Part 2: Clear Expectations for You & Your Child
What are your motives behind creating this space for your child? Do you have dreams that he will become the next Picasso? Do you imagine she will entertain herself for hours on end, and leave the place as spic and span as she found it? Do you have defined expectations for the type, quantity or quality of “suitable” work?
As parents we have many hopes and dreams for our children. We want to teach them to do their best work, to put things back where they were found and to follow through with what they start. Good. But what part of that do we want to bring to our expectations for the art studio? Art is messy. Art is about personal expression, more than producing a product that serves others. Art is free.
In my opinion, a child’s art studio is about freedom and accessibility. I start with that premise and then bring in my other values in ways that won’t undermine that central one. But, that’s just me. You need to think about your expectations and goals. If cleanliness and organization are of utmost important, limit the supplies to a very manageable amount and rotate them out to mix things up. Invest in a splat mat for the floor and a wipe-able workspace so you can teach your child how to clean up when he is done, rather than getting all worked up when he’s still in process. Mimi the Sardine’s splashmats are one of the few that are vinyl-free, so they don’t emit toxic fumes. You can make painting much less messy by getting paint cups that minimize spills and paint mixing. If you want to encourage “best work” you may want to limit the number of pages of paper your child has access to on any given day.
Basically, think through what it is about “art time” that tends to bug you. Maybe you hate getting it all out and putting it away… Having it out all the time where your child can access it herself may be just the solution! You can make this work by doing some of your own creative thinking, and getting a clear idea of what you expect from your child.
Your Child’s Expectations
Now, what about your child? My art studio may be about freedom and accessibility, but it’s not a free-for-all. As I set up the table, I say “This is the place, your very own place, for you to do all of your creative work!” When I bring in new supplies, I show her “Look, we can fit all of the feathers in this pretty jar. They won’t fly away when we keep them in hear.” You’ll want to organize your art space (we’ll talk about that later) and then, very clearly, with words and actions share some expectations with your child about how it is to be maintained. “These shelves have all of the fun supplies that you can use any day. Up here, on this shelf, are the supplies that you should ask for me to take down.”
Here are some expectations I share with my 4-year-old:
- Always wear your smock when painting.
- Ask for help with higher-up supplies.
- Never use someone’s work or property for your artwork without asking.
- When you leave the art studio all supplies must be tidied – markers must be capped, paints must be shut, brushes must be brought to the sink, and other materials must be returned to their homes (baskets, jars, etc).
- You can leave your work-in-progress out, but the supplies themselves must be tidied.
- Use our clean-up supplies to wipe up paint, glue, markers, or crayons from the workspace and floor. Ask for help if things aren’t cleaning up well.
One final word. You also want to share with your child a positive, excited attitude about creating art. After all, this is about exploring new things, making something unique, and developing his creativity – not primarily about following rules. You want him to expect fun! You can foster a positive atmosphere by spending time with your child in the art studio, from time to time. Watch his art come to life. Make some alongside him. Appreciate his art by displaying it creatively. Show him it matters! Surprise him with new mediums or tools from time to time. Celebrate when he takes risks, whether or not the product turned out just right. Remember – it’s about the process!