Monday, January 27, 2014

a child's designated art space?

What are your art spaces like for your children? Do you clean everything away? Keep it out? Do your children ask for art supplies often? I've been thinking about this a lot as I set up our homeschooling environment. How many supplies can I keep out before it become chaos, and how much is not enough?

Here's a great question I got on my Facebook page, from a friend:
I was wondering if you would share your thoughts about creating art spaces for kids. S loves art and draws every day. But we are swimming in materials and space is an issue. Do you have any ideas about creating a space that works for the whole family? And what materials do you suggest? Honestly, he loves to free draw. So I always make sure he has paper, crayons, markers and pencils. Can I get rid of the bins and baskets of other materials without depriving him? It gets so chaotic so quickly. Thanks

And here is my answer:
It's a great question. I think there are a few factors that can contribute to how you handle an art area in your home. 
1- How much mess can you take? 2-What kind of supplies do you have? 3-Do you like to create with your children, or leave them to it?

1- I am a very messy person and I enjoy mess - up to a point, and then I'm done! However, I've been finding that my personal philosophy and style embraces a working/in process space. I don't like my living space to be static and feel like a hotel. That's just me. We have supplies everywhere and I try to keep them organized, but our house can feel like one big studio some times! For others this might drive them nuts (and I get it, I really do), they might need to have a specific, designated space for such activities, but I would encourage that person to challenge themselves to leave the materials out for little hands to easily access. When they are packed away and over-organized a child is much less likely to run with an idea and go crazy making (and learning tremendous amounts through that making time).

I came across this wonderful quote from Lori Pickert of Project Based Homeschooling, "A streamlined learning experience smooths off all the rough edges and the rough edges are generally where most of the learning happens". I think this applies to how your home and art making area is set up. The more access children have to getting into the muck and mess of an idea, the more they learn. 

2) I am a huge proponent of throwing out the crayons and buying kids really fantastic art supplies. Get oil pastels instead of crayons, the color is so much more rich and the texture offers so much more to explore. Buy high quality markers (that don't wash off walls!), get bottles of tempera paint and water color paint, good brushes, not the crappy kinds you get at toy stores. Having good art supplies will show your children how much you love what they are doing and will encourage them to do more because it will be so satisfying and the process and results will be so dynamic.

3) If you have a designated space that's not too confining and you have an organizing system that you can live with then you are good to go, but it sounds like it's driving you a little nuts. Do you sit down and make things with him too? Does he prefer to work by himself? I ask these things because I have found that when I have sat down and joined in, or done my own work alongside my kids, the mess bothers me less. I'm in the process with them and seeing it from their perspective which is "WOW! I have so many cool things to work with. Gimme more!" This may not be exactly what you are looking for, but if you can embrace a little of the mess and mayhem of an art space the payoff is huge. I'm so excited that S is such an artist. I'd love to see some of his work! Thanks for your question. I am working out all these things as I go along. I'd love to hear more about your solutions / process / journey.


  1. I didn't know you were on Facebook!

    Someday when we have a house (I try not to say that too often, because it's the far unknown future and I want to be satisfied with what I have here and now), we'll have a real space for art and supplies. Right now we are relegated to several small baskets of supplies that are brought out almost every day to the coffee table.

  2. I'm in the same boat as you. Our house feels like one big studio right now. And we're renting so I'm going for it! We keep out the supplies that they have mastered: crayons, pastels, markers, pencils and pens of all kinds, all office supplies and tape and stapler and scissors, etc., scrap papers and other papers, water colors, brushes, and containers for water. The rest is put in another area of the house so that I can pull from storage as needed for new supplies and to replenish what is low. It's working so far. The kids go in phases. They use what's out. They ignore it for a while. They run into the other closet and drag things out. They ignore that stuff for a while. Sometimes I put out little invitations for them but haven't done that in a while. I'll look forward to having our own space soon that we can design to fit our needs.