Humans are creative beings. We all acknowledge it when we watch children create, but we seem to forget it as we grow older. It’s not too difficult to work art into everyday life with a little effort. And the best way to do it is to start young! Here are a few ways to work art into your children’s lives:
- Use leftover household materials to create things. First of all, you need an art dumping/collecting area or this will never happen. We have a few bins in the art area where I can dump things for future projects. Egg cartons, cereal boxes (like the enormous pile we amassed in our guest room to make a castle), those great biodegradable packing peanuts below that make wonderful sculptures (just dip the tip of your finger in water and rub it on the peanuts to make them stick together.)
- Pull out the messies every once in a while. I do not like glitter, playdough, and sidewalk chalk. Those are my three least favorite art supplies. I have to admit that I don’t pull them out often enough. But paint is really easy to clean up if you do it in the backyard or even in the tub itself!
- Let the kids have access to the most common art supplies. Art is definitely a common thing around our house. The best thing I ever did for the boys was to create their own little art nook in my office/art studio where they have constant access to art supplies like lots of computer paper, markers, crayons, colored pencils, tape, and coloring or sketch books.. I find an endless supply of pictures all over the floor nearby, but to me it’s worth it. Let them try different media. Watercolor. Let them try it. Glue with pipecleaners and googly eyes and foam. That air drying ‘clay’ for making sculptures. Sock puppets with old socks. It’s all art.
- Create together. I think the kids love art because I love art. They love it the most when I sit down with them and draw or color and take the time to point out why I’m choosing the colors I’m choosing or what I like (and dislike!) about my piece of art. It’s also not too hard to buy a book on teaching children art and go through it with them. We’re doing this one now and then.
- Allow them to create what they like. Tyler’s pictures are mostly of rain and bombs and things that require thousands of lines in the sky. (Where does a four year old even learn about bombs? Sigh.) Jake draws a lot of plans for machines and inventions with directions of how things will work. And paper airplane decorations. Lots of those. And there have been lots of phases where they really love coloring in coloring books. I prefer that they’re drawing and creating from their own imaginations, but hey, they’re making art and developing their fine motor skills.
- Discourage perfectionism. Jake used to rip up his drawings when he was two or three because they weren’t perfect. Wow. That was a hard phase. I had to teach him that you get better with practice. I also pointed out that even real artists don’t like every piece they create. That doesn’t mean they’re never going to create anything good. I modeled self critique with my own art. “Hmmm…I wish I hadn’t added this bird over here. It really seems to tip the balance of this drawing and make the viewer look in the wrong direction. Maybe I can add a bunch of leaves here to cover him up…Well, not quite perfect but I guess it will have to do.” For a child to learn that not every piece of art must be wonderful is so freeing. I will honestly point out and praise their works of art that I really admire, while I don’t say a whole lot about others. It’s okay not to fawn over every stroke of a pen that your child does. It shows them that it’s okay to have mediocre art and not so good art and fabulous art all from the same artist.
- Buy good art supplies. Some people really go overboard in this area, I think. I don’t spend a ton on expensive materials that I’m worried about and have to supervise them with. But watercoloring on real watercolor paper that doesn’t buckle is such a joy! It’s not out for everyday use but I bring it out for special guided projects. I do stock up on nice quality crayons and markers and watercolors when the back to school sales hit the stores (great deals right now at Target!) The better quality supplies actually have more pigment in them and give a richer color. So don’t cheap out with the RoseArt or store brands or collect your crayons from restaurant kids’ meals! Even Crayola will give nice rich color. There’s nothing like a brand new set of markers or crayons to get your creativity flowing.
- Surround them with good art. I do have a few art books they can flip through, but most of our art “education” comes from reading picture books together. We notice the color palette that a certain artist uses (bright colors or soft colors) and the brush strokes (look how strong this artist’s brush strokes are!) and what medium they might be using (colored pencils, pastels, watercolors.) It’s also easy to point out the general style of the art in the picture books you love (is it bold and loud or soft and gentle? How does the medium they use give a different feeling to the book?) I point out when we’re reading a book with the same illustrator (does this artist’s illustrations look familiar to you?) This is a great book for introducing lots of types of art in an I Spy format. When I see a picture book with a unique and different artistic style at the friends of the library bookstore, I always pick it up and bring it home.
But I think the most important way to raise a creative being is to talk it up. If you see art in a positive way, they will too. Encourage them. Take the time to say more than “that’s great!” when they show you their pictures. Notice the colors or the types of pen strokes they’ve used. Ask them what they like about their picture. If they’re still in the process of drawing it, ask them if there’s anything they don’t like about it. If they want help with changing their picture, see if they want you to suggest ways they can turn their mistake into something beautiful (only if they want to…even real artists discard pieces that just aren’t working for them.) Post their artwork on the fridge for a short time and on the wall in the garage for longer. Start an art portfolio. (I used a coupon at Michael’s to buy a real artist portfolio where I can keep a sampling of the boys’ work over the years. They love saving pieces for it and flipping through it.)
Giving your children a sense of appreciation for great art is such a gift. It helps them see the beauty in the world. And teaching them to create great art shows them how perseverance and practice can lead to something beautiful.