Art is a really fun way to learn be to a creative thinker. The benefits of art in the early years and throughout early development are far and wide. As well as the pure enjoyment of creating, benefits include assisting with literacy, numeracy, problem solving, learning to trust choices, emotional and social development, and the list goes on.
Children love being creative, using their imagination, interpreting the world around them, exploring the many, many possibilities. Having a dedicated art space at home for children is a wonderful way to encourage create thinking, enable self direction and focus, and give them access to new ways of creating and making whenever the desire arrives.
Having a space dedicated for art (as small as a container of essentials or a whole purpose built room) is the first step in encouraging your child to explore their natural creativity. If you have a dedicated art space always at the ready with core materials available, the inspiration to create will follow.
Setting up a dedicated space isn’t as hard as it may seem. Once you know the main ingredients for creating a space where your child will achieve success, it’s easy to develop and grow with your child. The following are the main points to consider when setting up your Art Space.
1.Make it Accessible
It can be a table in the corner of the playroom or a purpose build art studio room. Look for a place that works for your family, the ages of your children (and visitors, friends, cousins). It’s about developing the space and part of that is the routine that is creating great art.
Look at your walls and floor – is it easily washable? Do you need a drop sheet (non slip) or a mop over if anything is spilled? Is it light and airy to invite creative play? Can your children move in and about freely?
If you have really young children, a space close to you is advisable as they will be wanting to ‘share’ all of their art experiences with you. Ours is just off the kitchen and it is used mostly during food and meal preparation times.
Ideally correct height children’s furniture is best as children can stand or sit. Tabletop height is best set at your child’s belly button when seated, so they sit above looking down at their work. This also allows for good full arm movements and expressive works. I aim for a space approximately 35 x 55 cm or more per child seated or standing. Also, low shelves or store tubs that children can reach to explore.
3. Have art materials basics on hand
Have art materials that are always out and ready to go. They can be changed daily, but I like the table to have some or all of the following. I love a tray on the table so it’s neat and contained but do what works for you and your little artists. Basics in this area should include general drawing paper, thin and thick markers, pencils, crayons, chalk. These different materials can be stored in jars and rotated. As they get a little older, add scissors, glue sticks and stickers and a variety of papers.
As well as the table essentials I like to have dedicated tubs on hand with specific materials at the ready. A low accessible shelf with baskets or clear tubs that hold different materials for inspiration: construction materials like card rolls, small recycled boxes, colour papers and card, magazine cut outs, stickers in shapes and sizes, colour pop sticks or Nature play materials. I generally keep these at ½ capacity and top up after a creative session, that way if you get the “dump it all out on the floor for fun” happening, it’s not too hard to re pack away (together).
4. Special materials not easily accessed.
Then there are the materials that come out some of the time – the special materials that you may need to assist to set up, or chat through how to use, or to supervise. I usually keep these on a higher shelf, or in clear tubs in a cupboard.
Acrylic paints, Tempera paint, liquid inks, PVA glue, printmaking, ink pads, finger paint. Also, things like pompoms, glitter, pop sticks, matchsticks, patty pans, sticker supplies, card and paper.
5. Quality materials over Quantity
I love to get excited about the materials we have. I spend a little extra on quality for two reasons. The first is the pigment is usually better and therefore more vibrant, intense and the colours intermix to create the next wave of colours equally beautiful. You will find with a cheaper paint, once you have two or three colours together your start getting a muddy brown. This not only looks unsatisfying but doesn’t assist in understanding colour theory and meaning as well.
The same goes for paper – cheaper paper won’t hold the paint well, gets wrinkly and is often off colour (not crisp white) so the artwork is dull and not as vibrant. The second reason is how your child feels whilst making the artwork the artwork on completing. The difference between quality paint on quality paper where your child has added red, whites and then blue and has a stunning purple cross over, with clear and precise brush strokes and crisp white spaces in-between, compared to a muddy brown area of mixing, drips and blurred lines on off white paper.
The importance of self talk and esteem whilst creating is equally as important. When they are creating wonderful work (that is vibrant) they are enjoying the process, the enthusiasm creates momentum, and continues to inspire. It’s the pride, self awareness, self esteem and also the feedback that we give that builds on this positive and happy experience.
I like to spend a little extra on quality in the main core materials and then top up the extras from the cheap shops and bargain bins, such as bright pompoms, pipe cleaners, buttons, ribbon, decorative card, sparkle and dare I say – glitter.
Being organized is essential as it makes the experience for everyone (including you) stress free. I love a great look and a clear home with a spot for everything and everything has a spot. In my pantry, we use clear, stackable containers with a large opening top. I love these from Kmart!
Lots of shapes and sizes with clear stackable containers. There is something special about opening an organised art store cupboard full of colour! Unpack everything as you buy or collect it so that it’s ready to go. Sort into containers, boxes or zip bags (they’re wonderful for storing flat and easily accessible).
7. Teach best practice
I make sure most of my core materials are washable from the tabletops leaving the surface clean and tidy with the basics at the ready. Whenever we’re using any of the specialist materials (printing, inks, paint, craft glue etc) I start the routine of getting the space ready to create by using a laminated tick list. You can find our routine in a free printable PDF here.
The table should be covered to capture spills and drips. We use a piece of calico fabric rather than plastic (as it stops a spill from running along a tabletop and it isn’t slippery), perfect for little artists. Materials should all be planned, taken out, opened and ready to use.
If you are using acrylic paints, I like to place these on paper plates rather than plastic palettes, no cleaning required and can then be recycled as the paint dries hard. Buying small sample pots of specific colours at the local hardware shop is also a great way to have a range of colours in small amounts.
Washing up is equally important after a session. I allocate a large and small bucket ready for this purpose. Small for dirty brushes, paint water and any tools that will need washing, and large for hand washing on site (not running through the house to the bathroom with paint hands. I also allocate a few ‘art’ towels ready to dry hands afterwards (or catch drips and spills)
Sometimes soaking some of your tools overnight in clean detergent water can assist with removing all pigment, rather than spending ages at the sink washing. Wipe off most first with a paper towel, a general rinse and then leave in a bucket overnight. Gravity will make sure all the pigment (heavier than water) drops to the bottom of the bucket and then brushes are washed with ease.
So now you are ready with materials, space and motivation! Generally, have your core materials out ready, change them over every few days and introduce new or different drawing materials, papers and stickers.
I also like to have an open ‘Invitation to Create’ by adding smaller specifics to the available material. I like to set it up the night before and generally keep it simple with a small centre tray and a selection of different or new materials, such as a glue stick, cut patty pans, stickers, or opt for colourways (all blue materials, with sea shells, or green papers and some leaves from the garden for example).
Most importantly, the space should be a source of delight and wonder, rather than stress.