I like making stuff. I’m kind of a crafty person and I want my children to be able to create with me. They can’t always follow at my pace or skill level, but I want them to see art and creating as a skill within their capability. Not just a skill, but a means of expression. I want them to have the freedom to try new things and to create when the impulse strikes.
But, of course, kids and art supplies aren’t always easy. Pink play dough gets stuck in the carpet, scissors left within little sister’s reach, the table gets painted, the kids tattoo themselves with markers, crayons get bitten, and the walls colored. Construction paper litters the floor in teeny, tiny pieces and nobody wants to clean it up.
All of which (and more) have happened in our house. Just this morning we were painting with watercolors, I left to use the bathroom and came back and two of my children had painted their faces!
Why, if there’s such a huge potential for mess, would I encourage you to let your children create?
It’s fun. They get to use their imagination and build their fine motor skills. They’ll have the chance to make something, to complete a process from beginning to end. It’s a chance for them to exercise their independence and grow within safe and loving boundaries with support.
How can creating art with kids be easier for you?
1. Keep art supplies at their level. Let them have regular access to art supplies (paper, crayons, colored pencils, etc) and not have to ask for everything they need. Equip them with the tools they need and foster their independence by allowing them to get their own supplies.
We don’t keep all our art supplies out. Since the age range in our house is 18 months to 5 years, it’s not safe or wise to give equal access to everyone. Markers, scissors, glue, tape, and glitter are kept out of reach. They can ask for them, but I don’t leave them out at all times, because of past misuse/waste and the potential danger. Hello, scissors.
2. Do it with them. I love creating and one frustration I found in parenting was not having time to do my painting, cross stitching, collaging, etc, but if I do little bits of it with my children not only do I get to enjoy creating, but I’m bringing them along with me and they’re seeing me create. It shows them that art isn’t just an activity to keep kids occupied and out of the way, but something for everyone to partake in and enjoy.
3. Know your limits. What will you allow at their level, how messy are you willing to let the environment get–attended and unattended. Create the boundaries and be okay with the mess that happens.
4. Reuse! Reuse! We save old tin cans, egg cartons, cereal boxes, toilet paper rolls, and empty tape rolls for kids to invent their own creations.
5. Don’t demand for perfection. It’s one thing to encourage children to improve their skill, but creating art with your children shouldn’t hear the theme “that’s not right.” Allow them to scribble even if it’s frustrating (it improves their pencil grip and prepares them to write), have them reuse paper if there’s only a mark or two, ask them what they’re drawing or how’d they make it. Ask questions that don’t have yes or no answers.
If you’re looking to improve their skills in drawing, painting, etc. set aside a time to have a lesson apart from their usual free creating time. You could approach it by saying, “I really notice you like using the watercolors, would you like to learn some other ways you can use them?” or “You’re really improving in your drawing, would you like to use this drawing book with me so we can learn some new things together?”
Need some inspiration? One of my favorite art parents is Jean Van’t Hul of The Artful Parent (find her on Pinterest). You can also find some fun art ideas for kids on my Pinterest board, Art for Kids.
What are some of your favorite art projects to do with kids?
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