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Kids Art Planner :: How I Plan our Art Activities

by Jean Van't Hul
May 26, 2010

Hannah asked me on facebook the other day for advice about planning art activities. And I fumbled a quick reply but then thought about it some more and decided to share my thoughts here as well as solicit your ideas and comments.

Here’s what Hannah asked:

How do you decide which craft to do with your daughter on a particular day? I have so many kid craft books and get overwhelmed!

And, the truth is, I don’t have a set way I go about it.

Sometimes I plan activities, sometimes I wing it. Oftentimes Maia has her own ideas of what she wants (or doesn’t want) to do. (And she does a lot of drawing and painting on her own throughout the day.)

But, since this post is about planning, here are some different ways I plan:

My Kids Art Planner Strategies

Planning with Books

Sometimes I sit down with a stack of books (perhaps Scribble Art, The Preschooler’s Busy Book, Roots, Shoots, Buckets & Boots, my childhood copy of Making Things) and thumb through them, making a list of activities that I’d like to try with Maia or (in the past) with the art group.

This list can be really long! Sometimes I find myself jotting down almost every activity. Because I want to try it all!

But then I’ll go back through the list and put a star next to the ones that a.) I really, really want to try, or b.) that I think Maia will especially like and is developmentally ready for, or that c.) I have all the materials for. Generally I will try to narrow down the list to activities that fit at least 2 out of the 3 criteria above.

Then I’ll put the list up on the fridge where I can see it every day.

I’ll use it as inspiration and a reminder of the activities I’d like to try. I might plan to do one of them the next afternoon and since I have the project and materials in my head, I can start preparing mentally and physically by setting aside the time for it, possibly gathering the materials together in one place from around the house, making sure we have everything we need and/or running out to the store for something we need.


Sometimes I’ll plan an activity a day for a week. For example:

And that’s usually enough to get us started for the week. We might do only 4 or 5 out of the 7 activities, and probably do several not on the list, but it still helps to have the list. And most weeks I don’t get this organized. Sometimes I just add an idea or two to my regular to-do list.


Once, when I was super ambitious, I made a list of 30 activities. Please note, though, that there are a couple things on that list that I still haven’t done, such as grow a rock sugar crystal or dye white flowers in food coloring. On the other hand I did (eventually) try most of the other things on the list. Something I attribute to the power of the list (I love lists).

Oh, and I just remembered my friend Jennie’s doorway into summer list.

Planning Around a Material

Sometimes I’ll brainstorm activities I can do with a particular material, either a new one or one we already have in the studio. I’ll use past activities as inspiration, ones I’ve seen in books or around the web, or, just the material itself. And come up with new (to me anyway) ideas and concepts and combinations. Some work out and some don’t so well, but the experimenting is fun.


If the activity is something I don’t have the materials for, I might plan a trip to the art supply store or add something to my “to order” list. And so this project might not happen for a week or a month, depending, but I’ve started to think about it.

Getting ideas from around the web

Or, I’m surfing the web and reading other blogs and I see something that I would like to try or a project that inspires another idea. And either I’ll do it right away with Maia or I’ll keep it in mind and seek out the materials I need, etc.

Being Spontaneous

Or, Maia seems to need direction or asks to do an “art project” (as opposed to just starting to draw or paint or whatever on her own). So we’ll just go back into the studio and get out a material (the collage tray or liquid watercolors or whatever) and start playing around with it and see where that goes.


We’ll often fall back on something that we do regularly – collage or watercolor resist, for example—although I might have a project I’ve been wanting to try and if the stars are aligned (i.e. we have all the right materials, etc) then we might do that.


Maia goes to preschool three mornings a week and sometimes I try to have a few things set up for when she gets home, including an art material or activity. I might put a new library book on the sofa, a puzzle on her bed, the playdough and playdough tools on her little red table, and perhaps some papers and a hole punch at the big table. She might ignore a couple of the things I’ve set out but really get into one or two of the others.

So that’s all to say that I’m a planner sometimes and a spur-of-the-moment gal sometimes and somewhere in between most of the time. I love to plan when I have the time but am overly-ambitious in my planning for one and don’t like to be tied down to a schedule for another so ultimately any planning I do is more for inspiration and general ideas and a gentle kick in the butt than for a plan with a capital P that I follow through to the letter.

What about you? I would love to hear your kids art planner strategies… So please share!

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