Okay so here it is. It can be messy, frequently shortlived and quite often not the outcome you might have expected BUT you do not need to be artistic yourself to implement some simple strategies to encourage creativity at home and when you have success (engaged, happy, exploring kids) it feels really good!
The key factor is stirring some curiousity. Two things are really important here. Firstly an inviting set up and secondly interesting materials. It’s on the same page as toys – if it’s new they are keen but once explored they’re done. So when they are not around (watching tv or busy elsewhere) clear a table, lay down a drop cloth/plastic tablecloth and pop out a few things. Paper, paint, water, brush all there ready to be discovered. The set up (for your sake) should not take more than five minutes as it may well get ignored and you end up packing it all up again. Also if you set it up in the morning there is a good chance they’ll get to it at some point in the day. If it’s outside and you know you have a run of good weather coming just leave it out for the following day. Try setting up in different spots, roll paper along the floor, tape to a wall or cut paper into a shape, use blackboard sticker roll or paint on bubble wrap. If you have time sit with them, have an explore yourself, working at their level i.e. don’t intimidate by knocking out a masterpiece 🙂 and offer lots of encouragement. It opens up great language opportunities if you describe the experiences and ask questions – ‘look how the blue blends into the yellow’ ‘it’s transformed into green’ ‘what could we paint with green?’ ‘oh look a lovely green squiggle’ you get the idea…
With bigger kids that are keen for things to look more realistic or want to paint something specific -pokemons and unicorns at our place! Do an image search and have the kids choose an image to print out and work from, point out that they don’t have to copy it’s just to help get started.
Here follows a few ideas to keep it fresh.
- paint with toothbrushes, plastic toys, feathers, old store cards, sponges etc
- paint/draw/collage on old boxes, sticks, stones, coloured card or choose a canvas from the dollar store and do a painting for the bedroom.
- get your hands on some clay, cut into smaller pieces add rolling pins, shape cutters, matchsticks, paddle pop sticks, buttons and old pencils (to scratch into clay).Clay from art shops can be pricey for a small block. Ceramic suppliers will sell you a big block for around $18 (it will last a long time if you wrap it well after use).
- choice of drawing materials – oil pastels, chalk pastels, markers and pencils. If you are mess averse try watercolour pencils – simply colour and brush over with water for it to transform to paint or draw with texta and paint larger areas with watercolour disc pallets sets.
You get it? Variety is everything!
Buy affordable but quality materials – dollar stores are awesome for variety and cost, I love Ikea art materials and for my art school and at home I use online store Cleverpatch. You don’t want to stress about wasted materials the idea being kids are free to explore without too many limits. On the other hand you want the materials to work and be simple to use in the hope of avoiding too much frustration
If you can, work outside for messier set ups and have a bucket/bowl of soapy water nearby with a flannel/old towel/tea towel. Save egg cartons for paint holders, don’t put out too much paint at once and be prepared for littler kids to happily colour mix it all to muddy brown – they’ll get over this!
Have art supplies easy to access and if possible in view so kids can get stuck in when they get the urge.
Now it may get out of hand, my 3 year old mostly explores to the point of destruction, always ends up using her hands and sometimes her feet…
But if all your materials are washable (and most are these days) no need to panic it all washes off!