I recently was asked by a friend who follows my blog how to get started doing art with her twins – who just turned two. I gave her a few ideas, but I feel like because I was distracted, my brain didn’t fully process the question until I got home (from her twins birthday party – wonder why I was distracted? ;)… So I thought I would take the time to create a post that answers her question – and maybe some of yours, too!
So how do you get started?
Well, if you’re timid like I was, a fabulous way to start with a child of ANY age is to start in the bathtub. Because its easy to clean out, and then you just have to take off and throw away a diaper – instead of worry about what gets on their clothes. Start with finger paints, or even finger paint soap:(ALEX Toys Rub a Dub Paint in the Tub Finger Painting Kit aff link – thank you!) A few things to remember – your child will paint himself. Entirely. Head to toe. Whether the first paint you use is fingerprint soap in the tub or not… OR you’ll encounter the other extreme – some kids dip their fingers into finger paints, and they don’t like it AT ALL. It’s a texture that just feels super weird and they don’t like it. They don’t want to be messy. So be prepared for one of these two drastic responses… and if you’re prepared for the extremes, maybe your child will fall right in the middle and only paint with their fingers on the appropriate surface. 🙂 Every child is different! But, I always recommend starting in the tub to see how your child will respond. (Especially if you have two children – one may love it, and the other might not. Try introducing it to them separately if you can so that the response of their sibling doesn’t influence their own initial feelings about it.)
Another great tub activity that never gets old is playing with shaving creme in the tub. You can squeeze it into a pile, like a pile of paint, or spray it all over the tub and your child – but if you’ve never done it before, go with a pile til you know if they are going to agree with the texture or not. If you have a child who enjoys different smells, try dumping a pouch of Kool-aid around on top of the shaving creme to make good smelling, colored shaving creme! 🙂
If you’re starting art with a child who doesn’t like finger paints or getting their hands dirty, another great option is Crayola’s Color Wonder markers and paper: (Get started with Crayola Color Wonder 10 Mini Markers and Crayola Color Wonder Drawing Paper-30 Sheets – aff links, thank you) They also have a wide variety of coloring sheets with your child’s favorite movie and tv characters. These are also a fabulous way to introduce markers before allowing any child to use regular markers – because they TRULY only write on the special paper.
Or, if you’re already ready to dive in to start painting at the table, here are a few supplies I recommend having on hand:
-A large plastic tablecloth that can get lots of paint on it. We have one that is for picnicking – has the fabric backing to it – so it’ll last through all of our projects, and we can just let it dry, fold it up, and put it away for the next time we need it. Check out any of my posts, and you’ll see it – the unsung hero of art in our house. HA! (But seriously ya’ll… get a table cloth!)
-Dixie cups / cheap paper plates for putting paint in/on.
-A really good variety of textured card stock paper – I prefer textured because it grabs the paint and holds on, and is thicker than regular card stock. I recommend watching Michael’s and Hobby Lobby for sales or purchasing a paper pack with a coupon.
-A set of paint brushes in a variety of sizes and textures (again, Hobby Lobby or Michael’s is your best bet).
-A large smock or paint coat. Becca uses my old chef’s coat from when I sold Pampered Chef. It’s huge, which is perfect because it covers all of her, and it also doubles as a science lab coat. With a child that I know will end up painting her hands, and possibly getting it elsewhere head to toe, I want to make sure she is covered so that I can just relax and have fun with her!
-Paint. I recommend having a couple of different kinds. Crayola makes some fabulous finger paint, but we really prefer to use acrylic paints. They wash off of skin easily, and they are great to manipulate with cars, brushes, corks, foam, bubble wrap, etc. They also dry really well and make fabulous art prints. I am still in search of good liquid watercolors that we like that don’t cost a fortune. But remember – you can do some fabulous process art without very many supplies – grab a couple bottles of paint to start, and you’re good to go. Expand as you go.
-Also begin saving things – wine bottle corks, empty used Ziploc bags (not used for food), aluminum foil that can be reused for art, egg cartons, toilet paper and paper towel rollers, old partially used sand paper, food pouch lids, coffee or formula cans, etc. Make a storage space in your home for these supplies because you never know when you’ll see an art project or craft activity here that uses those supplies! 🙂
*-*Keep in mind for your Baby Bees (who put things in their mouths) – another fabulous way to introduce basic process art is to use “paint” that you already have in your pantry/fridge – ketchup, mustard, and mayo are great edible options that won’t hurt baby when he puts them in his mouth. HOWEVER, you may want to think twice before giving them condiments as a first paint – do you want them to view food as art materials, or just as food? Keep in mind that this is a highly debated topic in the world of preschool and baby art – I’m just throwing it out there as an option. We personally have not chosen to allow our kids to use edible art supplies, though I do make my own play dough, so it technically could be eaten without causing harm – though it tastes super salty. To me, food is food and art supplies are art supplies, and I don’t want to teach my kids that they can eat art supplies – because many of them are NOT safe. However, we do use lots of edible manipulatives for other non-art STEAM activities, and simply discuss the fact that this is not for eating in this activity, or set a limit to how many can be eaten (esp marshmallows… we do a lot with marshmallows). Totally up to you and your personal preferences if you want to do this or not. I would have been remiss if I hadn’t mentioned it as an option for your Baby Bees as a way to get them starting art earlier. Keep in mind also that you can do Ziploc bag painting with them if you prefer to keep the paint mess out of their mouths at their current age/stage.*-*
The important thing to remember when starting to do art with your child is this: a CRAFT worries about the end result. ART is all about the process it takes to get to whatever conclusion that is found. You do NOT have to be “crafty” to do art! ANYONE can create art. And all you need to do is check my Art Page to find a ton of fabulous ideas of simple activities to do. Keep in mind that with process art it’s not important for the child to see an end product as an example. Don’t feel like you need to make up a sample beforehand. In fact, DON’T show them an end product. Let them create and enjoy – and what they come up with will be their own unique artwork – not a copy of someone else’s design. I love to participate in the process and create my own artwork, or work together with Becca on a sheet. Most of our painting projects use up 4-5 sheets of card stock because we each do two sheets, and do one together.
Once your child gets older and are very used to free art work, give her a few step by step crafts to start honing those skills as well, but be sure she knows how to enjoy process art before trying to force a craft on her. (Note: this is a fairly new theory that I’m seeing become a trend in preschools across the US – and it is a FABULOUS one! I don’t know why I didn’t see this in the past! Crafts are important – because it’s important that children learn how to follow directions to create an end product, but ART is something entirely different that is also VERY important!!)
Two art blogs that I follow that I highly recommend to you are The Artful Parent and Red Ted Art. Both have fabulous ideas for process art, and also for lots of crafts. So beyond just checking out what we do here on Fridays (and occasionally other times as well), definitely do check out these blogs as well, because they have been doing this a lot longer than I have, and are often the inspiration for my projects! They also both have Facebook pages that you can follow if you are interested. Jean especially is good about sharing photos from throughout their projects on her Facebook page for The Artful Parent. And I love the videos that Red Ted Art shares of crafts on their Facebook page. (I’m not affiliated with these folks in any way – I just genuinely enjoy their posts.)
I hope that you’ve found this post helpful, and that you’ll follow my Friday “Fun with Art” series to get more ideas of activities you can do to bring art to life in your home with your kids – no matter their age! Also be sure to follow my Facebook page to get more ideas that I share from other bloggers. 🙂