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Thursday, September 30, 2010

On getting creative with your child at home

When my son was about three years old, I got out the watercolors for him for the first time.  I showed him how to dip his paintbrush in the water and get paint on it, and then let him take it from there.  His first watercolor was a muted wash of brown and black (why do boys always go for those dark colors?!!!), but actually it is lovely to look at.  I have it framed and hanging on our wall in our family room (along with many other works of art by him and his sister).
In my opinion, children's artwork should be displayed in the home, and displayed in a prominent place, not just in their bedroom, or some guest room in the back of the house.  It is such a confidence and self-esteem builder for a child to see that their work is treasured and admired by their parents.  We are fortunate that my parents own a frame shop (You may be thinking, Of course she has everything framed, I would too!).  But, actually, my mother saves the old discarded frames that customers leave with her when they reframe things.  That's what we put the kids art work in.  You can find old frames at thrift stores, garage sales, and even on sale at hobby and art supply stores for really low prices.  If the frame isn't the right color, spray paint it.  You could paint it gold to give it an ornate museum look.  The more diverse the styles of frames, the more interesting the display.  I have a gallery wall of their work right inside the front door going up our stairs.

 Painting With Your Child

Cover your surfaces, put an old shirt on them, give them paint, brushes and water, and let them enjoy themselves.  Do not be concerned at all about teaching them proper technique when they are really young.  Let them just experiment and feel what painting is like; talk about their color choices, "Oh, red is a good choice!"  "I like the way the red turned to orange when you added yellow!"  Encourage them and most of all, have fun.  When they have made a painting, even if it is just  a big muddy blob on the paper, ask them to name it and write it on the art work.   It will amaze you what they come up with!  Some of my children's art titles are; "Around the Gold Real Road", "Monsters", "The Pizza Horse", and the very popular "Teeth, and a Ghost and a Wide Thing and a Dot and Some Lines".  It makes us laugh every time we read them and look at the work.  Their art has truly brought joy into our lives.


One day, my son and I were visiting my parents for the weekend and were having a kind of lazy Sunday afternoon.  We were looking at the Academy circular for the paper and I had an idea.  I thought, he and I could cut the clothes out of the paper and the different pictures of sports equipment and create our own athletes by gluing them to a paper and drawing in their heads and bodies.  He came up with the idea to make a whole sports team- a basketball team- and we named each of the athletes; the final collage is entitled, "NBA Team: The Funkies"- and they all have the craziest names!  We laughed so much creating that collage and coming up with all the team members- it is a wonderful memory for me and I am reminded of it everytime I see it on the wall.  You could make a collage out of just about anything; the newspaper, circulars, magazines, old books that you're ready to discard, fabric, yarn, glitter, buttons, wrapping paper, construction name it, you could use it to collage with.  You could have a theme, or not; a garden (garden center circulars are great for this), a fashion show (clothing store circulars), the color blue- (or any color you like) find only things that are that color to use in the collage, a landscape (add pictures of trees, animals, etc.).  Just imagine all the possibilities!  You can water down some glue and paint it onto your surface with a paint brush (any surface will do- paper, canvas if you have it, wood boards, cardboard, even the sides of cereal boxes) and arrange your pictures and objects on top the way you want to see them.  This is a great way to spend hours with your child, cutting, tearing, pasting...not only are you creating art work, you're creating memories, as well.


The best way to start drawing with your child is to just give them some paper (copier paper is great), and let them make marks, lines, dots, whatever they want.  Ask them to tell you about their drawing.  They might tell you they are drawing a big, orange elephant, when actually it looks like a little, blue mouse, but hey, they're the artist!  Find encouraging things to say to them, like, "That is a really interesting shape you made!" or "I like the way you had an idea in your head and made it come to life on the paper!"  When you are at the park with your child, or on a walk, observe the different shapes of things in, that is a crooked stick, or a smooth, round rock...have your child try to describe what they see.  Drawing skills begin with the observation of lines and shapes that make up everything in our world.    The more you look, the more you'll see!  DRAWING IS ALL ABOUT SEEING.  Train yourself and your child to really see what shape or texture or color an object is, and that is 90% of what you need to know to draw.


One of the best things I ever did with my children was to make books with them.  Before they could write very well, I would write for them.  But, they would dictate to me the story.  First, we made a simple book.  We folded copying paper in half, as many sheets as you would like, then a piece of construction paper in half for the cover.  Put the cover over the paper and staple along the side.  I would ask them, "What would you like to make up a story about?" They would say, Skeletons, or Rabbits, whatever came to their minds.  Then I would say, "Does the rabbit have a name?" "What is the rabbit doing?"  "Where does the rabbit live?"  "How old is the rabbit?" "Does the rabbit have a job?"  "Does the rabbit have a family or friends?"  "What is the rabbits favorite thing to do?"  They would come up with the craziest stories and get lost in rabbits' world for awhile (or whoever their story was about).  I still have the books we made and we still laugh 'til we cry over some of them, they are so funny and cute and endearing.  I would write their story at the bottom of each page of the book and they would illustrate it and make a cover, and then write their name on the front...the author of a real book!  This was one of my favorite things to do with my children.

Scavenger Hunts

On a beautiful day, there is nothing more fun than to create a nature scavenger hunt for your kids.  I would make a list... Red leaf, bottle cap, candy wrapper, broken toy, black rock, yellow leaf with brown spots, purple berries, a stick shaped like a Y... then we would take a walk and they would have to try to find all of these things.  It is amazing how much you can find when you're looking for it... this is a great exercise in observation, plus the more trash you have on the list (like the bottle caps and candy wrappers), the more you clean up the community you live in.  I would tell them, see, we had fun and picked up trash in our neighborhood!  Come to think of it, we should have been making collages of all those things!  Found object art is so wonderful and is a great way to recycle.


  1. I love your idea about finding inexpensive frames! This year, I'm giving my students a "homework" assignment to create a "gallery" at home. It can be in their room, on the fridge, anywhere...but I'm stressing to them that their work needs to be displayed. Most kids seem very excited...I'll let you know how it goes :-)

  2. That is such a great idea Keri! I think children need to feel that their efforts and ideas are something to be admired (that is, of course, if they made their best effort and really gave some thought to what they did). If not, they may not feel good about displaying their work...but, there is a lesson in that. On the other hand, some children think everything they do is a masterpiece! :)