There you are sitting at a table with colored paper, pipe cleaners, markers, glitter and stamps. The world is your oyster, the possibilities endless and the only thing on your agenda is to create. So what do you make with these supplies?­

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This task may be harder for some children than it once was. Some research suggests kids are becoming less creative than they were two decades ago. Increasingly, children are losing non-structured spaces for playful art-making, replaced with standardized tests and scheduled activities in which there is an expected outcome or answer. Structure is important, but free time to play, create art and become open-minded supports the well-rounded development of a child.

This fall, Parks and Recreation is offering a new class called ArtMix! to give children that designated time and place for artistic play.

“I am trying to offer a space where the freedom to create, learn, and explore can still exist in child’s life. This is a non-judgmental time when kids are free to try new things, free to be silly and free to fail,” said Westerville Cultural Arts Coordinator Ana Underman.

Free play is one of the fundamental ways kids learn how things work, whether it’s mixing colors or building snow forts. It also encourages abstract thinking, creative problem-solving, and an understanding of structure and three-dimensional forms in space.

Free art-making is not just about kids being artistic; they get to choose what they are creating and can explore whatever interests them.

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Ana enjoys seeing what is important to her students through their art work. “Kids’ minds are built to teach themselves—they thirst for knowledge and endlessly search for ways to explore the things that excite them. For example, if a girl loves mermaids, she will build a mermaid princess and a dolphin for her to ride on all out of “junk” materials. This teaches her how to build and construct out of unusual materials. It is beautiful to witness this process,” she said.

The end result – students learn without even realizing they are learning because they are having fun. “When you are give your child time for free artistic play, you are not only benefiting aspiring young artists, but also engineers, fashion designers, journalists, teachers and scientists—creative problem-solving is fundamental to innovation in our society,” said Ana.

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The first ArtMix! is September 18, 2014. Click here for details on enrolling your child in this class.