The art projects kids do in school often aren’t particularly creative. Teachers distribute pre-cut figures to be decorated, or tell the whole class to make identical orange pumpkins or Mayflower ships. Children are sometimes given coloring book-type sheets and told to color them in. Such work leaves little room for expression and creativity. If you want your child to have fun doing original artwork, you usually have to encourage it at home.
You can begin by providing a variety of appealing art materials: clay and sculpting compounds; candle wax and beeswax; an assortment of pens, pencils, paints, and markers; good quality paper, glue, and scissors; and popsicle sticks, small pieces of fabric and felt, wood chips, buttons, and glitter. These materials can be found at variety stores, hobby and art supply shops, and office supply stores.
If your child already has a preference for one medium, you can provide appropriate materials. A child who enjoys painting can be offered a table easel and paints of different sorts, including watercolors, acrylics, oil, and tempera. You can give her different sized brushes, paper, and canvas.
The materials you buy should allow open-ended artwork. Coloring books, paint-by-number pictures, and pre-cut projects limit a child’s creativity. Parents who want to encourage their child’s free expression should avoid them.
Your child will be tempted to try new art materials if they’re stored in an accessible place or set out in an appealing way. You can leave markers and paper on the kitchen table where your child will see them and be tempted to start drawing. You can reserve an accessible shelf, box, or drawer for art materials. You can also set aside space in your basement or elsewhere for large art projects and materials, such as easels. Your child will feel she has a special place for her big cardboard sculptures and creations made out of straws, papier-mâché, or clay.
One of the best places for working on smaller projects is the kitchen, since it’s often the center of the home. While your child works, you can be nearby, ready to look at a new project or listen to her talk about her creation.
Some parents hesitate to encourage artwork at home because they fear a mess. However, table surfaces can easily be protected with newspaper or vinyl covers. A child can wear old clothes when she works, or cover her clothes with a smock. You shouldn’t make cleanup a major issue. Your child may avoid artwork altogether if she knows she has to do a big cleanup when she’s done.