The Art of Making Art a Habit
By Kim Votruba-Matook of The Artful Educator.
As a graphic designer, a lover of art, and the founder of a shop that makes educational art products, I learned quickly that creating anything is a process. A beautiful, unpredictable, messy process. You start with an idea, you craft it into a form, you step away, you add to it, you love it, you add more, you hate it, you pull some back, you play and adjust until you decide it is complete. This is the beauty and struggle of creating art. It is yours to develop as you see fit.
This is what makes a child’s art equally critical and incredible. With every mark, stroke, and squiggle, we are witnessing artistic process. They are honing their abilities to create. How do we encourage that? Here are some opportunities:
In the kitchen: It’s all about baking. Being able to use your hands to mix, knead, roll, twist, and form shapes is a lot of fun for kids. Who said cookies always need to be round? You can take it a step further by finding educational cookie cutters – letters, numbers, themed sets for holidays - and then turning your baking into a medium for math and spelling lessons, as well as creative story-telling.
In any room with available space: Pending approval from your employers, create a creative work area where all creative tools can live and be easily accessed. Set up an easel with paper 24/7. Keep a roll of paper out on a desk to support spontaneous scribbles. Paint part of the wall with chalkboard paint. Have your nanny kids be part of the set-up of the space, so they know where everything is and can also feel a sense of ownership in making it a reality.
If you’re traveling with kids: Doodle! When you find a lull in the action, instead of pulling out your phone, pull out a notebook. Sketch something. You can have “quick draw” competitions, guess what is being drawn, or just make some scribbles and see what happens. Like finding shapes in the clouds, doodling can ignite your imagination and help you find likenesses, patterns, and meaning in something seemingly arbitrary. Plus, it can lead to some hysterical and playful interpretations!
If you can handle a mess: Paint! Seeing how colors blend and how different tools make different marks is truly wonderful, hands-on learning. Communicating to children that a mess is OK, is so freeing, too. It lifts restrictions and provides the license to try new techniques…most of which will end up on them. But you’ll see it is all worth it by the expressions on their faces – they will be so happy to experiment and play!
If you’re short on space: Create a craft box. Take a trip to the dollar store and fill a container full of art supplies – tissue paper, glue, scissors, paper, crayons, markers, feathers, stickers, molding clay, a foldable mat for messes, etc. – and place that box in an accessible area within your Nanny Family’s home. That way, everything will be contained, yet available when the muse inspires.
If it’s tough to come up with creative ideas: Sign up for a kids’ art & craft subscription service! There are a bunch of companies that provide themed craft ideas with all materials and instructions included. Set the frequency of the box’s arrival, pay the bill (or ask MB and DB to foot the bill), and when the crafts arrive, set aside the time to enjoy crafting with your nanny kids!
If you really don’t have a creative bone in your body: You can still encourage art-making with your littles! If none of the above works for you, you can always enjoy books. Artists and museums put together beautiful picture book collections of art that you can borrow from the library. Or if your library has a used books sale (ours has one every month), purchase used art books to keep on hand for the kids whenever they want a glance.
There are also children’s books about creating art such as Peter Reynolds’ Creatrilogy (“Ish,” “Sky Color,” and “The Dot”), Artist Ted by Andrea Beatty, and the classic Harold and the Purple Crayon by Crockett Johnson that discuss the variety of expression art can be and offer.
Don’t forget about music and dance as forms of art as well. If you’ve ever wanted an excuse for a dance party, here it is! Exploring different dance styles and music through online videos and stations can be really fun, too.
Bottom Line: You can make art a habit! The more you think about art, the more it will become a part of your world. Art is everywhere; the challenge is to see it and make the decision to incorporate it into your everyday. I hope that now, with the suggestions above, this will be easier for you to do! What will you try?