7 Ways to Fit Art Into Your Life When You Don't Have Time
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7 Ways to Fit Art in When You Don’t Have the Time


Creativity is Too Important Not to Make Time For

So, my friends, thank you for being so kind with me in the comments on my last post. As you can probably tell, I’m experiencing a bit of a mid-life, work-life crisis here.

What I love so very much, and what has worked for our family for so long, is no longer working as well now that my first child is older and busier. And it’s been hard for me to admit and accept. While I’ve finally done the former, I haven’t quite gotten to the acceptance part.

I’ve cried talking to friends about this. I’ve cried reading your comments. Heck, I’m crying as I write this.

Tears are good sometimes, though, right? At least that’s what I have to tell myself since I can cry at the drop of a hat.

So, anyway, what’s next?

Do I throw in the towel and say I’m done as The Artful Parent?

No way.

I can’t do that. I’m still very much an artful parent. Still very much want to be an artful parent.

I still very much believe in the power of art and creativity.

And just because our schedules and time constraints are making it more difficult, that doesn’t mean I’m going to give up.

Here’s what I’m going to do…

Today’s simple after-school #invitationtocreate … Black construction paper, metallic paint (BioColors), and Q-tips.

A photo posted by Jean Van’t Hul | Artful Parent (@jeanvanthul) on

1. Fit the art and creativity to our family.

This might mean fewer and simpler art activities for now, with a bigger focus on ways to connect over art. I’m thinking drawing games and reading to the kids while they draw/create.

2. Remember to do art and other creative activities with Daphne, the 6 year old, even if her big sister is at gymnastics or doing homework. It doesn’t have to be everyone at the same time.

3. Do art for myself. I don’t have to get the kids involved to justify creating. I can do it on my own, too.

4. Change what I share on The Artful Parent. Not a complete overhaul, but fewer SUPER COOL ART ACTIVITIES! and more simple and easy open-ended ideas.

5. Work more on setting up and maintaining a workable, inviting art space for the kids so they can create what they want when they want.

6. Strew. Create little learning or creative invitations around the house.

7. Simplify our life as much as possible. Declutter, keep meals simple, and minimize after-school activities and commitments.

Anything else you would add? If so, please share!

I’m probably think of more ideas later, too, and when I do, I’ll share them with you.

In the meantime, let’s just do the best we can to fit creativity¬†into our busy lives here and there, in the ways that make sense. And also think of how¬†to make our lives less busy when we can.

7 Ways to Fit Art Into Your Life When You Don't Have Time


  • Reply
    October 10, 2015 at 10:43 am

    This post is so inspiring in its gentleness the way you have lovingly lowered your expectations. Thanks.

    • Reply
      Jean Van't Hul
      October 10, 2015 at 5:03 pm

      Thank you, Zoe. I’m working on the lowered expectations. They are still there (for myself and my family and society in general) so it’s definitely a work in progress.

  • Reply
    October 10, 2015 at 10:50 am

    Adapting to the new season you are in is good! It is life, it moves, it changes, we adapt. Reorganizing and decluttering your space can make such a massive difference. Have you read The Lifechanging Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo? If you are having any issues with clutter or your home it really is life changing.

    • Reply
      Jean Van't Hul
      October 10, 2015 at 5:06 pm

      I LOVE that book, Melissa! And I agree. It is definitely life changing. More so than any other clear-the-clutter books I’ve read.

      I don’t have a clutter issue in general, but do have one when it comes to art and art supplies and the art room. I want it all, want to keep it all, want to do it all, and it’s something I need to work on.

      • Reply
        December 13, 2015 at 7:55 am

        I just wanted to add that having a clutter problem and not enough time can actually be a blessing sometimes! I bought some LED candles recently and had them lying around, waiting for the ideal time to materialise to do a Christmas decoration activity I ‘d seen online somewhere. Well. my boys beat me to it the other evening – they made little paper cubes (from a previous Minecraft paper craft activity they loved) and put the candles inside them. The little cube lanterns looked absolutely gorgeous!! The same evening my boys also suggested we should have a meditation and yoga sesion at bedtime using the little lanterns for ambience. I’ve wanted to get them into yoga and meditation for years and never really had much success with it before! Another time, my sons found some felt I’d bought, and they cut it out into beautiful pictures without my supervision or anything! (They’re 6.5 and 8). Laissez faire, my friend. It’s really starting to work for me!

  • Reply
    Katja @ Le Petit Manuel
    October 10, 2015 at 10:55 am

    Dear Jane,
    What you’re doing is the right thing. With my girls (10 and 7), we did this last year. Throwing super charge away, decluttering life and finding inspiring emptiness and free time. And you know what ? It works and we are so happy – with and without art and crafts. But my Petit Manuel survived and is growing even faster !
    I wish you al the very best

    • Reply
      Jean Van't Hul
      October 10, 2015 at 5:37 pm

      That’s so good to hear, Katja! Good for you and your family.

  • Reply
    October 10, 2015 at 11:15 am

    Hi, I understand your dilemma well and your honesty inspires me. I am working towards being a professional Artist/Parent. Maybe not the exact same dilemma but there are similarities in trying to clear a path for art to flow in my life. For me it’s been a much slower process then I would have imagined? One thing I understood, when another artist friend came to visit, is that I wasn’t standing up for my rights with how little artistic space was planted in my home. My drawing table & easel were crammed in a corner of a room along with everybody else’s stuff encroaching on it.
    So I started to dream big and managed to clear the master bedroom, the most beautifully lit room in our home. This required some convincing to open my husbands mind on how to envision our home. We built a massive art desk in the center of the room and I decorated the room as inspiring as I could on my budget. I felt like it was my declaration to the universe and to my family, of just how serious I am about my artistic future. There are still some glitches I need to smooth out, like writing a 3 week meal plan because we have gluten intolerances. I find the process of planning & preparing food so all incompassing when you can’t just use common ingredients. Also following a routine for the day that is effective in every motion used, to clear a serious chunk of artistic time in a day.
    I am an all or nothing kinda person and do not want to skip a beat with my children while diving into my artist brain. My frustration has been the enertia that is created by all the motherly details that are hard to foresee while trying to clear a pathway to my goals. Also, wanting to be spontaneous with creative projects for my kids, which seems to be your gift. Thank-you:)
    Sometimes it feels like I’m not getting anywhere fast, but if I look back at what I’ve built around my home, I understand that it is a process. I am not sure if my story is helpful, but these are the methods I feel are bringing incrementally closer to having an artistic life.
    Good Luck! You are doing important work for many people and best of all, you are being directed by your heart!

    • Reply
      Jean Van't Hul
      October 10, 2015 at 5:41 pm

      ” I felt like it was my declaration to the universe and to my family, of just how serious I am about my artistic future.”

      I love this, Kuchina! Thank you so much for sharing!

      I feel like I did that in a way by starting my blog way back when but now I’m facing changes and need to figure out what my next declaration to the universe is going to be. Right now it’s more of a question of the universe.

  • Reply
    October 10, 2015 at 11:26 am

    I love this and your blog so much. As a “wannabe” artful parent I can’t begin to tell you how much your blog has and continues to inspire me. Sometime simple really is better. Especially for the artistically challenged parents that wish more for their own children. I do hope you’ll also be posting pictures and ideas for what YOU do for creativity as I would love to follow along :) Cheers to changing seasons; both in nature and in life.

    • Reply
      Jean Van't Hul
      October 10, 2015 at 5:42 pm

      Yes, cheers to changing seasons, both in nature and in life. Thank you for that, Jenn.

  • Reply
    Erica Layne
    October 10, 2015 at 12:07 pm

    I’m so excited about this and admire you for sharing your personal needs and journey with us as they relate to your (beautiful) space. I think this sounds like the perfect way to refocus and make art and creativity fit more naturally in your family life again. Many best wishes!

    Oh and I’m secretly thrilled about the renewed focus on simple and open-ended projects, since that’s more my style in the first place. But that’s just me. :)

    • Reply
      Jean Van't Hul
      October 10, 2015 at 5:43 pm

      Thank you, Erica! And yes, simple and open-ended art is really the best, isn’t it?

  • Reply
    October 10, 2015 at 3:36 pm

    Thanks for your post! I can totally understand your problem. My children are still young (4, 3 and 1), so it’s not an issue here yet. But I can imagine when they get older they don’t want to do an ‘organisated’ project. Even if you let them free it still is your project. When my girls are older I hope they want to do things at their own. Go to the art supplies and create something. I will have books (yes, yours too) at reach for inspiration. And I’m sure when you want to do a project for your own and they like it they want to do the same and will accompany you.
    There are just too many art projects. You can’t do it all.

    • Reply
      Jean Van't Hul
      October 10, 2015 at 5:44 pm

      You’re so right, Marietje. You can’t do it all. I can’t do it all. We can’t do it all. :)

  • Reply
    Faaris Deen
    October 10, 2015 at 6:55 pm

    Hey Jean, I am actually not that much of an artist nor am i a mom, but yes i love to be creative with my children and for them to unleash their creativity as this is what gets them thinking and gets them out there to find inspiration. believe it or not i have only clicked on to your blog to find out how a blog post is to look like. As i am writing an article on unleashing inner creativity in children (this will be up on our site a long with a link on my Facebook page).

    To my amazement i read on, you talking about art and creativity wow, you can’t give it up like i did and your steps will be very helpful. more importantly for me right now is i realising why i am not getting any response from you, it’s all explained. Surely the work you do is to benefit artful parents and this is what i aim to do but from an angle in which i have emailed you about, only respond to it if you can.

    We can not do all projects i agree but can do little together for others.
    the best thing is you won’t give up, so we do have hope.
    All the best.

  • Reply
    October 10, 2015 at 8:05 pm

    Hi Jean – it occurs to me that one of the blessings / opportunities in this could be allowing you to do your own artmaking. You’d still an artful parent – demonstrating, role modelling, and enjoying artmaking – and they will no doubt want to join in! xxx Suzie

  • Reply
    Renia Carsillo
    October 10, 2015 at 9:15 pm

    Feeling this post today! What a wonderful reminder to make creativity fit our lifestyles instead of making it a burden!

  • Reply
    eileen blau
    October 11, 2015 at 1:16 am

    I find that exercise – for me biking, walking and swimming help lift me out of the fog of mild depression or feeling anxious. I’m a special ed. teacher who works with preschoolers. I love my work and am able to use my artistic abilities to make materials with and for my students.

    As my own children are now mostly grown, I’ve had to switch gears to focus on my work, both professionally and artistically. It is a wonderful thing, but can be a little sad, thinking my children don’t need me in the same way as when they were small. As so many things in life, the emotions are mixed.

    I also try to remember that there is creativity in so many things, not just making art. Cooking, listening to music, observing nature. walking all over New York City, exploring neighborhoods, browsing art galleries and seeing old movies, are all creative outlets for me.

    Good wishes and peace to you and your family as you figure out what’s next.

  • Reply
    Nathana Clay
    October 11, 2015 at 9:20 am

    I would add “give yourself grace.” Sometimes we can’t do it all. And when we say “yes” to something, we are saying “no” to something else. I enjoy your ideas and love following you, but as a reader, I would totally understand if you need to cut back! I am a new mom, minister’s wife, and blogger, and God is teaching me that I cannot “do it all” and that is okay. I really appreciate your vulnerability! And as a busy mom, simple art ideas for a busy family is exactly what we need! :)

  • Reply
    October 11, 2015 at 7:56 pm

    What is certain is that everything is in flux all the time. Your website and ideas have made such an impression on myself and our grandchildren. I use your ideas all the time. Doing art activities is a favorite of our grandkids at our house. They always ask what can we do today, grandma! We look through your book for ideas, scroll through the website to see what we feel like today. Thank you for the time, energy, creativity and devotion to art. You make a difference to many!

  • Reply
    October 11, 2015 at 9:17 pm

    I couldn’t agree more with you Jean! We do have very busy lives, but I find it brings some magic into the everyday hassle to sprinkle in some creative art moment in between.
    What has been working great with my 6 year old is preparing a simple art booklets for (and sometimes with) her that she can take in her rather long school bus ride. I prepared one where the pages were cut in three horizontal stripes to play that game where you draw a head, another draws the body and another one the feet. I marked the points where the neck/body/legs should end or start by slightly cutting in with the scissors too. So she and her bus friends love playing this while in the bus.
    Other booklets had mazes or “the shape game” (Anthony Browne’s) or draw around magazine pictures (totally copied that one from YOU!).
    This has been a wonderful way for her to start the day creatively, plus have fun with her friends and making the ride feel shorter.
    Other than that we always have a set of old cheap watercolors in the bath tub and she and her brother paint themselves and the whole tub as they bath. It comes off right away with water.
    Then we also have a box where I keep lots of tiny folded papers and in each paper I wrote the name of an art material I could think of that we had. Some are not really art materials, but things like foil, toothpics, old socks… And then now and then she’ll go and take two of those papers only. If it is something you really can’t do anything with (for example glue and scissors or watercolor paint and tape, but no cardboard or fabric or paper or tissue paper…) then she can take a third one. And she has to come up with something to do with those, doesn’t mattet what or if it is something to keep in the end. I did write surfaces like paper or foil or other kinds many times, so she would have more options.
    Anyway, here are some the things that work for us and I am sure you will rock it no matter what you come up with!
    Thank you for your wonderful honest inspiring blog

  • Reply
    October 12, 2015 at 9:15 am

    This struck a chord with me and how my boys are growing up and changing, needing more freedom and independence and choice over what they do and less intervention and interference from me. In turn I am having to grow and learn to let them do their own thing. I have learnt to let them do unstructured art and let them use more tools as they grow with just a few suggestions from me as to themes. I’m also starting to look at what I like doing and do that either with them or without them rather than revolving around them and trying to think up things we could or sometimes it felt like “should” be doing.
    Weekend projects for scouts are proving helpful especially around their interests and are helping them develop their skills further like making a bird box with Dads help and making ephemeral art as Autumn comes around again. But, projects for me seem to work as well even if they aren’t directly involved, – maybe seeing me doing something sparks off ideas for them. To be honest I never felt very good at organising structured art projects and I think they have more fun when we get the art box out once in a while and they do their own thing.

  • Reply
    Megan @ The Art Pantry
    October 12, 2015 at 5:29 pm

    Thanks for sharing your personal struggles right now (here and in your last post). I am right there with you and often wish we would move to a cabin in the woods too!
    From my perspective, your blog has always been an inspiration to slow down and embrace creativity in a way that feels simple and easy. So keep on doing the wonderful work that you do! I love that you have started this conversation and hope we can all keep talking about these issues and continue to learn from each other.

  • Reply
    October 12, 2015 at 8:48 pm

    I went through this exact same thing, Jean. I mourned my loss of time with my kids as they got older – they wanted to do their thing, not mine. Acceptance came after i realised how cool the things they were choosing to do actually were. Now I have a much more open-ended concept of what ‘art’ and ‘creativity’ for kids is all about. Now I follow them around with my camera and ask them what they are doing and it’s always WONDERFUL stuff. Your girls will be the same as you have raised them to integrate creativity into every little thing they do and into every little thought they have. You will indeed always be the “artful” parent and your greatest work of art is your amazing children. x

  • Reply
    October 13, 2015 at 9:59 am

    I’m a huge fan of your blog, and have gotten so many great projects here for our daughter. I really appreciate the openness of this post as our daughter is just now reaching the age of daily school and increased business.

    Simplicity and open-endedness seem like the real way to go.

    We do a lot of traveling in our family, and I am still amazed at the creativity a little time with just a pad of paper can engender. Just having a pad, a few pens, and some time. From there it seems the possibilities are endless. And often I feel I see the real creative spark in my daughter so much more directly than when we set out a bunch of tools in an elaborately planned afternoon of art exploration.

  • Reply
    Tracey Hemley
    October 14, 2015 at 3:42 pm

    Dear Jean,

    Your blog post has been on my heart for days. One idea to perhaps consider is that your daughter does not do homework. School has her for 6 hours to do their thing. To do those things we love most we need to make the time for it and consider what is really necessary and what needs more focus.

    There is always the concern for assignments and “preparing” them for high school. But why not let them wait for high school and just tackle what they need to know then.

    Or looking at their assignments and if you can make an art project from it, do that – letting the teacher know you value art and assignments will be converted into art projects if possible.

    My son is half-homeschooled (he goes to school a day and a half a week) and his teacher just accepted that he doesn’t do homework assignments.

    I read this a few years ago ….


    warm regards,

  • Reply
    October 18, 2015 at 9:48 am

    sorry to hear you don’t have time for art in your life.
    but creativity isn’t only art – you can continue being an artist even if your art is imaginary… spend the way to and from wherever it is you need to go naming the shapes of the clouds (try seeing more than one shape in the same cloud – it could like like a mushroom and a lamp and a tree! or a plate and a ball and a hat!), counting the different shades of leaves, coming up with different things you can create out of whatever you see – plants or pieces of garbage or whatever (it doesn’t matter that those ideas won’t be carried out – you still got the fun and mental exercise of being creative!) when cooking or baking – turn the process into a story (flour can be sand, and the oil is the colorful rain of a fantasy world, the rice bubbling in the pot is kids who went swimming in a hot day and are getting tanned…)
    the options are endless, and they don’t take extra time. and the best part of it is that you can do it yourself, and no one around you has any idea of what’s going on in your head! (just make sure your not smiling too hard, or that can raise some eyebrows…)
    have fun!

  • Reply
    Julie A
    October 18, 2015 at 1:52 pm

    I am writing to tell you that you are not alone. We have 3 daughters, now 8, 11 and 14 and I had NO IDEA that our life would look like this when they were this age. I honestly don’t really know what I thought it would look like–but it’s not this. We are so busy some nights and we aren’t even super “in to things” like some families. After school sports through school, a math tutoring session twice a week, daily homework and then random things like parent teacher conferences, curriculum night etc and I feel like I’m drowning. I also have to say it is so, so good to just cry and get it out. I think I cried 4 times one night last week between coming home and bed time–and once was out on the deck in the cold and dark–and not on a chair on the deck but sitting on the floor of the deck with my back to the house just trying to get a grip (I do know hormones were part of that night but still…those nights exist).
    So I have no answers but know that others out there are trying to figure it out with you.
    ps and I really appreciate your bravery in your posts so that I too know others are in the same boat.

  • Reply
    October 27, 2015 at 7:32 pm

    I think this is a great list Jean. I have been trying to do the same, I would never want to cut art and creativity out, but things like reading obsessively online and pinning a million things have taken a back seat as we make our way to games, practices, lessons and whatnot. I have to say, as the kids have gotten older, I have taken more time for myself too – I’m taking classes for the first time in ages and it feels so good. I feel like that creativity and inspiration is spilling over to the kids as well. I’m learning new techniques that are thrilling and the kids, seeing me excited, want to try too. Anyway, I am just sort of rambling but I know that you will continue to inspire people in whatever way you choose to be present in this space and other social media sites. xo

  • Reply
    December 13, 2015 at 8:20 am

    Jean, many of your beautiful posts have spoken to me, moved me, and inspired me, but none as much as this one. I think we all face these dilemmas in our parenting and in our lives. I am always working on trying to simplify our family life, but on the flip side I really really hope my kids will one day find at least one activity they are deeply passionate about (be it art, music, gardening, dancing, whatever). I have recently started making time and space for my own artistic activities, after a lifetime of putting my creativity largely on the back burner. This change has been largely thanks to the wonderful book The Artist’s Way – wow, what a revelation! – and little synchronicities that have popped up in my life. Good luck with making the adjustment to this new phase. Keep doing your thing, just make the necessary tweaks to ensure it’s in a way that feels right to you. xxx

  • Reply
    December 16, 2015 at 7:56 pm

    I sneak doing art on my phone with simple paint apps, it helps get whatever idea i have out so i can get on with my day, no ruminating!

  • Reply
    January 28, 2016 at 6:59 pm

    This is fantastic! I am a very creative person as well. I have a super hard time finding ways to fit art into our lives. I look forward to following for some great ideas for schedule friendly activities!

  • Reply
    January 28, 2016 at 11:11 pm

    Our busy lives were pulled into focus last year when my husband was diagnosed with cancer. At 37. Our three kids, two boys, one girl 10, 7, & 4 were the center of my life (of course) and I loved watching them play sports, dance, etc. I put them into whatever they wanted to try. Plus, I loved getting art projects, science experiments, games, etc and snacks ready for when they came home from school. When my husband was diagnosed I spent almost three weeks straight in the hospital with him. My mom came to take over for me and absolutely had everything just dropped into her lap. She tried to keep things normal for the kids and went to the soccer practices, dance class, little gym, music lessons, scouts, birthday parties and even a state wide Destination Imagination competition! She sat down with me (months later when I could think straight again) and told me I was crazy and that we could not maintain that schedule. I pulled the kids out of *everything* so that we could go as a family to another city to have radiation treatment for 8 weeks. Do you know what they did? Besides, play Minecraft which was HUGE. They drew, colored, made rainbow loom after rainbow loom bracelet, made forts outside, and created a mini business. And you know what I did?? Nothing. I initiated nothing for the first time ever. This fall we thought long and hard about what we could handle and what we wanted. I wanted music lessons for my older two (that was mandatory) and I let them pick one activity if they wanted…and they didn’t pick anything. My sweet 4 year old still wanted gymnastics but we dropped dance. Sometimes it takes perspective to see that things I worried about before (Were they falling behind in sports, were they getting enough creative stimulation from ME, were they invited to a friends birthday party?) didn’t really matter. Are they healthy? YES. Are they happy? YES. Do they feel safe, secure and loved? YES. Everything else is just icing on the cake. And you do have to live with intent. But, I’m stepping back from “director of activities” role and just breathing deeply :)

  • Reply
    January 30, 2016 at 12:31 am

    Yes, yes, yes!! I’m so excited for you!! These are fantastic. I can’t wait to see your simple and open-ended ideas. You’re right, we all ooh and aah over the cool projects, but rarely execute!! I knew you’d come up with something amazing!! :)

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