This post is by regular contributor (and Mum of 4) Kate Fairlie of Picklebums.
When it comes to organising activities for a group of children of different ages, art activities can seem quite a scary thought! How can you set up an art activity that will work for a toddler, a preschooler and a school-aged child and not have it all end in tears?
The key to keeping your sanity lies in choosing the right activity, a little pre-planning and some adult interaction. Here are some ideas that work for us.
Set up an art space that is big enough for all of the children to use at once. Young children need a big space in which to create; cramming everyone too close together can be frustrating and lead to arguments about her elbow touching his paper!
Make sure your equipment is suited to the ages of the children and is easy to use;
- Toddlers manage short stubby brushes better than long handled ones.
- No spill paint pots are readily available and worth the money, but make sure brushes fit in and out of them easily.
- Glue sticks are often easier and less messy than pots of glue with brushes.
- Mix up paints and paste so they are thick and not too drippy.
- Child sized scissors make cutting easier.
- BIG sheets of paper are essential.
Make sure you have enough equipment. Sharing is difficult for young children so giving everyone their own set of paints or container of collage material can save lots of frustration.
Make sure you have somewhere close by to put the finished works of art to dry, safe from small, curious fingers. An old clothes airer works well, or one of those hanging peg rings, but some art work will need to lay flat to dry so make sure you take that into account before you begin.
Set up so it is easy to clean up! Cover work surfaces in newspaper so you can simply throw away any mess, use a large plastic table cloth that can easily be wiped clean or take the activity outside onto the grass. Make sure you have lots of washers handy for wiping up accidents and cleaning fingers as needed. A bucket of warm soapy water and a towel close by can be useful, as it stops little painted hands touching everything on their way to the sink to wash.
You will need to be around to supervise pretty much all art activities if they involve young children. Sometimes you can be near by doing something else and just watch and listen, stepping in when needed. But often you will need to be actively involved.
Help younger children with any challenging parts of the activity so they don’t get too frustrated. Being there to help with things like holding scissors and cutting successfully, ensuring a steady supply of materials or helping everyone to share and negotiate, will make your activity run more smoothly.
Choosing your Activity
Keep it simple. You don’t have to choose the latest, most complicated, never-been-done-before art activity. Even older kids enjoy the basics, so sticking to tried and true activities that you know you can manage is always a better option when creating with multiple age groups or lots of kids.
Remember ‘process over product’! Don’t worry if the toddler’s painting ends up as a soggy brown lump of paper, it is the creating that is important, not what it looks like in the end!
Here are some art activities that can work well with children of multiple ages. Click on each activity title for more details.
You only need small amounts of paint and smaller pieces of paper for this activity that appeals to all ages and it is simple enough even for a very young child to explore.
Older children can help you pre-cut the paper, and even beginning cutters can snip off small bits from a long strip of paper for this activity. Because this only uses small pieces of paper they stick easily with only a little glue, making it a successful activity for all ages. Older children will create detailed images and representations while little ones will simply enjoy the process of sticking.
Water colour discs are easy for all ages to use but even better, they are quick and easy to set up and easy to pack away!
A really big shared piece of paper and some crayons are all you need for this easy activity for all ages.
This activity doesn’t even require glue, just a sheet of self-adhesive paper and some paper shapes. You maybe surprised at how much even school aged children enjoy this simple, no mess, activity.
While older children will create pictures with more detail, young children will also enjoy exploring the properties of modelling clay.
Children of all ages love stickers and these sticker drawings form a fabulous invitation to create.
For more of Kate’s practical advice for managing the needs of children of different ages, check out her post, Managing Play With Children of Different Ages.
For more kids art ideas, check out Christie’s book…