Part 1: Why Art is Important & Planning Your Space
Why art? As my husband said last night, “It’s hard to be creative if you haven’t had any practice.” If you feel it is important to nurture creative and imaginative thinking, do art with your child and create a space where he or she can make something new “all by myself.” This type of freedom fosters self-esteem, a willingness to explore, to take risks and to try new things. (Plus, it can happily engage a child for quite some time!). These are the seeds of problem-solving and expressive writing that we all hope to see come to life in later school years. As a bonus, working with various mediums develops fine motor skills that will come in handy when your child learns to write.
Do you have a place in your home for your child to create? Can she access her crayons? Do you have to go to all sorts of trouble to set out supplies everytime he feels like gluing and cutting? There is a better way.
You know your child best – what she can handle properly. You know your limits – what level of “mess” you can tolerate. But realize that a thoughtfully created art space may actually simplify your life. How? By making art enticing for your child and easy on you. The keys are Careful Planning, Clear Expectations, Quality Supplies & Kid-Friendly Organization.
Planning Your Space
To get started, think about an area in your house for storing supplies and creating art. Your child must have a table. A large table at a child’s height is ideal, but your own kitchen table covered with a wipeable cloth will do. If you can have a dedicated table it will minimize prep and clean-up time considerably, while allowing you to relax about dings and paint. Even a small dedicated table is better than sharing the kitchen table. Think of this as your child’s future desk. (You were going to give him a desk, right?) The table could be in his room, in the corner of your kitchen, office or living room. But, find a space for that table and a solid little chair.
Next, think storage. It needs to be located as close to that table as possible. Carting paint from room to room is a recipe for accidents. If creative materials such as pipe cleaners, goggly eyes, feathers, etc aren’t even in the room where your child is working, how likely is she to think to use them? If you’re the one toting the supplies, facilitating your child’s art can become a burden. Do you have a shelf – that’s perfect! You can place everyday items within your child’s reach and those items you’ll want to parcel out higher up. On a shelf, everything is visible, inviting your child to start something new or add an unexpected touch to her current project. Drawers could work, though they make creative materials less visible. Need to conserve space? Use several large baskets to corral groups of supplies and stash them as close as you can.
The Dedicated Studio: You want to make art a part of your everyday life. Carve out some space in your most “creative” room for your child’s table. I love Ikea’s Vika series for modern, affordable tables. They’re available in some nice, generous sizes. Choose the Vika Oleby leg at just under 18″ to bring the table down to a child’s height. For the ideal set-up, add a floor-to-ceiling adjustable bookshelf and place that right beside the table. Ikea comes through again with the Billy Bookcase series. My favorite will store all your supplies for $90.
The Art Nook: You’d like to keep things compact, affordable and under control! This Ikea table set (pictured right) is ideal for a very young child or a small space. Bonus – it comes with two chairs for just $40! Fasten a low shelf to the wall just above the table to place supplies he’s using today in order to save room on the table for his work. Store supplies in a few baskets on high wall shelves above the table or even stored under the table. The Leksvik wall shelf (or anything similar) has hooks that could come in really handy. Hang baskets from the hooks filled with crayons, pencils, glue, scizzors and what not. Or, for a really affordable solution, just use these $4 Kroken caddies along with the coordinating $4 rail to place supplies at your child’s level, but just above that small workspace.