It’s the March holidays and many parents would be spending more time with their kids this week.

Whether it is because we’re in a work-from-home situation or whether we have taken some time off, chances are, parents have planned different activities for their kids. The question is: What activities are you planning? More importantly, are these events a one-off activity?

We all parent differently, but it’s safe to say that (most) of us have the same goals in mind when it comes to raising our children: That they’re happy, healthy, functional, and grow up into kind adults that contribute to society.

While we all have that end goal in mind, many of us choose very different routes to get there, meaning even our closest friends will end up deciding to parent differently than we do.

One holistic approach is the incorporating of arts into parenting and education. Three mums, part of a local art community group called Mamas on Palette, share their experiences with The Pride.

Playing her way to early childhood education

Kid in caterpillar costume

To Kevy Tan, simplicity is key in parenting. The Singaporean PR mother who founded Hommeet—a platform for parents to teach and learn at home with their kids— currently homeschools her five-year-old son, Dion, as she believes that parents are the best teachers and home is the best school for a child in his early years.

“I believe education is a slow process to nurture our child spontaneously and silently. There’s a line in a Tang dynasty poem that goes, “润物细无声” (run wu xi wu sheng), or “the gentle rain falls silently”. We have to be patient, respect our child and look at the process as a long-term interest in raising an adult—one who is wise, balanced-minded, can take care of themselves, and contribute positively to society.

“In our son’s case, we don’t believe in short-term goals like wanting to see immediate results for exams by sending him to classes. We believe that by cultivating a love of learning in children, everything will be on track,” Kevy tells The Pride.

Through Hommeet, 150 hosts have organised over 3,000 sessions, each involving meaningful play and learning activities for families. Kevy hopes that her project will empower people to share their expertise and passion through organising such meaningful family-friendly activities for families ranging from taekwondo to coding to story writing, in a homely play setting.

Kevy finds that by providing a supportive environment, children can have the freedom to discover and explore the things they like at their own pace and interest. She believes this will allow them to find their passion and to be able to live a purposeful and happy life that can be a positive contribution to society in the future.

Playing with clay

Kevy shares with The Pride: “I believe art can be incorporated anywhere and anytime in our lives and not only during arts and crafts lessons. For example, making a collage using leaves and sticks during nature walks, decorating their plate during a meal, playing a piece of music together or even beautifying the corner in a house using flowers or his own art or craft.

“By incorporating art in their daily lives, it will encourage our children to always discover beauty around them and make good use of the daily or recyclable items to make beautiful things. This can also help to spark their interest in learning new things and stimulate their creativity.”

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Most important perhaps, when kids feel good while they are creating, art helps boost self-confidence. And children who feel able to experiment and to make mistakes feel free to invent new ways of thinking, which extends well beyond the craft room.

But being creative with our children isn’t just advantageous for them, it’s great for us too. For Kevy, it is a chance to experience childhood again.

Little kids are masters of the moment—they love the way it feels when they smear paint on paper, how it looks when they sprinkle glitter, and even the soft sound a brush makes as it crosses the page, so allowing kids to enjoy the process of creation and expressing themselves can reap big rewards.

“When I play and spend time with my child, I get chances to experience what I did during my childhood and it makes me feel like a child who can be happy with just doing simple things,” she says.

Learning as a family through creating art together

Mother teaching art
Image source: Chiei Ishida

Chiei Ishida, 42, is a Japanese stay-home expat mother who specialises in fine arts. Believing that art can help children learn better by allowing them to learn visually, the mum to three young children shares that this approach can make learning easier and more fun.

“I let the children paint and draw as often as possible. Through these experiences, they learn how to mix colours, draw and create their own stories,” she tells The Pride.

Chiei frequently engages the family in art projects. For her one-year-old son, Lennon’s birthday gift, she collaborated with her older kids, Amandine and Marla, and husband, Steffen, to make a painting. For Amandine’s one-year birthday gift, the couple combined efforts to create a picture book, with Steffen writing the story and Chiei drawing the pictures.

The printed book was entitled Amandine and the Fireflies.

Childrens' book
Image source: Chiei Ishida

“I like to think of a nice theme for each child and create paintings for them as gifts. I imagine the future where they hang them on their walls when they grow up, and remember their happy childhood.”

At the start, producing art was Chiei’s unique way of expressing her affection for her children. But now, she paints for herself too.

“I paint beautiful tropical plants and I also love to explore the abstract. I appreciate these two realms to help balance my mind. Although it is still challenging to find enough time to paint and I know it is never enough, I keep trying. As I enjoy my journey as a mother, I just keep flying a bit low for now until I can fly higher someday soon,” she shares.

This encouragement comes fondly from her mother’s advice to her: “When you are raising kids, fly low but keep flying. If you stop flying, you will need to use a lot more energy to fly back up.”

Cultivate childhood creativity, leave the screens behind

Childhood creativity
Image source: Leonore Becker

Another expat mother, French art enthusiast Léonore Becker, 36, lives by Kahlil Gibran, a Lebanese-American writer, poet and visual artist’s words: “As parents, ‘you are the bows from which your children as living arrows are sent forth’.”

Working in an auction house in Singapore now, Léonore is very keen to pass on her passion and knowledge of art to her children from a young age.

“My lifetime passion is art, so I definitely want to share that with my kids. My son is called Arthur because of the first three letters of his name!” she laughs.

“I incorporate artistic values in many aspects of their upbringing, and always encourage creativity in their daily games, in the hope that they will develop their imagination and freedom of play. At home, we read poems, listen to opera music and indeed do A LOT of painting and playing with colours.”

Art painting
Image source: Leonore Becker

To parents who want to involve art in their children’s learning, Léonore suggests steering clear of screens, and rather draw, paint, visit exhibitions, listen to music, dance, read a lot of books, and just have fun.

While she prefers to keep her kids away from electronic devices, she finds social media sites like Instagram and Pinterest inspirational for organising creative activities for the children. A favourite for very young children that they have tried, for example, is edible paint made with yoghurt and food colouring!

“Cultivate their creativity, let them explore and mess around while they are young. There’s enough time to be serious and studious later in life!” she shares.

Léonore first discovered the joys of networking while she was pregnant, and found that it supplied her with incredible support. Being able to discuss concerns and struggles with other women in similar circumstances not only helped her feel less lonely, but also served as a great way to find solutions to those difficulties.

“I’m part of this fantastic community of mums, Art Lover Mamas, wanting to share an artistic vision with their kids. There are always nice events and mums from all over the world eager to share and support each other.”

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Top Image: Chiei Ishida, Kevy Tan, Leonore Becker