One of the very best things I’ve done as a parent is to set up an art cart.
Art carts are all the rage. We’ve all seen this one (which was my inspiration) so why am I writing about it to you?
Because I’ll bet you do not make art materials easily available to your children. I’ll bet you’ve got all manner of pens and paints, but they are shut away on a top, top, tippy top shelf. I know, with our older kids, this is what I did. I hoarded those art materials until all of a sudden I realized: “Oh, crap, they’ve grown!”
Because art is messy as hell.
And it’s a hassle. And it’ll take too much time for me to referee the process.
Wrong. Insert loooooong buzzer sound.
Myth #1: My kids will ruin my home.
When you buy paints and pens and glue made for kids, it cleans up easily. And it doesn’t stain. Trust me. My 4-year-old son Jackson and I have used fingerpaints and pens and glitter glues and watercolor paints and not a single thing has been ruined.
Myth #2: I don’t have time to do art with my kids.
The thing is, it’s important that we let our kids do art. And not just when (if) we decide they can. They need to have materials available to them for when inspiration strikes. You should not be doing it with them. The key is they can explore independently. You go do something else. Wash a dish for Chrissakes.
Myth #3: My kids can’t handle art on their own.
They need the freedom to do with those materials what they will. This is a time for you NOT to butt in or control things. In fact, this is the exact right time for you to get your big butt OUT. If they grab pens and a tiny notepad, DO NOT ask them if, instead, they’d like crayons and a big sheet of paper. Just… be quiet. Let them do what they will with the materials. You will be fostering freedom AND letting them explore their own minds.
Myth #4: Glitter is an art supply from hell.
Ok, that’s not a myth, that’s true. We don’t do glitter. I ain’t crazy.
And I have been amazed by how often I get a quiet 30 minutes unexpectedly because Jackson gets involved with a project just out of the blue, with no urging from me. (Case in point, he’ll spend easily a half hour taping his army figurines into construction paper and them making them “Christmas gifts”. In July. Who cares if it makes no sense on several levels? He feels great doing it and is so proud of the final product.
One additional, unforeseen advantage? Both my husband and I have been known to grab the art cart and sit down on a whim for a sketch (him) or a round of coloring (me). Turns out even WE needed better access to the materials.
Common sense: you have to stock your art cart with age-appropriate items and you know your kids and what they can handle safely. But, I urge you, give them some freedom. Set limits, but give them a chance to show you they can be more reasonable with these things than your inner Penelope FearMonger might believe.
Resources for Doing Art with Your Kids
Once you catch the “art bug”, you may want to get more into it. I know we have. We try to do some art project every Sunday afternoon, in addition to the “spur of the moment” art that the cart facilitates.
Here are some of my favorite resources: