Christie Burnett of Childhood 101 on the value of art

Share & Comment

New profile

Christie Burnett, Aussie mother of one, is a long-time early childhood educator and the founder of the popular blog, Childhood 101. Here she shares her thoughts on art, play spaces, and parenting.

***Note: Readers will have a chance to win a free copy of Christie’s new e-book, Art Not Craft: The Process of Learning Creatively, at the end of this interview.***

JEAN:  First, will you tell us a bit about becoming a parent after years in early childhood education?

CHRISTIE:  As an early childhood teacher I thought I knew a lot about young children – how they learnt, developed and formed relationships, etc, and I advised parents on all manner of things – children’s eating, sleeping and behaviour issues, to name a few of the more common ones. However, it wasn’t until I became a parent myself that I understood the strong influence of emotion and the attachment between parent and child that makes these areas of parenting so much more complicated. All my years of studying and teaching had definitely not prepared me for the overwhelming sense of love and protection which I felt for my child.

JEAN:  What made you start Childhood 101?

CHRISTIE:  As a new mum, I found that I missed having something for me as my work had always been such an important part of my life, and as a teacher I loved sharing my passion for quality play-based early education with families and other educators. My blog became what I did for me, an outlet for my thoughts and ideas and feelings and a new place for me to share my passion.  I love that whatever your parenting style or philosophy is, there are others around the world feeling, thinking, and sometimes even enjoying, a similar journey to you.

Art space

JEAN:  I love your daughter’s art space! Will you tell us a bit about setting it up and how it gets used?

CHRISTIE:  We are fortunate to have space in our home for a playroom and it is divided into areas – one corner is Immy’s art space, another her home corner/dramatic play area, a third is a reading space and finally there are two mat areas for various toys and activities. As an early childhood teacher, I believe that presenting aesthetically pleasing play spaces with simple organization helps children to feel secure in the knowledge of what happens in that place. This is especially important to creativity, as a child who feels safe and secure feels more freedom to take creative risks.

Within her art space, Immy has free access to different types of paper, drawing utensils, scissors, glue, collage materials and sculpting mediums, and has since she was a little over two years of age. I keep the paints and some glues in a different space, mainly because of storage restraints but Immy is always free to ask for them.

JEAN:  What are your favorite creative activities to do with your daughter?

CHRISTIE:  Immy would probably choose anything to do with paint and her hands :) Sculpting with clay, plasticine and dough is very popular at the moment and I enjoy watching the learning taking place through the additional challenge that working with 3 dimensional art materials provides – there is a whole heap of problem solving and perseverance hiding in a ball of clay or a stack of recyclables and a roll of tape.

Cover 600 

JEAN:  I’m excited to hear about your new e-book, Art not Craft – The Process of Learning Creatively! What are you hoping parents will take away from it?

CHRISTIE: I often feel that adults place less value on children’s art activities then they do on other types of learning activities. This is especially true of young children whose art making attempts are about enjoying the experience of creating rather than producing a recognizable image or object. I hope that Art Not Craft helps parents to better appreciate the value of art making to a child’s thinking, their learning across all developmental areas, and as an important vehicle for a child to express both their knowledge and feelings of the world. For example, I recently posted on the blog about the important role that art making played in helping Immy to work through the overwhelming emotions which she experienced during our first trip to the cinema. Drawing and painting materials have helped her to make sense of what she saw, heard and felt and now instead of feeling frightened, she is asking to go again!


Through Art Not Craft, I also want to reassure parents that helping children to express themselves through art materials is not difficult and the ebook provides suggestions for the practicalities of art making – simple ways of minimizing mess, of engaging and involving all children – even those who do not show interest in art making, advice for choosing art projects to suit your child and tips for creating an art area at home, and choosing and organizing art materials.

JEAN: Thank you, Christie! I love what you say about offering attractive and defined play spaces to help children feel confident about what happens in that space. I hadn’t considered it in quite that way, but really like that explanation.

Cover 600



 Readers who leave a comment to this interview by 12 midnight EST on Thursday, April 21st, will be entered into a random drawing for a free copy of Christie’s new e-book, Art Not Craft: The Process of Learning Creatively.

The random number generator picked #52 so Melissa wins the copy of  Christie's e-book. Congrats!

I love that little work space! We recently bought a new table for our kitchen so that our old table could be exclusively used as an art table. It's made a huge difference for us to have a dedicated space. The e-book sounds great, thanks for the chance! I'm off to check out your blog, Christie!

Share & Comment
Subscribe to The Artful Parent newsletter


  1. Rachel says

    Art as a means of working through a toddler’s intense emotional experiences really resonates with me. I’d love to win!

  2. says

    What great insights! The importance of art and exploration of materials for a child is invaluable! Thanks for the chance!

  3. Kim says

    Sounds like an awesome book. I love the art area! So inviting and friendly. I’d love to win and read this book.

  4. Misha says

    As a pre-school art teacher (in Colorado) I couldn’t agree more. Great interview and insight!

  5. says

    This is exactly where I’m at right now – it feels like art is such a central element of our family life… but one we hadn’t been giving enough attention and respect.
    it sounds like a wonderful book! Congratulations! (& I’m off to check our her blog ;) x

  6. says

    Great interview! I’ve only recently discovered Christie’s blog and it’s been such an inspiration. I’ve had an art corner set up for my son since he was about 18 months old (he’s now 2 and a half) but it is so disorganised. That pic above of Immy’s art space is amazing! It has definitely given me some great ideas for sorting out the clutter and making a calmer space for him. Thank you!

  7. Katy says

    After years of not showing much interest in art my five-year-old has been taking off. This would be so fun to win! I”m particularly interesting in art helping them express emotions…we focus so much on getting kids to “use words” but often that seems not to help!

  8. Nicole says

    I love this interview. Working with children in childcare, it is so easy to think they need to create “something” in order to have a product to give to their parents etc so they think they are learning etc. But your comment about how with kids, its more about the process of creating, vs the final visual product is so true and wonderful!

  9. bubble936 says

    very inspiring interview. I am a big fan of Christie’s blog and love her new book. would love to have it and read it and inspire myself…

  10. says

    Thanks for sharing another great blog! As an artist, art educator and mother, all of the info you provide (along with pics) are so inspirational and meaningful.

  11. Wendy says

    Love the child art table, stool, and drawers! Can’t wait to see the e-book coming out.

  12. Julie L. says

    I remember coming across a picture of Immy’s art station when I was looking for inspiration to set up my kids space. It looks so inviting! I would love to win a copy of this ebook and learn more about art not craft. I fully believe in the importance of letting children experience the process of creating and try to do activities with my art group that support this. At the same time I feel like I need to explain why I plan the activities I do to my friends. I have a hard time explaining the difference sometimes. I would love to read this and share the ideas with my friends. Thanks for the chance.

  13. says

    My son is now 16 months and while I started to let him “colour” just before one it has been more in the last two months that we have started doing more “art”- He seems to enjoy it especially the coloring and today he did his first collage which was also a hit.
    Last week it was his first experience finger painting- again so much fun to watch.
    The art space is amazing!!!!

  14. Barbara Zaborowski says

    Another great interview, Jean. I often have to remind myself that we’re educating the parents, too, on the importance of process over product.

  15. says

    As Mother to a 2 year old darling daughter, wife to an artist, and artist myself, I am right there with you regarding your views on art. Even if I don’t win your ebook, I will purchase it!

  16. Chin ho says

    Sounds really good! I lve your daughter’s art space too. Good ideas I could implement for our 2.5 year old and 8month old

  17. says

    As I have started reading about art with children and trying to do more art in my home with my children I am finding that a lot of the blogs I read are a lot about crafts not art. I love your blog for this reason. It is the process not the product! I am excited to go over and look at Christie’s blog to learn more about all this.
    Oh and I love her daughter’s art space. The frames around the pictures are wonderful! Something I am going to try to do this week in my kids room.

  18. Tamrah T. says

    …”helps parents to better appreciate the value of art making to a child’s thinking, their learning across all developmental areas, and as an important vehicle for a child to express both their knowledge and feelings of the world.”
    I think she’s got my attention! I’d enjoy reading further :)

  19. Adina says

    Great interview. I’ve been following Christie’s blog for a while, too. I would love to win this book, for my 2 children.

  20. Dori says

    What a great philosophy! Something that we (I) really do try to embrace. Also wanted to let you know that your Easter egg tree was an inspiration! I have great memories of blowing out eggs and decorating a twig…and seeing your little ones enjoying it so much I decided it was time to introduce my own 5 and 3 year olds to the fun! A dozen funky dyed eggs are drying as I type. :)

  21. Sarah says

    I would love to be able to win a copy of this ebook. I’m always on the look out for good ideas for art activities for my 3.5 year old (which is why I love your blog!)

  22. [email protected] says

    I’m glad to hear that so many parents share this idea and not the idea of crafting we see too often in school. Power of expression empowers our children.

  23. Dana F says

    Such fantastic perspective!
    I have been working on cultivating a space for my daughter to create but space is a little more challenging for us.
    I have a rolling cart that I have easy access to bring out for her when requested and we are being more adventurous in our mediums.
    The best byproduct of this experience is that as my daughter learns about herself through exploration and I in turn learn about her, I am being taught lessons on perspective and life as a mother and woman I don’t think I could have discovered in any other way!
    Excited to learn more about Christie’s book!

  24. Sharon Sawyer says

    I have been working at being reflective of all the “art” we do in preschool to make it more creative and open-ended. It is easy to get stuck in the “crafty” mode making “cute” things parents will like rather than focusing on process oriented projects. It bothers me when I walk through preschool classrooms and realize most teachers and parents don’t really have a clue as to the difference. I would love this book to share with parents. By the way, thank you for all the ideas I get from your website. Very inspirational!

  25. Nicole says

    I love what Christie has to say. I too was and early childhood teacher before becoming a parent. I am going to check out her blog asap!

  26. Jessica Flowers says

    Art, not craft is what we consistently preach in our volunteer trainings at Free Arts. It is a difficult delineation in many people’s minds. I am anxious to read your book and incorporate some of your ideas into our therapeutic programs for children!

  27. says

    I agree her point of view about art and early years children; I think planning the space is very important and it helps the children find their way on expression, development and learning, full self-confidence. Great interview!

  28. Kelly says

    Great interview! I love that she has organized her organized her play spaces. Sounds like a great book, can’t wait to read it!!

  29. Brenda says

    That art space for Immy is incredible! I remember all the materials my mom kept available for us as kids – scrap paper, tape, scissors, glue, popsicle sticks, alphabet pasta, sparkles, felt… it inspired so much, and I believe it played a part in all of us kids being so creative today as adults… and now mom has creative grandkids too! :)

  30. Christina Spencer says

    Love the interview and her blog. I’m a mother of a two year old, an early childhood teacher and K-12 art teacher. I can’t encourage parents enough how important it is to freely experiment with art materials at a young age and value process over product! I would love to read Art not Craft.

  31. Melissa says

    I love that little work space! We recently bought a new table for our kitchen so that our old table could be exclusively used as an art table. It’s made a huge difference for us to have a dedicated space. The e-book sounds great, thanks for the chance! I’m off to check out your blog, Christie!

  32. Bridgett Thomas says

    Great interview! Some of my favorite times with my daughter are when we sit down to work with our art supplies. I love watching the intensity on her face.

  33. Iryna says

    It’s sad to see how much stress is put on “doing crafts” and how easily a person is labeled to be “just not crafty”…

  34. Frances says

    I’m so inspired by your art space. Our playroom is what used to be the family room, right off the kitchen…it’s small, but I think that having a dedicated spot to make art is so important. There’s going to be some furniture rearranging coming up!

  35. sonja white says

    Congrats for writing this important book! As an early childhood educator, I understand the vital skills young children develop in creating art. Art is not simply a diversion for them, it is a foundation on which skills such as decision-making, fine motor development, eye- hand coordination, patterning and spacial relationships are being developed. Even more important may be that creativity is a highly necessary quality people need to be sucessful. Check out this article by newsweek!

  36. says

    I just LOVE to get the word out about art versus crafts. I hope I win this book! As a longtime reader of both childhood 101 and the Artful Parent I look forward to reading it.

  37. Rainell says

    Now if I could only get the parents of my pre-k students to value art on this manner! Love the blog!

  38. says

    Okay, I am totally inspired to rework my daughter’s play and art spaces now. Organization and neatness is *not* my forte, but those spaces look sooo peaceful and inspiring! I like her take on art in childhood and am very interested to read her book.
    (Now I had better get to cleaning and reorganizing while fleeting organizational inspiration lasts!)

  39. Ronnie says

    I too love Immy’s art space. My children ( well mostly my son) have claimed a space but I feel inspired to find a way to organize it a bit and create a space that will make their creating easier. Thanks for the chance

  40. Roya says

    Thanks for the interview and introducing childhood 101. I am looking for all kinds of help to introduce my son to art.

  41. says

    Oh my, this is perfect as we just created our own art/craft/play studio in our home. New ideas for art projects would be a welcome addition!

  42. Sandrala says

    Loved this interview and am in love with the wall framing. Thank you Jean for introducing me to Childhood 101.

  43. says

    Great interview – and it has motivated me to set up a nice organised art area for my daughter Zoe who is 2 and a half.
    Thank you!

  44. says

    Jean, you always introduce us to interesting people doing interesting things. Thanks to both of you for this interview.

  45. Bethany says

    As a former art teacher and new mama I loved the interview and am excited to check out this book. Thanks!

  46. Mary says

    I will definitely check out her website, thanks for such a good interview. I would love to win the book and really get some good tips for setting up a better art space for my girls.
    Thanks again!

  47. Sue Buttrey says

    As a Mother and Grandmother I see access to this type of information so important.
    Young mums are swayed by commercialism which encourages movies, popular songs and passive activities which may stifle imagination. “Old fashioned” games, rhymes and creative activities are extremely important to little ones. Keep up the good work.
    My daughters would benefit greatly from reading this.

  48. says

    For someone like me, unable to run around outside with my son, art is becoming a very important part of our special time together. Thanks for sharing this interview and especially the photo of the dedicated art space, I’m briming with ideas now for creating a space like this for us.

  49. Jennifer says

    I need to read this book! My 3 year old daughter is so creative and I want to help foster it and encourage her. Thanks.

  50. says

    Having worked in early childhood, I love what Christie has to say about art as a process, and a way for kids to express emotion.

  51. Tina says

    Thank you for the interview. Very nice. It’s nice to know there are lots of people also encouraging their children to be freely creative.

  52. Eliza says

    Love the concept of using art for expression of intense emotion…think my son could really benefit from this as he is a “thinker” and can get quite moody at times. Would love to be able to have some teachniques with which to draw him out and let him creatively and constructively express himself.

  53. Maureen Antoski says

    This book looks fabulous. That was one of the trickier things I had to wrap my head around when I changed teaching levels from intermediate to kindergarten-their worked didn’t quite look the way I has hoping…but they sure had a great time in the process!!

  54. Allie says

    I love Art not Craft as a slogan, I teach preschool and I wish I could constantly tell the parents… we are doing art, not crafts!

  55. says

    I’m in love with the art area!! Wish I had space in my house for something like that. I am trying to incorporate art into our everyday lives more and more. This would be fantastic! Thanks!

  56. Alison says

    I love the “frames” for your daughter’s artwork! Such a good idea – I think I will do something similar for my kids. Thanks!

  57. says

    I love Christie’s blog, and I’m thrilled to see your interview with her! I’ve also been drooling over her art space, and just love how clean and accessible it is. Congrats on the book, Christie!

  58. says

    I like the idea that art is education. It encourages me to let my son get the crayons and paints out more often. Thank you for the giveaway opportunity!

  59. susan says

    I love Childhood 101! I am a daycare provider and really get inspired! thanks for being there!

  60. brenda says

    Bravo ladies! Thank you for helping our kiddos to get the creativity time they need :-)

  61. says

    The first thing my 3.5 yr old wants to do in the morning is paint, so that is what we do. What would we do without the infinite possibilities of paper and mark making?
    Thanks for your lovely blogs ladies.

  62. Emily says

    My 5-year-old has had an art hang-up since his grandmother told him he should “color within the lines.” He is just now starting to do stick figures, but only at preschool, not at home. While I love art, I’m not an artsy-crafty type and I’m not sure how best to get him to discover the artist within without making him feel pressured. Your site will be a big help. Thanks.

  63. says

    I love Immy’s artwork! And looks like a great book, too! My daughter is almost 2 and I’ve been trying to do art with her on a regular basis…getting inspiration from blogs like yours. I do my best not to interfere and let her imagination and creativity run wild, but I know I could work on it. Thanks for a great interview!

  64. says

    I LOVE the idea of having frame spaces on the wall to display the art and give a sense of “this is where it goes” without it having to actually be in a frame. That is just a beautiful way to combine the order and tidiness that my daugher and I both thrive on without completely letting go of creativity. Awesome!

  65. Mickey S says

    As an Art Therapist and Professional artist I am intrigued by the e-book! Interestingly, I am recently hired to talk regularly about Art being the missing link in our mainstream schools and so . . . pick me pick random pick generator!
    Yup Yup pick me . . .

  66. Carla says

    Oooh – Great idea about the cinema – Tilda was so upset by the noise – thank you!

  67. marcella says

    This book should be very interesting! Here in Italy it is very difficult to find such kind of publications, I really look forward to having a copy to use it with my girl who is 4 now.

  68. tracy says

    I taught elementary school art for 10 years & now have my own kids…I always tried to impress on my fellow teachers the importance of the kids creating & experimenting, and that the process was more important than the product. Would love to read your e-book!

  69. Mim says

    I have only discovered this page today, just in time for the chance to win such an amazing book. :)

  70. says

    This looks wonderful. The art space….Wow! Simplifying is on my list so we can actually get to what we need to make art.
    We recently discovered water color pastels and pencils. It is so much fun to see how our 4 children approach the same thing in a different ways.

  71. andrea says

    i discovered her blog very recently and book marked that photo of her painted-on wall frames. LOVE THEM!!!!!

  72. says

    It sounds like a wonderful book. I host a monthly art class for 10 1-2 year olds and I would love to read about your organization tips and how to engage those who do not show interest in the activities.

  73. says

    Great interview! Whenever I read one of your interviews I’m more inspired to give my kids more creative freedom. It’s so tough sometimes, since we live in a tiny apartment and can’t have a designated area. But my kids are so happy when we do art at our little kitchen table. I keep meaning to get out my glue gun for some Teacher Tom sculpting with my 4 yr old. Fear be gone!

  74. Carla says

    Nice interview, very helpful tips. Thanks for the chance to win this book. I will be so nice to esed with my Isa.

  75. says

    I am so inspired by her daughter’s art space. I think more classrooms need to follow the minimalist feel of this type of space rather than the overwhelming clutter attached to every inch of wall space.

  76. Vera says

    Thank you for this giveaway opportunity. I think it is a great resource for all of us interested in educating our kids the artful way!

  77. Michaela says

    Thanks for a wonderful interview! As a former art teacher, I felt like I was constantly defending my lessons to the other teachers… we’re making ART, not crafts. I’m often disappointed in my daughter’s “art” classes at her school, which typically just involve coloring pages and copying drawings. I hope more educators read your book!

  78. MaryAnn F. Kohl, art book author says

    Christie, you and I must be soul sisters. I just gave a talk on “Art vs Crafties”! I would love to review your book for my blog and for Barnes &’s “Kids Expert Circle”…I’m one of the “experts”. Could you contact me?
    MaryAnn F. Kohl

  79. says

    The book sounds wonderful. I just taught an art class for preschoolers over the weekend, and I can see how much we have gotten away from allowing children to just experience art rather than dictating to them how to do an activity.

  80. Jane says

    I am a k4 teacher and have been trying to explain these ideas to my school all year! Thanks for such a great interview

  81. Rea says

    I’m art stunted…books and blogs like this really help me parent from a more diverse background and with more confidence.

  82. Jennifer says

    I am always trying to promote process over product amongst my fellow teachers. Would love to check out this book!

  83. julie says

    I would love a copy, as a full time mom with a full time job, ways to be creative in art is my favorite one on one time with my daughter. would love to find other ways to expand on our creative time together.

  84. says

    Oh, we would love to win! I’m enjoying these interviews – you have me hooked on Teacher Tom, now I have someone else to inspire me! Thank you!

  85. Ally says

    I loved the part of the interview where you talk about how little you understood about the emotional aspect of parenting until you became a parent. I spent 10 years as a very good educator before I became a parent. Now here I am as a mom of an almost 3 year old and I wish I could take back some of the “easily dispensed advice” I had on many subjects of child rearing. As if it was so simple and clear cut as it seemed to me then! Being a teacher made me a better parent, but being a parent will certainly make me a better teacher, as well. Thanks for the interview, very interesting!

  86. Abigail says

    That sounds like a fantastic book. I have preschoolers who I try to do art activities with regularly, so it would be really useful. Thanks for offering this giveaway!

  87. Carrie Guy says

    I love the idea of this book and the interview! I just started art classes for toddlers based on this very idea- doing art, not crafts. Will definitely get this book!

  88. [email protected] says

    I love the idea of process art and not the product. I am trying to teach that to my coworkers. I love all the creative art that you post and would love to win your book!

  89. Emma says

    Ooh – I’d love to win. I’m trying to set up an art area for my daughter at the moment and it’d be great inspiration. I’m off to check out the blog.

  90. says

    I would love a copy of this book! Art has always been a huge part of my life and I hope that I can pass it on to my girls.

  91. julie says

    I just found your blog via Make and Takes Daily Fix….SO COOL!!! YES!!! Art is NOT crafts…thank you for this post! I would LOVE a copy for my little artist! Thanks you for the opportunity! Keep up the great inspirations!

  92. Linda says

    What a wonderful book for parents and teachers. I love the way you point out the difference between creating and producing. I also think it is great the way you help parents to organize and get started with art. I love the work space you have created for your child. It really looks like a great book!

  93. Jesse says

    What a nice blog! I like how her kids playspace reminds me of a preschool classroom layout! I will be checking this book out from the library!

  94. says

    As an art teacher on parenting hiatus, I LOVE the concept of “art not craft”. This mirrors the philosophy I taught in the classroom and as a new parent I would love to hear more about bringing this type of art learning into my daughter’s life. Thanks so much!

  95. Christy says

    What an absolutally perfect title! Can’t wait to get my hands on a copy of this book!

  96. Katrina says

    The title itself speaks volumes. I would love to share her wisdom with my two girls!

  97. Kate says

    always enjoy the interviews and opportunities to win… my girls LOVE painting their hands, too!