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4 minute read

Getting (Sm)art

Delve into their interests by listening to their ideas and observing how they create art. The process can be just as important as the product. 
Photograph by Francoise Baudet, styled by Madeline Mcfarlane

Have you ever considered bringing more art experiences into your home for your children to engage with but don’t know where to start? Do you think you need particular skills or experience to plan art experiences for children? Or perhaps you’ve been worried about the materials or space required for such undertakings? Wonder no more! Be prepared to get smart about the benefits of art for your children (and yourself) and be assured you don’t need a fine arts degree to bring artistic experiences into your home.

What’s the difference between art and craft, and does it matter?

“Art means something to you. Art is a power that can create lots of stuff. Art is everything… Art can have questions; it can have love in it; it can have superpowers. Art can have superpowers. Art can give an experience, a wonder, a no or a yes.” (Liv, 7 years old, 2018, p. 182)

The definition of arts and crafts is quite a contested subject with a complex debate that has continued for centuries! Interestingly, ‘crafts’ have oftentimes been categorised based on elitist beliefs about what constitutes more basic endeavours compared to those considered to be fine arts. However, many ‘crafts’ can be artistic, creative endeavours as well.

For instance, artistic endeavors can include painting and drawing, weaving and crocheting, sculpting and carving, collage and mosaic, and of course the many performing arts such as drama, dance and music. In addition, artistic endeavors are likely to be: creative, imaginative, open-ended, process-oriented, flexible, subjective, and meaningful.

What are the benefits of children engaging in art-making?

“Living in this space of art and creative practice as an expression of lives lived now and all that brought them to this moment, changes lives, society and history” (Nicole Monks, 2018, p.97).

Art can be a powerful way to convey a message or idea, process internal feelings or emotions, communicate with an audience, and explore deeper parts of our psyche. Art making can therefore be a powerful learning process for children and adults in therapeutic and experiential ways.

In addition, art is potentially connected to all other learning disciplines, such as language and literacy, mathematics, science, design, technology, and history to name just a few. For instance, you need mathematics to work out how to draw perspective in a landscape; and you need to understand symbolism and language to use these in design. There are endless ways art experiences will connect with all areas of life and learning.

The definition of arts and crafts is quite a contested subject with a complex debate that has continued for centuries! 
Photograph by Francoise Baudet, styled by Madeline Mcfarlane

What are the basics and how do you begin?

There is no one way you should begin or one set of art supplies you specifically need. The most ‘successful’ experience you can plan for your child is based on something they are already curious about. For instance, if your child is interested in gem stones and crystals, you might begin by sourcing some water colour paints, brushes, water colour paper and some crystals displayed on a tray. If your child recently asked you why the sky is blue, you might buy or print a colour spectrum wheel, source a crystal that can refract light in a window, along with some washable acrylic paints and large paper.

I’ve sourced some art supplies and have a sense of where to begin, what next?

If you can, sit alongside or even better, participate with your child in their art making/performing. Use conversation to explore further and deeper. Delve into their interests by listening to their ideas and observing how they create art. The process can be just as important as the product. Make a note of questions asked or ideas shared that can then form the basis of the next step for your art making/performing, whether it’s the next day or next week.

SOME OTHER CONSIDERATIONS FOR PLANNING AND ENGAGING IN ART-MAKING WITH CHILDREN

SPACE

Think about dedicating a corner, room or outdoor space to your child’s artistic endeavours. Or perhaps use a caddy on wheels to take advantage of different spaces such as a table, a rug, an easel or sitting under a tree. Consider having a travel art bag that you can bring to the park or beach to take advantages of destinations that inspire creativity, majesty and awe.

STORAGE

Think about how to store and present art materials in enticing ways. Make practical decisions to ensure you are able to set up and clean up efficiently.

QUALITY

Unsurprisingly, consider quality art supplies over quantity, from ethical and sustainable art suppliers. Model to your children commitment to caring for equipment and they will last for years.

INSPIRATION

If you’re finding it difficult to work out where to start, outsource your springboard to an online tutorial. There are many artists offering up their expertise and ideas in the way of YouTube tutorials as well as other paid subscriptions. You might also find inspiration in Instagram accounts dedicated to fostering art with children.

DISPLAY

Sometimes its also prudent to value and appreciate the product. Displaying your children’s art works respectfully and thoughtfully will go a long way to encourage and support your children’s engagement in the arts. Some possibilities include: framing and hanging; storing in purpose bought portfolios; displaying on a shelf; taking photographs of works or performances and keeping them in albums; and taking videos to reflect on and remember.

Displaying your children’s art works respectfully and thoughtfully will go a long way to encourage and support your children’s engagement in the arts.
Photograph by Francoise Baudet, styled by Madeline Mcfarlane