Kids Art Space

Kids Art Space :: How to Create One that will Get Used

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Kids Art Space

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 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?

How to Create a Kids Art Space that will get Used

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.

Kids Art Space

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. You want to show them that you value creativity in general and their creativity specifically.

Since 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.

Kids Art Space

Choose the best space.

That’s right.

When setting up a kids art 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.

Create a Kids Art Space that will get used

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 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.

Kids Art Space

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?

How to Create a Kids Art Space that will get UsedWant more help creating a kids art space? Here are some resources to get you started…

Kids Art Space Resources

How to Set Up a Kids Art Space That Builds Creative Confidence and Independence

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

6 Simple Ways to Make an Art Space for Kids

Artful Parenting 101 Online Courses

Want help fostering your children’s creativity? I have three online courses for parents who want to raise creative kids. Click here to buy now or learn more.

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33 Comments

  • Reply
    Jennifer
    September 19, 2014 at 10:57 am

    Just like you said, its in the heart of the house where art gets done. Where everyone is coming and going.
    We use our kitchen table which is surrounded by windows, or the kitchen counters, or the coffee table in the living room. I lay everything out and they jump right in once I tell them everything is ready.

    • Reply
      Jean Van't Hul
      September 23, 2014 at 12:05 pm

      Love that you say the art gets done in the heart of the house. :)

  • Reply
    Katie Harding
    September 19, 2014 at 11:41 am

    Thanks for the tips, I definitely want to transition the art space from our kitchen counter to a designated table that I’m not afraid to get dirty!

  • Reply
    Adena
    September 19, 2014 at 12:05 pm

    Great ideas! Where did you get the table top easel with room for a roll of paper? I would love to add that to our art “stuff!”

  • Reply
    Megan @ The Art Pantry
    September 19, 2014 at 12:37 pm

    Great post- I completely agree! This can be hard for people who don’t want their art spaces near their living areas, but it is absolutely the best way to ensure that kids will use the space. Another big perk is that it helps young kids to be more spontaneous and independent in their art-making.
    Thanks for including my service in your resources :)

    • Reply
      Jean Van't Hul
      September 23, 2014 at 12:03 pm

      Yes, absolutely, Megan! And you’re so welcome! :)

  • Reply
    Anne Pisarik
    September 19, 2014 at 1:54 pm

    We used to use our kitchen table – but it became a pain to constantly clean off for meals. My five year old daughter tends to have day-long art making projects that take up quite a bit of space. We moved all of her stuff to the basement, but as it was said in this article – she wanted to be where we were. We ended up transforming our rarely used dining room into an art studio by purchasing some fairly inexpensive furniture and storage solutions from Ikea. This space is right off of our main kitchen and living space and she is much happier being close to everyone else! I do still have major issues with her leaving messes… I am thinking of limiting the art materials she has access to. That girl can go through a roll of scotch tape in no time! My husband made an art display wall by framing chicken wire with barn board. I like this solution because it accommodates any size of artwork.

    • Reply
      Jean Van't Hul
      September 23, 2014 at 12:02 pm

      Thanks for sharing your experience, Anne! I’d love to see a picture of that art display wall, by the way! :)

  • Reply
    Laura
    September 19, 2014 at 2:04 pm

    Great post! Ironically, however, this meets us right after moving our art space to a previously underutilized room.

    We used to have a table/supplies in the family room, but when the baby started climbing onto the chairs, eating the colored pencils, and grabbing everyone’s artwork, something had to change.

    They stopped doing art! It was so sad! So we moved them over to the neglected front room of the house. Now they have to ask to be lifted over the baby gate, which is a pain. If I were wealthy, maybe a gate with a door would do the trick. But it is temporary; soon enough the littlest will be wreaking havoc and/or doing art over there too.

    I say this to encourage those with a range of ages, because there is no perfect solution. I just try to reevaluate as often as possible, using the resources that I already have to “remake” the art space. If you don’t spend any money on it, you won’t be too personally invested to change it if it isn’t working.

    • Reply
      Jean Van't Hul
      September 23, 2014 at 12:01 pm

      So true, Laura. There is no perfect solution, especially when you are dealing with sibling accessibility issues and transitions between stages like that. Good for you for being flexible and trying different ways to make it work!

    • Reply
      sheryl
      October 19, 2014 at 12:17 pm

      My eldest is a sit down type of girl who likes to create ‘worlds’ which where intricately set up, youngest was moved and didn’t know better about not touching the creations, so we purchased a large 8 sided wooden Playpen and put it around our eldest daughter so her creations stayed in one piece. I also didn’t like the thought of ‘penning’ the younger one as she was so active.

  • Reply
    Dena
    September 19, 2014 at 2:05 pm

    I have a 1000 sq ft home, and I even fit a really nice, but simple art space right in-between our living and dining area. If we are doing something really big we go to the dining table but I find having her own table with small size chairs really nice. We used to have a small table but just recently I made a table for her that is big enough to fit 2 kids without their papers touching each other and plenty art supplies. I just bought cheap wood from lowes and some hair pin legs and voila, a really nice table that I varnished enough for easy clean up. I have a few tin buckets with markers, scissors, hole puncher, etc. And then an egg carton with little bits and pieces of this and that for an anytime collage. This way she has the freedom to use it on her own or I set up an art project as well. I bought 2 ghost chairs (fairly inexpensive) so the area could still be considered somewhat stylish (at least to me!) Of course all this was inspired by the many lovely art spaces the artful parent has had on here.

    • Reply
      Jean Van't Hul
      September 23, 2014 at 12:00 pm

      Oh, thanks so much for sharing, Dena! I’d love to see pics of your spaces!

  • Reply
    Amanda
    September 20, 2014 at 7:42 am

    Great post! A random question, do you know about those red and white curtains with tear shapes? I love them! Do you know the maker of the curtain or the fabric? Thanks!

  • Reply
    Shayma
    September 20, 2014 at 5:11 pm

    I’ve got a big open plan kitchen with a dining table that gets used for art. But I’ve also got two desks facing each other near a window for my girls to work on without having to worry they need to clean up at meal times. It’s lovely even though we have a light and airy loft space to work in. That’s just too far being 2 floors up lol.

    • Reply
      Jean Van't Hul
      September 23, 2014 at 11:58 am

      Wish I could see your spaces in person!! Sounds wonderful!

  • Reply
    Jenny
    September 23, 2014 at 12:40 pm

    Thank you Jean! You may have finally liberated me from forcing us all into a darkish extra bedroom for our art making.
    I’ve been trying to organize this messy little room for so long but can’t stand to be in there even to clean it. I think we’ll go storage all the way and keep that door shut :)
    As for art, we create all over the house and out into the yard. And yes, it gets pretty messy at times. But with a 2 and 5 year old, I can’t let any darling drawings or paintings go undone.
    My just turned 2 year old son was bringing me circles on index cards last night while I was cooking dinner (just like his sister). We use half of our long living room for art and play, a table in the dining room, the kitchen floor and table, the deck and patio, etc. We recently had a refrigerator box set up in the living room and it looked like subway graffiti before I moved it out. So much fun. It helps that I like very little furniture in rooms!! Love your book and website. Thanks!

  • Reply
    Sara Levasseur
    September 26, 2014 at 4:21 pm

    Because my art studio is in our basement, I recently added it a desk and easel and small play space for my daughter. Even though the basement is dark, it really works well and we’ve done a lot to make it a more pleasant space (added a lot of lights and lamps, as well as about 10 indoor plants). Our house is about 950 square feet upstairs, so using the basement allows us to spread out and have projects going for multiple days (and I don’t stress about the mess). We also added a swing from one of the ceiling rafters, so my daughter will paint a little, swing for a while, and go back to painting. I agree that it really only works because it’s a space I spend time in (and want to spend time in)- and it makes me happy to share it with her.

  • Reply
    Katie
    October 6, 2014 at 12:31 pm

    Hi there. I love your blog, thanks for all the ideas. I was wondering if anyone knew where I could get an easel like the one in the above photograph. I would love one that is tabletop but lays flat instead of standing upright. Would appreciate any tips, thanks!!

  • Reply
    Kylie
    October 19, 2014 at 1:53 am

    Lovely perspective – thanks!! We have a beautiful little art space on our verandah… Here in Queensland Australia even in winter the days are warm enough to paint and create in the shade on our deck. The girls 1 & 3 love it and all can be ‘hosed down’ for a clean every now & then :-)

    • Reply
      Marta
      October 19, 2014 at 3:30 am

      Thanks for sharing all ideas:) We love them all. We display our art – my child is 3 year old – on the cork board and fridge in the kitchen and frames in her bedroom. We also give them away to family members-they put them on the walls too.

  • Reply
    Caitie
    October 19, 2014 at 8:59 am

    I loved this post. We have converted our living room to a playroom and there is a lot of space for art in our playroom, including easy access to all art materials. Friends often cringe when they come over our house because they cannot fathom that our children can reach paint and glitter and glue.

  • Reply
    Becky
    October 19, 2014 at 9:20 am

    We have a large bin that is designated as our craft bin at Nana’s house. All of our supplies, as well as table and floor covers, newspapers, etc. are stored in the bin. Whenever we are ready to craft, everything in one place to create where ever the family action is, be it upstairs at the dining room table or downstairs in the family room. When we are finished the bin is filled with everything and is ready to stow away and store any supplies for the next craft, such as empty egg cartons, containers, etc.

  • Reply
    Ana
    October 29, 2014 at 7:32 am

    Great post! Our most heavily used art space is the breakfast nook which is really now the “art room.” So true about it being in the heart of the home.

  • Reply
    Surabhi
    April 27, 2015 at 12:04 am

    Very true that a space in the heart of activities will be utilized and otherwise left for itself to fetch!

    Its my first hand experience, glad i realized it before i could have blamed my son for not playing where he Should!!

    they need our attention and involvement even if its as little as providing them with the activity kit!! and being around they feel connected of sorts. My son is 4.5 years old and very often he needs my involvement in all the painting and art activities that he does, except his car race games ;)

    Thanks!!!

  • Reply
    Diana Auerhammer @ ParentWhiz
    July 11, 2015 at 2:08 pm

    What a great article! As a therapist, I am always encouraging parents to gather art supplies for their children as a way to help their children be more calm and focused. Lost in time with their art! The best space for art is one that does not have to be put up and taken down every time the child does art. So, probably not the kitchen table. Houses are small and it can be hard for parents to find such a space. I try to emphasize that the “mess” is not important if the space is well chosen. I will reference this article on the ParentWhiz blog. Thanks! Looking forward to more as I read your blog!

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