I absolutely love seeing my son being creative when I give him a piece of paper and some paints. My philosophy is quite simple: free of rules – the less guided, the more creative he will be!
Of course, art can get messy, disorganised or for some, even a stressful time! If your kids are anything like my son, paint often ends up on his arms, face, all over the table and on the floor before we have even started the art activity. I mean, who doesn’t love the feeling of paint on his/her skin?!
However, art for kids does not always mean paint or glue everywhere. Art can be free of rules when it comes to the creative side of things, without turning out too messy. Yes, I promise!
What Do I Do?
My number # 1 rule is to prepare the environment before your kid comes to the table or space you will use to set up the art activity. What I mean by “preparing” is to set it up in the way that doesn’t make you go crazy or stressed out should the art supplies go on everything. What I do is place an old bedsheet under the table. That way, if paint or glue or anything falls on the floor, it will make the cleaning easier, and I won’t mind it. I also usually place a plastic tablecloth on the table so that the table stays clean. My son knows that he must grab his art smock and put it on before starting any art activities. If the art smock is not ready to be used, I just dress him up with old spare clothes which are fine to get dirty.
Once everything is set up, I then provide the materials by finishing with the gooey or messy supplies last! I then let my son explore the materials, think about what he wants to create, and let him be creative. There are no ground rules here: that’s the “free of rules” part.
I also find that the bigger the piece of paper is, the more waste we make, so I try to cut that piece of paper in half. This is because my son is only 3 and his attention span can be short. That way, he can feel that he has “completed” his art project in much less time. Not only does he feel he has accomplished something which looks nice in a short period of time, but it also saves on supplies.
I typically use an art session as an opportunity to discuss colours, ideas, shapes, textures of materials, etc when looking at the completed work. This is a great opportunity to enhance vocabulary in a different language, and bond with your kids in a meaningful way.
One thing my son loves is to display his creations in his playroom. We would let them dry out and then he would find a spot to hang them or display them. This invaluably reinforced his creative interpretation of his artwork. This sense of accomplishment and pride is manifested when your kids tell you “look what I did Mum” or “I did it all by myself Mum” or “I like it Mum, do you?”. I try to go a bit further by looking at his artwork and discussing it with him so that he has an opportunity to tell me what he was trying to achieve. This is an opportunity to explain his work in his own words. We can then expand on sentences and words to describe his artwork differently.
Why is art important for kids?
Art can be messy, but art is undeniably making learning fun and valuable. How so?
Art and craft activities can:
- Help develop fine motor skills which are important pre-writing skills. Think of this pencil grip? Kids learn the pencil grip by building up their finger muscles. Art and craft activities help strengthen those little fingers naturally without realising it.
- Foster imagination and creative thinking – this is where the “free of rules” plays an important role. If an activity is too directed, your kids won’t have an opportunity to think differently in an imaginative way. Don’t get me wrong, directed crafts have also their benefits with regards to concentration, following a pattern, and following instructions, but these often do not allow their imagination to be boosted. Undirected art and crafts can help achieve this. Remember that for children, a roll of toilet paper or cardboard box has limitless possibilities.
- Help build concentration which in-turn can positively impact social and emotional development by improving emotional balance. Decades of research provide data proving that arts education impacts emotional development and so much more. This is mostly because art and crafts nourish our kids’ sensory, emotional and cognitive capacities which all have a positive impact on brain development. These sensory, emotional and cognitive capacities drive all other learning. By doing art and crafts from a young age, you set great learning foundations for your kids.
From my perspective, these benefits outweigh the stress you can experience when looking at the mess. Seeing your kids’ potential when exposed to art and crafts – in some ways, it’s just a shift in perspective.
Now it’s your turn… how do you incorporate art and crafts for your kids? What are your best-tried tips? We would love to hear from you below.