Eva is very into art. I feel like most kids like to draw and create things, but Eva has been art focused forever and, much like her bottomless interest in rocks and her obsession with Disney Infinity, her passion for art goes way beyond anything I’m interested in. I like art but I don’t want to talk about it all the time and outside of pre-packaged crafts I’m not that creative. So nurturing her artistic side has been something of a challenge.
I would love to have just thrown crayons at the kid but I also want her to get inspired by art ideas that she hasn’t come up with herself. Exposure to art is tricky because we have unimpressive art museums around here and Calvin would rather put toothpicks in his eyes than go to art museums. So, we needed to find a new way.
Because I am a giant nerd, I first started looking for books that would help me expand the world of art for Eva. I bought a book about teaching art to elementary school students and I liked how it broke down different principles, but it’s structured as though you’re going to be teaching 20-30 kids at once so a lot of it wasn’t worth it for me. (Maybe if you’re planning on doing art projects with homeschool groups?) The Artful Parent was a lot more helpful because it’s focused more on creating creative spaces and opportunities for art, rather than specific art projects. I also liked the format more, probably because it was written by a blogger.
That book suggested having books on hand that had different examples of art, so I got The Art Book for Children, which covers a lot of the big classic pieces of art and that’s been great to have on hand, but we’ve actually gotten more mileage out of 1000 Illustrations for Children, which was an impulse purchase at the local art museum. There isn’t quite as much variation in art type or country of origin but it’s more accessible for Eva and it’s actually kind of nice to just be able to look at a piece of art and not think about how super famous it is and how you really HAVE to like it because everyone says it’s so good.
Finally, we’ve done a bunch of projects based out of this book, which has a lot of different kinds of art that kids can do. It’s out of print right now but we use it so often I thought I’d include it. Used copies are pretty cheap!
If you aren’t as into getting info from books, you might want to try these websites out:
- The J. Paul Getty Museum and Khan Academy teamed up for a series of videos that feature kids talking about different pieces of art. They aren’t very in-depth, but it’s really nice to hear kids exploring art out loud and Eva loves them. We pull them up on the iPad occasionally for breakfast time when our brains are waking up.
- KinderArt offers a ton of lesson plans across art mediums but even if you don’t want to do a full lesson, there are a lot of projects that use regular things you keep around the house.
- The National Gallery of Art offers educational materials. They’re mostly designed for older kids but you can borrow teaching packets and slides as long as you pay postage (yes, even if you aren’t a teacher). They also have lessons and activities on there organized beautifully – probably my favorite art website.
- For online craft project inspiration, I like the DIY Projects from Handmade Charlotte. They tend to be more open ended so even though the projects have detailed instruction there’s at least an element or two left open for Eva to make creative decisions. Also, we’ve adapted a lot of these ideas to fit other projects we want to do.
Of course, the final part of the puzzle is to keep art stuff on hand. We’ve swung between having too much (the mess around the house!!) and too little (those pre-stocked art kits are so, so boring) and it turns out that having a little bit of a lot of different mediums is the best bet, if that makes sense. We don’t need ALL the paints, but we need some paint. We don’t need ALL the paper, but we need at least 6-7 different types. The only thing we don’t need is glitter, mostly because it just makes me yell a lot when it ends up all over the house.
Oh, and everything needs to be washable. That’s key. There are also materials that are just too old for the kids right now, including pottery clay, liquid ink, hot glue guns, and electric pencil sharpeners. Learned that the hard way.
Here are some of the materials we keep stocked these days. I have a running list on Amazon so I can restock when we run out because it took us a while to find the good stuff instead of the cheap stuff they try to pass off because kids don’t know the difference. Some were an investment but a lot of them are stocking stuffer prices:
- Crayola crayons
- Colored pencils (You want a big set!)
- Drawing paper
- Construction paper
- Glue sticks
- Felt shapes
- Washable paint
- Stamps with washable ink
- Jumbo stamp pad for fingerprints
- Craft sticks