and poetry and inspires both. And I believe I have a lesson plan that I have offered for free on my website for that, if you would like to download that.

Now, I believe that we can also inspire our children and by helping them to learn about art and artists. There’s several books I’d like to share that are really good for inspiration, for sparking creativity, by seeing what other artists have created. One of these, well, it’s actually a set of books by Sabrina Hahn and it’s The 123’s of Art and the ABCs of Art. And she has some other books along those lines as well. But these two are just really wonderful. They show classic works of art, the ones through the alphabet. You know, they look at something in the painting that is used for the word in the alphabet. It shows the painting on the next page. And then there’s a little paint pallet guy, character who asks a question on each page. So talking about sparking conversations, it’s right there in the book for you. Those are The 123’s of Art and The ABCs of Art.

Then we have so many books about the Nutcracker. And since this is getting close to Christmas, I thought it would be fun to mention those. But one in particular is The Nutcracker Comes to America by Chris Barton. And it’s The Nutcracker Comes to America: How Three Ballet-Loving Brothers Created a Holiday Tradition. And it tells the story of the very first performance of the Nutcracker in the U S and has a lot of historical information about that first performance and about the Nutcracker in general. And so that’s kind of cool. And then, like I said, there are so many other books that are just about the Nutcracker story itself. The Nutcracker in Harlem is one about a performance done during the twenties. When we had the Harlem Renaissance.

Then there’s a book called Ludwig Von Beethoven by Mike Venezia. It’s a series of books called Getting to Know the World’s Greatest Composers. And so there’s one on Beethoven, went on Bach one on Mozart and others. What’s so great about this book. The drawings are cartoonish and fun for the child. It uses some humor in the illustrations. And there’s lots of little bits of information, maps, timelines, kind of trivia information besides telling the biography of the composer. And I’ve shared this one before Author, A True Story by Helen Lester. And it’s such a cute, funny book that I just love. And it’s her story of becoming an author. And then there’s Before They Were Authors: Famous Writers as Kids. And this takes several writers and tells about their whole life story. And I love it because it includes several of my favorite authors in it that made it when I had to have it includes CS Lewis, Sandra Cisneros, Maya Angelo, Roald Dahl, Mark Twain, dr. Seuss Beatrix Potter. There’s just so many great writers in this book. It has kind of a graphic novel look to it. And it carries you through the timeline of the person’s life from being a child to a writer. It’s just very well done. This is geared for 3rd through 5th graders, ages 10 and up. Then there’s one called Great Art in 30 Seconds: 30 Awesome Art Topics for Curious Kids. It could be used in homeschooling. It has interesting ideas and fun pages and fun bits of information so that the chapters in this book are:

What Makes Great Art–What Is Art and Why Does It Matter? Why is it valuable?

Early Art–Prehistoric Art, Ancient, Egyptian Ancient, Greek Art,

Ancient Roman Art, and Aztec Art.

The Renaissance–The Renaissance to Rococo

The Neoclassicism to Post-Impressionism

Modern Art

Contemporary Art

Don’t think it’s a really dry book. It’s like it said “in 30 seconds or less.” So each topic is like a page-long. It has lots of glossary words; it’s handled in snippets, short amounts of information, chocked full of information. And then it has a sum-up and a three-minute mission that gives what you need for the different activities. So, each section has activities for the children to do so it’s really cleverly done. And it’s a really nice book.

There’s this book called Flights of Fancy: Creative Inspiration from 10 Award-Winning Authors and Illustrators. It has various authors and it’s about cause each, each author wrote their own section. They are different laureates from recent years. It explains all about what they do, their method of illustrating, of getting inspiration. And each one gives their ideas and their life lessons in their art lessons writing, illustrating lessons. It’s just a really neat hands-on book and introduces children to some authors. They may not remember their names as much, but they’ll remember their writing. They each have their point that they want to make and share with the child. And so there’s quite a few different writers, 20 ideas for creative projects, and more about the laureates. And it’s just really got a lot of information. This would be a really neat book to have in your library.

And then I don’t know if you know about the Fan brothers, Terry Fan and Eric Fan. They’re both author-illustrators, and they have beautiful illustrations in their books. I watched an interview with them. If you have Kindle Freetime Unlimited for your kids, this particular book is in that section. It’s called The Night Gardener. And this one is not your usual kind of art. This is talking about topiaries, but it has a magical feel to it. But what’s cool about it, too, is as you’re doing that, you can even talk about the Fans, the two brothers, who have really mastered their art and have used it to create fantastic children’s books. And this one is actually about their dad, because he would always shape the trees and make topiaries. Now it’s an exaggeration of that. It’s definitely hyperbole in this book, but it’s really a great book and really well done. So that is called The Night Gardener by Terry and Eric fan.

Another cute book that celebrates creation and God’s love for us and how he shows through general revelation through nature that He does love us is a book called This I Know: Seeing God in the World He Made by Clay Anderson and illustrated by Natalie Merheb. And in this book, this little girl goes through her day and talks about all the nature she sees, all the things she sees. “Jesus loves me this I know for the butterflies tell me so,” “for the sunrise tells me so,” and it’s really cute because it’s celebrating God’s creation and pointing to the fact that he has revealed himself to the world through His creation. And the whole world tells us that Jesus loves us. It’s just a really cute book. If you want to start maybe a unit on art with a book like this, to say, you know, God created all things through creating us in His image. He’s created us to be creative, then go into art. I think that’s just the best way to go into art classes.

Now there are several more books I want to share, which I know is a lot, but these are fulfilling a different purpose. The first ones are practical art books–some that you can use to help let your kids practice drawing, to practice some different art. And so, depending on what their age is and what they’re interested is, here are a few you may want to check out. Now, one is called Blank Comic Book for Kids, and it’s where you create your own comic book. You open it up, and it’s just a blank journal with different boxes and things drawn so that a child could then draw in their own cartoons.

One of the important skills a preschooler needs to learn is scissor skills. And so any book you can find with scissor skills in it is excellent because it helps with their writing. It helps with their reading, and it helps with their coordination. Scissor skills are really basic and important. This particular book is from Modern Kid Press, and it’s called Scissor Skills Preschool Workbook for Kids: A Fun Cutting Practice Activity Book for Toddlers and Kids Ages Three to Five.

We cannot have a book list about art and kids drawing without mentioning Ed Emberley. He has many books about drawing and it simplifies the pictures down to shapes and squiggles and makes drawing really accessible to just about any student, regardless of their ability or their past experience with drawing one book in particular, his Drawing Book of Animals. And it has all the different animals. It’s one of my favorites. And again, that’s by ed in Burley. So any of his books are really good. There’s some where he uses fingerprints to draw different things. And then there’s one called Create This Book by Mariah Elizabeth and you. And it’s a blank book with writing prompts on each page and even places to draw in all kinds of things on it. You get to color the cover of the book even. And so it’s a lot of fun. It’s just a totally interactive book.

And two more books. These are for moms and dads. The book is Called To Create: A Biblical Invitation to Create Innovate and Risk by Jordan Raynor. And this is a fun book for us to read as parents, not about our children, but just for our own growth in the Lord and discipleship to understand that God has a plan for us and how he can use us. In his book he says, and this is in the first, I think this is actually still in the intro to the book, “The great theologian, Jonathan Edwards once said, ‘What God aimed at in the creation of the world as the end, which he had ultimately in view was that communication of himself, which he intended through all eternity.’” And that’s a quote from Edwards. And then Raynor says, “If God is the source of all goodness, then revealing himself and his character to us is one of the most loving things he could do. So God appears to have created for the good of others by revealing his character, but Genesis hints at a second way, in which the first entrepreneur loved others through his creating in Genesis 1:26, we find the word ‘our’ for the first time in scripture, indicating that the God of the Bible is a triune God composed of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Before God brought the world into being, the Trinity had been enjoying perfect community, submitting to each other, loving each other, and serving each other for all eternity. Jesus’ prayer prior to his crucifixion gives us beautiful insight into the Trinity’s relationship. Jesus looked toward heaven and prayed ‘Father, the hour has come. Glorify your Son, that your Son may glorify You, for You granted Him authority over all people that he might give eternal life to all those You have given Him. Now, this is eternal life that they know you. The only true God and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent. I have brought you glory on earth by finishing the work you gave me to do. And now, Father, glorify me in your presence with the glory I had with you before the world began.” In this, He talks about who God is in his creative nature, but then he helps us to recognize our work, whatever God has for us to do–our vocation or any other ministry or work is a calling that God has called us to–motivates us to be creative and to want to create and teach us how to create in whatever setting he has put us.

And then another one that I have mentioned before that I would, again, like to recommend is Emily P. Freeman’s A Million Little Ways: Uncover the Art You Were Made to Live. It’s just so inspirational. I just highly recommend it, but these are some that we can use that we can read to inspire us. And then we can help then hopefully to inspire our children, to be creative, to use the arts, to breasts, the love they have for God that God gave, gave them that ability. And when we look at Ephesians 2:10 in the Amplified Bible: “For, we are his workmanship, his own masterwork, a work of art created in Christ. Jesus.” I love the, that verse and I love how we can encourage our children, that God has created them and shaped them and has a plan for them. And he has prearranged those things he wants for us to do, and he will enable us to accomplish them if we will trust him. Thank you for joining us today for books that spark a podcast, celebrating books, that spark imagination, emotion, questions, and discussions. I hope our discussion will spark meaningful conversations and wonderful creative activities with the children in your life. Remember to check out my website, TerrieHellardBrown.com. And when you sign up for my mailing list, you get several free items as well. And right now we also have the advent calendar you can download that has a book a day to read with your children through this holiday season.

Your Host:

Terrie Hellard-Brown writes and speaks to help children and adults find God’s purpose and plan for their lives. She teaches workshops and writes devotional books, children’s stories, and Christian education materials.

Her podcast, Books that Spark, reviews children’s books that spark imagination, emotion, questions, and discussion leading to teachable moments with our kids. Her podcast posts each Tuesday morning.

Her blog posts are published each Thursday and discuss living as a disciple of Christ while discipling our children. She challenges us to step out of our comfort zones to walk by faith in obedience to Christ.

For more information, visit her website at terriehellardbrown.com

Terrie uses her experiences as a mother of four (three on “the spectrum”), 37 years in ministry (15 in Taiwan), and 32 years teaching to speak to the hearts of readers.

Her motto is “Growing older is inevitable; growing up is optional” and keeps her childlike joy by writing children’s stories, delighting over pink dolphins, and frequently laughing till it hurts.

Disclaimer: Although Terrie majored in psychology and sociology for her bachelor’s degree and has taught AP Psychology, she is NOT a licensed therapist. She sometimes mentions items in her blog and podcast that could be considered comments on psychology, but these comments are based on ministry experience and ministering to people through the missions and church work she’s done for the past 36 years. If you have questions about psychological disorders or counseling needs, please consider finding a reputable, licensed counselor in your area. Terrie’s comments should be seen as anecdotal and ministry-experience-related or scripture-based. Thank you!

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