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.