Do you wish you were better at creating art with your kids without losing your mind (or destroying your house)?? Me, too! That’s why I’m THRILLED to welcome professional artist and fellow momma, Annie, to the blog this week to share 5 tips for stress-free art time with kids (plus some of her favorite art material suggestions)!
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Alright friends, if you’ve followed The Merry Momma for any length of time, you know I make no bones about the fact that I’m not exactly an “arts & crafts” kind of mom. If I tried to write a post about art time with kids, you’d be like, “Lisa, WHAT are you talking about??”
That’s why I’m THRILLED to be outsourcing that topic to a real pro — literally!
This week, I’ve welcomed professional artist and fellow momma, Annie Guldberg, to the blog to offer her best tips for creating art with kids (without losing your mind!). And trust me, I was excited to read her advice as you are!
Here’s what Annie has to say:
As a professional artist and mother of two young boys, I often get asked by fellow parents (and grandparents) about how to make art with their kids without losing their patience… or destroying the carpet.
“What materials should I use?” “What sort of project should I be working on?” “How do I let my kids be creative without destroying my kitchen table?”
From materials to mess concerns, doing art projects with your kids can either be a moment where the rainbow of happy parenting shines over your house, or it can end less glamorously with someone in tears and a little carpet scrubbing.
But I promise — creating art with your kids can be pleasant and fun! To help you, I’ve put together a few thoughts from my experience creating art with my own children.
5 Tips for Stress-Free Art Time With Your Kids
1. Forget About Pinterest
Have you ever spent weeks planning an elaborate birthday party for your toddler, only to find that the highlight of the day for them is the empty cardboard box or a single balloon?? Sometimes, all our planning can be more for us than for our kids.
That lesson applies when creating art with your kids.
Creative folks love Pinterest, and the Internet is chock full of ideas, how-to’s, and photos of completed projects held by happy parents and smiling kids. The problem is, real life often looks more like unfinished piles of stuff, unused supplies, and a lot of frustration.
While I do occasionally seek out and use one of the millions of ideas online, I have found I have a much better time with my kids when I don’t plan a specific project. Kids are wonderfully creative, and when they’re young they really don’t care or know about “good” art. They just want to TRY the materials and go where it takes them.
I see this all the time with both my own kids and my students. Instead of googling, pinning, or bookmarking ideas, look at the supplies you have on hand. What do they want to use and what do you have? Once you’re comfortable creating with your kids, THEN you can graduate to trying something specific.
Kids are very happy with simple joys — it’s one of the great things about them! So keep your art time simple, and let your little artists guide the outcome of their own art.
2. Prepare for the Mess
One of the biggest sources of stress for parents can be the mess. Paint on the carpet or clothes (or hair!), glitter everywhere, scrap pieces of cut paper etc.
The key is to plan ahead.
Are you using glue, glitter, paint, or other potentially sloppy materials? Put something on your table to protect it, such as newspaper, cut-open paper bags, or one of my favorites — cardboard (what a great way to use all those Amazon boxes you have sitting around!).
If you’re worried about the floor, put an old sheet or towel, paper bags, or newspaper under your table. Or better yet, move the whole setup to the kitchen or bathroom! We’ve painted in the bathroom before — not only is it easy to wipe down, but you can put them right in the bath when they’re done!
Another idea is to paint in the garage, driveway, or porch on a nice day. Pull their hair up and protect their clothes (or take the clothes off).
Don’t worry if you don’t have paint smocks — throw one of your old shirts on them! My kids think it’s hilarious to wear an oversized shirt or paint in their undies.
For clean-up, have paper towels at the ready. Baby wipes work great for little hands. Have a trash can or paper bag immediately next to the art area to collect used paper towels.
Finally, at the end of art time, encourage the kids to help clean up what they can instead of just dropping everything and leaving it for you. Even the youngest kids can put crayons back in the box!
3. Plan to Participate
One of the biggest tips I can give you is to create art with your kids. As with so many other activities, kids learn about art by observing. Make your own simple piece of art, or just fill your sheet with colors. Your activity will draw them in and they will get to observe how you do it.
You can’t fault kids for using materials “wrong” because they have no idea! Pick up the brush, marker, or whatever material you’re using and let them watch you.
This will also help alleviate the stress of distraction. Trying to make dinner while your kids paint might be one of those things you see in a Pinterest photo, but the reality of it (at least for me) is more like something getting burned on the stove while paint is being spilled, which spirals into a lot of unnecessary stress.
Slow down, sit next to them, and make a piece of your own. Who knows? You might find a great family activity you all can enjoy, find you have more artistic thoughts than you gave yourself credit for, make memories with your kids, and even have fun, too!
If nothing else, it will be much better than the memory of mom yelling about art mess. (Not that we ever yell. No…never…)
4. It’s Never a Waste of Time or Materials
Parents sometimes stress about their kids “wasting” paint or paper on less-than-perfect pieces. But the only true waste of materials is when they never get used.
Creativity is great for the brain — it helps kids relieve stress, develop problem-solving skills, and discover new things! It’s never a waste.
So, do yourself a favor and start with the mantra: “Art supplies are made to be used up!” Repeat it as needed when you see your child cut into yet another piece of red construction paper, squeeze an entire bottle of glitter glue onto one sheet, or mix all their paints together only to make a brown puddle.
A better way to help them learn how to properly use materials is to say something like, “Artists respect their tools and materials, so let’s try to use this up before opening another.” Mistakes need to be made for the sake of progress. That’s how people learn!
Bottom line: you have the materials to be used. Just because your child uses them up or makes something kind of crazy (or ugly?), doesn’t mean it was a waste. Don’t let the word “waste” be part of your art time.
(However, since none of us is made of money and budgets are a very real thing, I’ve included a list of inexpensive materials at the end of this post!)
5. Keep it Simple and Have Fun
Even if it doesn’t come naturally to you, bringing art into your home offers many benefits.
Keeping art materials on hand can come in handy when you need to help your child make a school project or they need something to do to keep them busy. Handmade drawings and art pieces make great gifts for friends and family members. And you might just discover you have a little artist living in your midst!
Plus, when they get older, you can create a spot where they can go to get their own materials and work independently.
Related Post: 50+ Indoor/Outdoor Independent Play Ideas for Kids
The most important thing to remember is to keep it simple, keep it easy for them and you, and you might discover that making art together is good for both of you!
Material Suggestions for Art With Kids
Here are a few ideas to get your craft stash started if you don’t have one already. All can be found on Amazon or in the craft aisles of Walmart, Target, Hobby Lobby, or even the dollar store. Don’t break the bank with expensive materials and supplies. Remember — we are keeping it simple!
- Crayola Washable Kids’ Paints are extremely forgiving. I’ve wiped them off hardwood flooring, carpet, door jams, and skin very easily. They wash out of clothes perfectly and come off in the bath with minimal scrubbing.
- Paint dotters
- Classic watercolor sets are great for kids and are very low-mess. There’s no squeezing paints out of tubes and not a lot of opportunities for spills.
A bad water cup is easy to spill. Small, short paper cups are not strong enough to hold a brush. A tall plastic container, on the other hand, holds the water and brushes with ease.
My favorite paint cup is a large yogurt or cottage cheese container that has been rescued from trash day. This seems to be the right height to prevent it from being knocked over, and can go right back to the recycle bin if you decide it’s lived a full life.
Kids love the sparkle of glitter. Adults hate the mess it makes. Stock up on Glitter Glues or Glitter Paints. The kids can operate the squeeze bottles themselves, and there is no glitter explosion to worry about.
Paper plates are cheap and can be used as paint palettes or as the canvas itself!
For craft brushes, grab a set that is cheap and small. This will help slow the speed at which they use up paint, and they can be tossed when they’re used up.
Sponge paint daubers are a great choice, too! They’re easy for little hands to use, but I’ve had students of all ages love painting with them.
Sponge shapes are also a winning choice, but prepare yourself for paint-covered hands and have wipes ready.
Good old construction paper is a great choice because it can handle paints, markers, crayons and glitter glue. A pack of colored card stock is also handy because it’s so sturdy.
My kids also love to paint and draw on cardboard, which is a nice sturdy (and free) material. Cut a few flaps off a box and you have an instant canvas!
Scissors and Glue
My husband and I also save little bits of interesting things that we find in packaging, and cardboard is one of my favorite things for the kids to draw or paint on. Free materials are my favorite!
If you’ve ever wanted to do more art time with your kids but were too intimidated or afraid, I hope these tips help you see that creating art with your kids can be a pleasant and fun experience for all of you. Keep it simple, keep it fun, and enjoy the ride — it’s worth it!
Annie Guldberg is a professional oil painter, wife, and mother of two busy boys. Creating art with her sons has taught her much about herself as an artist and mother. Annie also teaches private art lessons to kids and adults in her home studio, as well creates in oils and shows in galleries throughout the midwest. You can see more of Annie’s work at www.OilPainterAnnie.com or find her on Facebook or Instagram at @OilPainterAnnie.
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