Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Art Ideas for Kids

My friend, Laurie, asked a question in the comments section of my last post. As my response grew (and GREW), I figured I ought to just make it into a new post with the hope that it helps others in addition to Laurie!

…my 5yo DD is showing such an artistic flair these days and, being crafty but NOT artsy myself, I'm at a loss as to how to encourage this in her. Any ideas would be highly appreciated. I thought I might start at the art museum and see if inspiration hits but not sure how well that will go over at her age. Please let me know if you have any ideas. Thanks! Laurie

I would just say to have art supplies available to her, first and foremost. Let her know that she is an artist - just because she makes art! A trip to the museum may be fun. I always think it’s more fun if we have looked at the work of a featured artist, so the kids can recognize pieces. Mostly, I would stress to her that everyone has their own style and not to compare her work with others. When my younger dd got in a funk about her work in comparison with her big sister’s I did two things: I pulled out samples of her sister’s work at my younger dd’s age to show her how work changes as we grow and I pulled out many picture books to show her the wide, wide range of illustration styles there are out there. None better than the other, just different.

An art journal of her own would be handy: no loose papers, easy to carry along with her wherever she goes. Note: An art journal, while not needing to be fancy, should have paper that is thicker and can take various media. Sketchbooks are good. A simple pad can be found at Michaels or other art supply stores. You can also find nice, simple ones that are bound, for under $10 usually at Barnes and Noble. I bought some for my girls at the beginning of the last two years of school on sale there. We’ve worked with larger and smaller sizes. The smaller is easier to carry, but the larger gives them more freedom to work. See what interests her. There are also watercolor paper sketchbooks that are more expensive (not terribly, though), but handle the water and paint so beautifully – the colors will really make an impact on this paper. Let her know that if she wants the deeper, richer colors of watercolor, she will need to put it on in layers. I used to get so disappointed as a child when the color would go on so nice and bright and then fade. But if she continuously paints and then works another area while one area dries, and then lays on more color, she can have nice, bright pictures!

A pencil case with pencils, a sharpener (so important!), markers, etc. would be handy to go along with a journal. Watercolor pencils are a favorite medium of mine for being on-the-go, but also, because of the lack of mess. I know you have littler ones and this would keep things neater. She can color in her picture at home or out and about and then later add water and watch the magic! :) Or, if she's at home, she can dip the pencils into a jar of water and color with different effects that way.

Encourage her to bring her journal places and just draw what she sees if she likes. This is a nice idea for field trips and is a good memento at any age.

My girls also liked making ATC's : Artist Trading Cards. They are the size of baseball cards: 2 1/2 " x 3 1/2". The kids love the size and can make them to give away or keep or even trade with friends. That might be a good rainy day activity with friends who come over. They could all make some and then decide which ones they want to trade with each other. Since the cards are a common size, they fit into plastic sleeves made for baseball cards. It's a nice way to display a collection of little, original art pieces.

Some online inspiration – for children AND adults can be found at The Creative Mom Podcast. Even if you don’t listen to all the episodes, her show notes are a treasure trove of links and ideas and she has more information, specifically about ATC’s with helpful links too. I think some of those links will bring you to pages of pre-made ATC’s for purchase, but it is so easy to make your own using a few sheets of sketch or nice watercolor paper.

Blank index cards are fun to pack along in a baggie in a backpack and pull out in waiting rooms, restaurants, etc.

Of course, having a spot at home where art supplies are accessible is the greatest source of inspiration. Again, I know you have little ones, but an easel sitting out with fresh paper just cries out to be painted upon. Supplies in easily accessible and SEEN baskets or containers are inviting. Like covertly “strewing” books and other items of interest about the house to pique our children’s curiosity, the same should be done to pique creativity. Supplies will not get used as readily when they are always put away in a closet. If you can’t just leave things out, why not set up a table full of supplies once a week and see what happens?

Some other wonderful things to play with are:

polymer clay (popularly known as Sculpey - the website has projects too - and Fimo and found at craft stores) – my girls LOVE, LOVE, LOVE this stuff!! We often give it as birthday gifts. The colored clay can be molded into so many things and then baked in your oven or toaster oven at 225 degrees F for a mere 10 minutes and the creations are nice and hard! Now, THAT’s instant gratification! :) They even have some clay that will become erasers after it is baked and they have some that glows in the dark too.

Klutz has some wonderful books for using with polymer clay that have fabulous ideas for years of fun. We found our The Incredible Clay Book at a garage sale and Create Anything with Clay at a used book store. They are still in use today after nearly 7 years.

glitter glue
simple embroidery using scrap fabric, a large-eyed needle, and hoop

Here are a couple of websites to whet your artistic appetite.

Camp Creek Press - Camp Creek Blog
The Artful Parent

A new book has also come out by Amanda Soule of Soule Mama (seems Typepad is having troubles today - I can't get it to load to provide a link to her beautiful blog, but you can easily do a Google search) that is probably just what you’re looking for too. I haven’t seen it yet, but I’d like to. I’ve heard so many wonderful things about it too. You should check it out: The Creative Family

Well, this was fun, Laurie! Obviously, it’s a subject I love to talk about. Hope you found some of these ideas helpful!
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