My daughter is doing art classes and seems very good. Her teacher has told me she is good at drawing but is not very creative. She enjoys art so much, how can she not be creative?
Art is a very important part of a child's education but each will enjoy and benefit from it in different ways. Some enjoy the freedom to play with colour or sit quietly drawing a picture. Some take a kernel of an idea from the teacher and make it their own. Others take from it the chance to become more observant of the world. All of these aspects are important, but children will not exhibit all of these traits in equal measure.
From the early years of making a pretty picture and having Mum stick it on the fridge door, many children draw inspiration to explore and experiment. In art, they may take more chances, producing more "creative" pieces. These children are secure in the knowledge that no matter what they produce, the person they give it to will value it. In the early years, I often remind parents to put up their children's work.
This is hard if space is limited, but a rotation can be created so that a few pictures are kept up and, when taken down, put away carefully into a collection book. You can create a system whereby artwork is dated and the favourite few selected each month are kept. Others can be used to wrap special presents or sent to relatives overseas with a letter from the two of you on the back. You could even create a scanned electronic collection.
With the development of their confidence, children feel the freedom to explore their creativity more fully. It is never too late to start valuing your child's work. Point out their unique colour schemes and praise them. When you see that extra element of thinking, a tree painted red for autumn, or ice a pale blue with some bits of brown for the dirt or fish underneath, praise her for her thinking and clever ideas.
Creativity is a hard thing to "teach" as we understand it. Good art teachers can inspire and give children the freedom, but some children are more determined to produce their own style while others prefer more guidance and support; they need to know that they are "doing it right", that theirs "looks good". They are seeking praise. Give it. Each picture comes with its own investment of time and care.
Where a good teacher comes in has more to do with the technical skills and it sounds like your daughter is getting that. Many children benefit from the focus and concentration art develops. They learn to look more carefully and notice the small details, which can be a lifelong benefit.
Let your daughter know how much you like her work as it is. Keep a collection somewhere and review it on quiet days. Let her look it over for her special collection and talk about why she is choosing those. Choose some yourself to take to work or put somewhere special. Tell her why you are choosing them and show her how proud you are of her work. In time, she may take more risks with her work and be more "creative", but then how can anyone really judge another's creativity? Let her enjoy the gift she has so that her hidden talents can rise to the surface as and when they are ready.
Kris Gienger teaches at a Hong Kong international primary school