As a children’s art teacher, I have always been interested in helping parents bring more open-ended creativity into their children’s lives. Many parents rely on markers and crayons or single-use craft kits with pre-determined outcomes for their home art activities. For children, using the same medium over and over (markers and crayons) can get boring. Craft kits, on the other hand, are often difficult for young children and cause frustration, which leads to a lot of adult intervention.
What many of us really want is the magic that happens between these two extremes. We want our kids to experience flow; that feeling of being in the zone, eagerly exploring, testing, learning, and creating inspired pieces of art.
So how do we find that magic? We need to start by offering children a variety of quality art materials (that are organized and easy to access) and give them the opportunity to explore these materials in their own way. If this sounds like a daunting task, it’s actually a lot easier than you think. If you can invest 5 minutes a day and some basic art supplies, then you’re well on your way. What’s even better is how special your child will feel to have a thoughtfully prepared surprise waiting for him each day!
Tips for setting up a daily invitation to create:
1. At night while your child is sleeping (or alternatively during the day while your child is at school), take 5 minutes to put out an “invitation to create” on your table. This means that you thoughtfully prepare a few art materials in an inviting way for your child to see when she wakes up (or comes home from school). Presenting the materials in an interesting way will spark your child’s curiosity and beckon him to play.
Tip: If your child doesn’t notice this set up, you can casually mention that there is something interesting on the table. For children who “don’t like art” or often resist your suggestions, it is best to let them discover this prompt on their own.
2. For the first invitation, put out something that is familiar to your child, but add a new twist. For my daughters (ages 5 and 1), I put out different drawing tools (ie: markers, colored pencils, oil pastels, crayons) and 2 large round pieces of paper (to make the circle, I traced a large bowl onto easel paper and cut it out). The key for the first day is that your child is confident with the materials, but pushed to explore them in a new way.
3. Be consistent. Try to put out something (even if it’s only two items) every day until you notice a change. Challenge yourself to do this for a week and see what happens.
4. Rotate between simple invitations (tape and cardboard) and more complex/involved invitations (various shades of one paint color and paper), depending on your energy and time.
Tip: Don’t feel restricted to the materials on the table, if your child is suddenly inspired to add a new material to the mix, go with it!
5. With each new invitation, you can get more creative in your selection. Your child will catch on and look forward to the challenge.
This simple act of putting out a daily invitation to create will deepen your child’s art experience and enable him to take control of his creative process. Pretty soon, your child will have a better understanding of how to experiment with art materials. She will feel confident in collecting her own supplies from your art pantry and using them in new and exciting ways. She will find her flow.
For more ideas on setting up your own “invitations to create” join us here.
Megan Schiller is an artist, mother of 2, early childhood educator, and co-founder of The Art Pantry, an online shop for children’s art supplies and creative resource for parents. She began her career as a preschool teacher, deeply intrigued by the use of art in the preschools of Reggio Emilia, Italy. After many years of teaching preschool and running a children’s art studio, Megan has turned her focus towards helping parents bring more creativity into their homes. You can find more from Megan at The Art Pantry.