There’s never been an art material that I didn’t like.
When my husband and I recently teased out our family values in order to better focus on our priorities, it was no surprise when we each identified living a creative life as a guiding principle for our family. We both love to tinker with projects, we each work in creative fields, and we enjoy spending our free time in art galleries, film screenings, and soaking up the visual surprises offered by big cities. And we want this for our children; not just because we hope that they will enjoy art making or visiting museums, but because we believe that our children will be better equipped to navigate our quickly changing world if they are experienced with tools for thinking outside of the box.
While we’re constantly monitoring our small home for clutter, we decided that there will always a place for art materials in our home. The reality, of course, is that the nooks and crannies of our old house are packed, so I try to be judicious when considering a new pack of paper, interesting office supplies, or something completely random (food markers, anyone?) that catches my eye. But it’s hard because I love art materials so very much. Not only do they symbolize the potential of ideas, but they also challenge us to experience the world in a new way. And once we’ve worked with them, our problem-solving skills are forever changed.
Take this bagel scribbling activity, for example. I picked up these food coloring markers at our cooking shop with the idea that our mark-making preschooler could explore the dashes and circles she so enjoys in a new medium. Since she’s familiar with drawing on smooth 2-D surfaces like paper and chalk boards, this was a challenge to navigate the bumpy terrain of a bagel. It also turned into an exercise in selecting colors that would show up against the brown bagel crust (her first color choice of yellow was quickly dismissed for brighter red and darker blue).
You could get the same endpoint, of course, with magic markers and a chipboard egg carton, but then you wouldn’t be rewarded with a delicious edible art snack for all of your trouble.
Yesterday my daughter and husband came back from the grocery store, excited to tell me that they bought me a present! And wouldn’t you know that instead of flowers or chocolate (which would have also been nice, don’t get me wrong!), they brought me coffee filters! We tore through all of ours this weekend in a watercolor-painting-paper-cutting frenzy, and they knew I’d love to have more on hand for future experiments. Art materials don’t have to be elaborate or expensive. They just have to be readily available for those moments when our imaginations are ready to poke holes in their limitations and paint wild colors onto their surfaces.