I had a friend ask me for advice recently on creating an art space for her two school-age kids. She had a couple of spaces in mind—the basement that didn’t otherwise get used—and a cozy sun room where the dad made his fly fishing ties.
Which one do you think I suggested?
Yes, the sun room.
For two reasons ::
1. Children (of this age, anyway) want to be where you are. Sure they have more independence than the three year old, but they still gravitate to where the action and companionship is.
The second reason has nothing to do with age and everything to do with being human.
2. We want to be in an inviting atmosphere. If given the choice between the darker, smellier basement that is half turned over to storage and the light-filled sun room with high ceilings and a working fireplace along one wall (I have to admit more than a little envy) where would you spend time?
Environment is so important!
The learning environment is called the third teacher in the Reggio Emilia philosophy of education. And is considered as important in Montessori, Waldorf, and other educational movements as well.
Our environment shapes us.
But also, if given the choice, we choose to be in pleasant environments. If the art space is set up in an inviting environment, don’t you think it’ll get used much more than if it is set up in a dank basement with little natural light?
Sometimes when we decide to set up an art space for our children, we choose any currently unused space in the house.
I think that’s a mistake. Often that space is the least desirable and is unused for a reason.
If you are setting up an art space for your kids, you’re doing it because you want to encourage their art and creativity, right? You want to show them that you value creativity in general and their creativity specifically.
You are going to a certain amount of time, effort, and expense to set up an art space. You want it to be used, right?
So don’t choose the cast-off, unwanted space in the house.
Choose the best space.
Choose the space where everyone gravitates already—the kitchen table, the corner spot by the living room window, the ____________ (insert your own best space here)—and find a way to make it an art space as well. Or to create an art space nearby.
Or, think—where do your kids do their art now? Likely it’s a good candidate for at least an art outpost—a space to keep an art caddy with basic materials—even if the kids have a more dedicated art space elsewhere.
Sure, it might be harder turning over your prime real estate to the kids’ art. But if you’re creating an art space at all, you’re doing it because you believe in its importance and the importance of creativity.
Choose an inviting space near the heart of the family action and it will actually be used.
Choose an unused, undesirable corner away from the action, and it likely won’t. It’s as simple as that.
How about you? Will you share your experience with us? Do your kids have an art space? Where do they like to do their art?
Want more help creating a kids art space? Here are some resources to get you started…
Kids Art Space Resources
The Artful Parent book (I dedicated a chapter to creating an art space for kids)
The Tinkerlab book (How to create a tinkering space, also good ideas for getting rid of clutter)
Seven guiding questions for creating playful spaces by Mariah Bruehl of Playful Learning
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