By Megan Schiller, The Art Pantry
All kids are creative, right? But many of them lose confidence in their natural creative abilities at some point in their youth.
As a mom, former preschool teacher, and art teacher, I believe that all kids have the potential to grow up feeling confident in their creativity.
If young kids are given access to creative materials along with a little guidance, they can learn to use these artistic tools in their own unique way to support whatever passions and interests they may have. They can learn to independently use creative materials to become self-sufficient makers and innovative thinkers.
In my work, I help parents and teachers set up art spaces that invite kids to use the materials spontaneously, whenever inspiration strikes. A child might need to decompress from school or might suddenly decide to make a bed for a doll while playing with friends. Whatever the need may be, the key is for kids to become comfortable using their art supplies, independently, as an extension of their play.
Here are my top 6 tips on how to set up an art space that builds creative confidence and independence.
How to Set Up a Kids Art Space
1) Make It Easily Accessible
Help your kids gain creative independence by having some familiar materials always accessible. Kids often forget about things they can’t see.
If you keep supplies out in the open and easily accessible, then they will get used more often and will allow for spontaneous art making. If your kids have to ask permission every time they want to make something, it can stifle their creativity. Make sure to go over the rules with your kids and let them know you trust them (even if you’re not so sure!). Maybe they will surprise you as they gain a sense of autonomy and responsibility.
2) Mix It Up
It might sound strange, but a kids art space isn’t just for art. Think of it more as a workshop, where your kids can use their art materials to enhance other types of play.
Don’t be afraid to mix toys and art supplies together in the same space. Plastic toys are easy to clean if they happen to become covered in paint or glue, so I usually start with those.
Sometimes I include wooden blocks or play kitchen items to use with play-dough.
At our house we often keep dolls in our studio and my girls end up using the art supplies to make accessories for them. Art making becomes woven into their imaginative play, which can keep them engaged for long periods of time.
3) It’s All About The Containers
Take some time to find containers that fit your space well and keep your supplies organized.
It will take some effort to find ones to suit your needs, but it will be well worth it! With this kind of organization, your kids can easily find the supplies they need and then just as easily put them away when they’re finished (with a little encouragement!). New shelf organizers, bins, and art caddies can be surprisingly expensive. If you’re on a tight budget, you can find great containers at second-hand shops and discount stores.
5) Let Kids Display Their Work
When setting up your kids art space, don’t forget to include areas for drying, storing, and displaying art that your children can access themselves.
We use a small shoe rack on a low shelf for drying art and a large tray for storing finished art when dry. When it fills up, we go through the artwork together and save our favorites. One of my favorite ways to display art is to hang a strand of twine on the wall and use clothespins to clip the art to the twine.
Displaying children’s art shows them that their work is valued and helps build confidence. It also acts as a reminder of how they are growing and learning new skills. Try to find a display area at your children’s eye level so they can spontaneously showcase their work on their own.
6) Keep Your Kids Engaged With Invitations To Create
Even when kids have independent access to a well-stocked art space, they can sometimes find themselves at a loss for what to do.
If you notice a decline in excitement with their art supplies, or you see your kids reverting back to using only their favorite materials, try setting out Invitations To Create. When your kids aren’t around, choose a few neglected materials and display them on the table in a simple, inviting way. Then see what happens when they come across this alluring prompt.
I like to set something up at night when my kids are asleep so they will discover it in the morning. They are curious and excited that I took the time to arrange these items in a thoughtful way and they immediately sit down and start exploring the materials. This almost always leads them to gather more items from the shelf and is a great way to jumpstart a creative session with a fresh perspective.
About The Author
Megan Schiller is an art teacher, mother of 2, and the founder of The Art Pantry, a design studio for children’s creative spaces. She has written two guides, The New Playroom, and Invitations To Create, in the hopes of helping parents and teachers foster children’s independence, investigation, and creative play.
To see more inspiration and find helpful resources for setting up a kids art space head over to The Art Pantry blog.
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