My kids aren’t typically the sit at the table and draw types.  They prefer to play outside and create what I guess you could call “large scale art.”  Think “Roxaboxen” all over our yard, but the real life version versus the one created by Barbara Cooney with her gorgeous illustrations.  However, some days are too hot and some days are too cold and kids get bored and want something to do.  As we head towards the hot days of summer here, I realized it was time to clean out the cabinet next to our kitchen table where art supplies are kept, and restock.  I went looking for inspiration, and found it when I discovered that Jean of The Artful Parent blog recently had a book published, also called The Artful Parent.  I prefer books to blogs when looking for ideas, so I was thrilled and ordered it right away.  When the book arrived I was happy to see that the foreward was written by MaryAnn Kohl.  MaryAnn’s books have long been some of my favorites for art inspiration for my younger children.  Her line, “It’s the process, not the product” defines what I believe that art for younger children should be based on my own experience as a mom.  Over the years, we have again and again returned to process driven art, so when I discovered that Jean’s new book is geared toward process oriented activities, I knew that it was exactly what I was hoping for.

The first part of The Artful Parent discusses preparing for art, and that is what I spent about a week doing.  I cleaned out the cabinet behind our table, the one that stores not only pots and pans, but games and art supplies as well.  It’s multi purpose nature means that I have to clean it out frequently.  I stocked up on some new art supplies (I buy from Stubby Pencil Studio, Discount School Supply, and local stores as well) and bought a few things to help me get organized as well.  Magazine storage containers turned on their side work great for holding paper and I bought a small organizer to hold the blank notecards that I like to use for small scale paintings and drawings.  One thing that I have gotten away from over the years is buying lots of fancy art supplies.  I’ve found that I get overwhelmed, and so do my kids, when there are too many choices, and we end up with a giant mess.  A well stocked cabinet with just the basics provides all we need, and all we can really handle given the amount of space we have to work with.  Jean included her own top ten lists of supplies for different age groups in her book, and I found that helpful in narrowing down what to keep on hand.

After reading through the second part of The Artful Parent, where specific activities are shared, I typed up and printed a list of basic art activities to help me guide the kids when they need ideas, or when I need some help providing a little one with something to do, and taped it inside the cabinet.  For the activities that rely on recipes or instructions, I included the page number from The Artful Parent.  Jean included quite a few recipes in the book for things such as play dough, puffy paint, cloud dough, homemade finger paint, and air dry clay.  Having the list will keep me from opening that cabinet and staring inside not sure what to do with all that stuff!

I sometimes get discouraged by the fact that I don’t have enough indoor space to provide great places for my kids to create.  I don’t have a good way to keep toddlers out of the mix, no room to close the door on, no big closets for storage.  I didn’t feel discouraged reading Jean’s book though, just motivated to work with what we have.  In the past couple of weeks since my little art cabinet overhaul, my kids have done lots of basic, process driven, happy creating.  For my part, I’ve just set the stage for them.  It’s amazing what the simple act of taping a piece of paper to the kitchen table will do.  All of a sudden even my older boys are sitting down to draw.  And because Beatrix seems to be taking a small break from coloring all over her body (could it be that she is growing past that stage?) I have even brought back markers, washable of course.  We’ll see how long that lasts….  (directions for making the marker holder are included in the book.)

**For the record, I don’t know Jean, nor was I asked to review her book.  I am simply a grateful mama, glad that there are other moms out there willing and able to share their talents to help the rest of us along!  I love The Artful Parent book, and it is now the number one book that I will recommend for children’s art.


  1. Thanks for the book recommendation. It looks like a great read. Have you ever read Playful Learning? That’s a good one too!

  2. Just completely melts my heart mama ! My boys are large scale drawers too! So other day when Finnly my four year old asked to sit down and make a gnome with some fabric scraps my heart was so happy! Keep up the good homeschooling/lifeschooling!


  3. Ginny,
    Thanks for suggesting this book! I marked it down.


  4. I’ve been behind on my blog reading! Loved this post and passed it on to some of my Mom friends! Your pictures alone are so calming and beautiful. Thanks so much for telling us about this book and blog! I thank God for you and your work here!!

  5. Just found your blog via another and know I will be back, I have 7 babies (well not all babies now) and am a Christian but almost catholic from across the big pond. Love knitting and reading – you are my kind of friend xxx

  6. This is my new favorite book for my children this summer. I have been using it recently and just love all the ideas! Enjoy!

  7. Ooh, excited about this post! My daughter has two boys under four and I have two grands with us ages 2 and 5. Jenny called me excited about your post and I had to jump on and check it out. We are going to try to order the book and get organized (okay, she’ll organize and I’ll remain a little chaotic) for the summer. Art supplies replenished and art making area reorganized, for sure. We make great use of our picnic table in the summer too, so fingers crossed for good weather….ummm, sometime soon? I’m a huge, huge fan of process over product from way back when my girls were young, so this totally speaks to my heart. Thanks for sharing 🙂

  8. Great post, Ginny! The pictures are all so wonderful. ‘It’s amazing what the simple act of taping a piece of paper to the kitchen table will do. ‘ That sums it up quite nicely! For older kids, set out a blank journal or a stack of freshly cut ATC’s and you get the same effect. It’s very simple. 🙂 My older kids have their own Etsy shop now, and I just keep buying the paper and the pens and paint…. (and Roxaboxen is one of my all time favorite picture books)

  9. I love the idea of taping paper down and letting everyone just color away. This sounds like a great book. I will have to tell my SIL (who has kids) about it!

  10. well, you are very well organised, and looking forward !!!
    it reminds me that I’d better start to think about these things too 🙂


  11. I had this book from the library before and really enjoyed it. Going to pick it up again, thanks for the reminder!
    This is our first summer in years without summer camps and so I wanted to organize a few family summer camps.

  12. If only my kids caught on to how easily they could steer me away from book work in favor of art and crafting! We’d never get any work done at all. Fortunately (or maybe unfortunately) I am the one who loves to play with art and craft materials the most!

    I laughed at the Roxaboxen reference, as we just picked up that lovely book at a library sale, and I have more Roxaboxen inside my house than outside of it.

    I love your photos. I love Silas perched on the stool, helping himself to a drink. That’s how my toddlers have always been around here, and the reason my sister is so nervous around my house!

  13. Hi Ginny. Thanks for sharing Jean’s book and website. It’s new to me and look like both are filled with great ideas for my daughter. I’ve already checked out Jean’s website and we are going to make the bead suncatchers today. We already had the beads and I’m glad we now have another use for them.

  14. sounds like a good book. cloud dough? hmmm gonna have to look that up. 🙂

  15. Sounds fun! I am always looking to add books to my wishlist!

  16. Thanks for the review! I am definetly going to look into this book! We go through phases with art and creativity here. I think once I’m past this first trimester exhaustion we will look into this!

  17. Yeah Beatrix!! No paint or markers on her anywhere! 😉

  18. beth lehman says:

    ginny… perfect timing. my ten year old broke her leg last week… we need some art ideas!! i forgot about the artful parent blog, just starting there will help. (and i can’t imagine that beatrix is past that… this same 10 year old i speak of still enjoys the tactile and ‘stray’ marks are still part of that!)

  19. I am admiring the marker holder too. I read the post hoping you would mention where it came from.

    • Sorry about that! The directions for making the marker holder are in the book. I added a note to the post!

  20. Gosh, I’m relaxed just looking at these pictures! And I love your marker holder!

    • Hi Dana! I forgot to mention in the post that the directions for making the marker holder are in the book.

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