5 Tips For Nurturing Your Young Animator

Is your child a movie lover, a dreamer, a creator? Are they buried in their sketchbook, building worlds and characters that live inside their imagination?

As children explore their interests, it’s important to nurture creativity with opportunities to practice and experiment. We’ve invited Briana Yarhouse, Director of Animation at Interlochen Center for the Arts to share five tips on helping your child pursue their passion in animation, no matter your background, budget, or knowledge. Here are Yarhouse’s tips for the budding animator in your home.

Flipbook by Interlochen Arts Camper, 2021.
1. Get Back to Basics: A Pencil and Paper

Animators are storytellers and dreamers. Through patience and creative vision, animators bring objects and characters to life. For us, this is magic. First, I encourage parents to create a safe space for their young animator. Whether this is a physical space in their room or their home, or a safe mental and emotional space for students to feel comfortable and accepted. This is where young animators will develop the courage to try new things.

Next, try these simple and fun animation techniques to get your child started. All you need is a pencil and a piece of paper.

Curled paper animation is the process of curling a piece of paper to create a simple animation from two drawings. This was the first way I started learning how to animate as a child. When I learned, I was hooked!

Flipbooks are another inexpensive way to start animating. While there are many flipbook kits out there, just a simple pad of paper like a sticky note pad, is all you need. The smaller the book, the easier it is to flip. I recommend no bigger than 3 x 5 inches (7.62 x 12.7 cm).

Interlochen Center for the Arts
Photo © Interlochen Center for the Arts.

Bailey Sitton, Animator-in-Residence at Interlochen Center for the Arts, teaches students in 6th through 9th grade how to create their own flipbook during Interlochen Arts Camp. “Animation can be created by anyone. It’s not about the quality of the art, but the need to tell a story. Stick figures to full illustrations will tell great stories,” says Sitton.

Interlochen Center for the Arts
Animation by Interlochen Animator-in-Residence Bailey Sitton. Photo © Interlochen Center for the Arts.

Zoetropes are a spinning animation device that requires printing out templates or watching how-to videos to make your own with tape, glue, straw, and paper.

Interlochen Center for the Arts
Photo © Interlochen Center for the Arts.
2. Use Simple Technology and Experiment

If you have access to a phone with a camera, you can find a variety of free apps to bring your creations to life. (Stop Motion Studio, Clayframes, and I Can Animate are a few animation and drawing apps to get started).

Any object can be brought to life, simply with imagination and patience. Try experimenting with clay, LEGOs, or other materials.

3. Advanced Technology Access

Students that have access to an iOS or Android device can find more robust tools, accessible at any level of skill. Apps like Procreate, Rough Animator, and Stop Motion Studio are easy-to-use programs dedicated to digitally drawn animation.

4. Read and Explore

There are many books, websites, and online resources about animation. I recommend The Animator’s Workbook: Step-By-Step Techniques of Drawn Animation by Tony White, 100 Tuesday Tips by Griz and Norm, and Character Animation Crash Course by Eric Goldberg. All provide excellent guidance to enhance drawing skills.

5. Attend Summer Camp: Find Your People!

Animators thrive in collaboration. Finding community is important for any artist to flourish and grow, which is exactly what students will experience at Interlochen Arts Camp.

Interlochen offers summer camp sessions each year for middle school and high school students from around the world. Young animators will not only learn techniques of animation, but they’ll find a community of people as passionate as they are, with faculty that help them grow and flourish.

Students will participate in three-week workshops that cover a variety of animation areas and topics, including:

  • Cel animation
  • Stop motion
  • Storyboarding
  • History of animation

At Interlochen, young animators can experiment, explore, and most importantly, play with their emerging skills, inspired by a community of fellow artists and friends from across the globe.

One camper said, “My favorite thing about camp is how everyone is passionate about their art in a special, individual way. Despite the campers being from many various places, Interlochen is one of the only places in the world where everyone can feel like they belong together through the power of the arts.”

At the end of each session, students’ work will be featured in a student showcase in Interlochen’s 180-seat, 2K HD, state-of-the-art projection space, turning their sketches into live animation.

“Our students’ work gets displayed with as much grandeur as other arts areas. It’s so wonderful to see the student work get praised by their talented peers, and experienced faculty. Students leave here bursting with creativity and confidence,” Sitton says.

For students who want to take their passion for animation to the next level, Interlochen features the first four-year arts boarding high school in the nation, with a full animation program.

Becoming an animator involves patience and a passion to bring ideas to life. It requires a supportive and safe place to learn and grow, and often can be created with a pencil and a piece of paper. No matter where you are in the world, no matter your economic or social circumstances, aspiring young animators can find the tools, knowledge, and community needed to turn their dreams into reality.

Learn more about Interlochen Center for the Arts by visiting interlochen.org. Get in touch and learn more by calling at (231) 276-7200 or email the school at admission@interlochen.org.

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