Hedda Sharapan on Kids and Creativity

Research shows that music improves math and reading skills, as well as creativity and social development. And according to Americans for the Arts, students with access to an arts-rich education have better GPAs, higher standardized test scores in reading and math, and lower dropout rates.

So what’s a parent to do if their child’s school doesn’t have the funding necessary to provide arts education?

Hedda-Sharapan-headshotHedda Sharapan, the Director of Early Childhood Initiatives and Associate Director of Public Relations at The Fred Rogers Company, knows what it feels like to be concerned about a creativity crisis, but she also knows that parents can play an important role in not only bringing arts education back to schools, but also fueling creativity at home. Sharapan worked closely with Fred Rogers (the iconic “Mr. Rogers” of TV fame)— both wrote “Tackling Tough Issues” and “The Hurt That They Feel: Helping Preschoolers Deal with Tough Issues”—and over the years has developed ideas on what it takes to get kids thinking creatively.

At a recent Lunch and Learn event hosted by the Chicago Children’s Theatre, Sharapan shared her “Three R’s” for inspiring creativity in kids:

1. Role Models

“Attitudes are caught, not taught.” That was one of Mr. Rogers’ favorite quotes, and in keeping with that idea, Sharapan explains that exposing kids to creative people who love what they do will get kids excited to dive into creative play themselves.

2. Resources

When asked what parents can provide for their kids, Sharapan’s answer is simple.

“Stuff.”

She isn’t talking about the latest technology, though. Kids can take something as simple as a toilet paper tube and turn it into a spyglass, sparking a day of pirate adventures in their own living room. A blanket can also become a cape for your little superhero. Give your kids access to “stuff” and let their imaginations run wild.

3. Response

According to Sharapan, kids need people to appreciate what they do. However, you need to be careful with your choice of words. For example, putting a child’s artwork on the fridge is an excellent way to build confidence, but don’t tell your child that they’re “so smart.” Instead, applaud a child’s persistence. By focusing on their intelligence, that child will eventually give up much more easily when something doesn’t come to them naturally.

Sharapan also says that theaters will play an important role in fixing the creativity crisis. CCT Artistic Director Jacqui Russell is proud of what the theater offers Chicago-area families, including their current show, “Wonderland: Alice’s Rock & Roll Adventure,” running through May 24. This world premiere is the theater’s season finale and takes kids through a story they know in a way they’ve never seen or heard it before.

Chicago Children’s Theatre also recently announced their 2015-16 season, kicking off in September:

  • “Goodnight Moon & The Runaway Bunny”
  • “The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane”
  • “A Snowy Day with Beatrix Potter & Friends” (world premiere)
  • “Snowflake”
  • “Snow Angel”
  • “Seedfolks”
  • “Ruby Bridges Story” (world premiere)

For more information on these shows and the work CCT is doing in our area, click here.


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