Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Five Tips for Art-Making with Children

Written by Jaimie

My kids and I make a lot of art.  Because one of my daughters just started school, and we’re quite busy and scheduled on the weekdays, we’ve been spending most of our Sundays at home.  With one parent and two kids rushing around all week, the most relaxing and centering option at the moment is to cozy up together in our nest before the hustle and bustle begins again.  And since we love to make art, it’s a natural way for us to spend the day.
If you’d like to spend your Unplugged Sunday creating with your kiddos, here are some tips I’ve acquired over the years of art-making with my daughters:

1. Don’t worry about the mess.  
I wish families could eliminate this concern all the time, but most of us are not blessed with either housekeepers or the time and desire to spend all day cleaning up after art projects.  A low-key, unplugged day at home is a great opportunity for the kiddos to create freely without worrying about spilling paint, dropping paper scraps on the floor, or pouring out too much glitter.

2. Consider leaving the supplies out all day.  
To those who keep a spotless house, this may sound like an invitation for chaos, but give it a try.  The creative urge doesn’t always run on schedule, at its allotted time of, say, 1:00-2:30 on Sunday afternoon.  My children, one in particular, will often return to the art supplies several times throughout the day, and an at-home, unplugged day is the perfect time to make this possible.  

3. Abandon expectations for final products. 
Kids (and their parents) are more relaxed when no one is worried about the end result of an art experience.  Whether you’re simply painting with watercolors on paper, or you’re doing a more specific holiday craft, try to put as few constraints on yourselves as possible.

4. Get your own hands dirty with the art.  
This is your time, too.  Like most, you’re probably very busy all week and don’t have much time to just sit and create uninhibitedly.  Don’t worry if you’re not an artist (though I’d argue that you probably are, in one way or another).  Relax and create, and your comfort will not only enhance your own experience; it will rub off on your children as well.

5. Prepare the supplies ahead of time.  
The younger the child, the shorter her tolerance for sitting around waiting for you to set things up.  Any parent who has announced to a three year old that it is art time and then subsequently spent twenty-five minutes fumbling around looking for supplies understands the value of preparation.  And if one component of Unplugged Sundays is the opportunity for you to relax and breathe, you don't want the stress of realizing at the last minute that you ran out of glue during the previous art project.  And, even worse, you don’t want to end up accidentally checking email and Facebook when you turn on your computer to print out the tutorial for a craft project.  

    What kinds of art work well for Unplugged Sunday?  

    Anything, of course, but here are a few ideas to try:
    Completely Open-Ended Art.  
    This is what we do most often, on any day of the week.  I set out supplies, or the kids just grab them, and they make whatever they please.  If you’re looking for something a little more specific or with more of a theme, consider the following two options.
    Seasonal projects. 
    I interpret Unplugged Sunday as an opportunity to peacefully experience the present moment, which means no TV, no computer, etc., but it also might mean intentionally connecting with the current time and season.  

    If you need inspiration, a great place to find seasonal (or any other) arts and crafts ideas is Pinterest.  I've got a board dedicated to fall-themed projects here, but the whole site is filled to the gills with seasonal crafts and activities.  

    You don’t necessarily even need a big “plan.” Over the course of the week, collect bits and pieces from outdoors to use in open-ended art-making. Right now, this might mean brightly-colored leaves, acorns, chestnuts, flowers gone to seed, and much more.  Setting these out with some glue, fall-colored papers and felt, markers, scissors, and paint (or far fewer supplies, even—whatever feels right), along with the invitation to create, is everything you need for a day of fall crafting.

    Crafts that reflect upcoming family events. 
    Do you have upcoming birthdays?  Great—spend the afternoon making gifts or simple, handmade party decorations.  If you’re dressing up for Halloween, work on costumes.  And if you celebrate a winter holiday (or two or three!), get a head start on decorations and gifts.  Or make welcome banners for relatives who are coming in from out of town next week.  All of these give you the opportunity not only to create together as a family, but also to prepare for important events you’ll share.
    Above all, remember this: don’t put any pressure on yourself or your kids to make something “perfect” or “right,” or even “good,” for that matter.  Just lose yourself in the creating, and the kiddos will follow suit.  
    If you’re already the crafty type, awesome—we’d love to hear your suggestions and input in the comments.  And if you’re not, what are you waiting for?  Make this Sunday the day you stop saying “if only I were artistic…” and get messy with your kids!


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