What Adults Can Learn From How Children Create

Lessons Learned from how Children Create | by Amy Miracle | TinkerLab

I’m happy to introduce you to my friend, art therapist and artist, Amy Maricle, who’s talking with us today about what adults can learn about how children create. As we get older, we often ignore our own creative desires, and observing children easily tap into their natural interests as makers is a wonderful reminder that this same set of skills has been inside of us all along.

The next time you sit down to do art with your kids, I’d like to invite you to approach it a bit differently. Without saying anything, let your kids lead the art activity. Observe them, copy them, and be inspired by them. Why?

child directed art activities

Kids naturally know a lot about how to use art to manage their feelings. They let their anger, fears, and uncertainties speak through song, dance, storytelling, and drawing.  Until they reach a certain age, they aren’t concerned about making “art,” or whether or not it’s “good.” We could learn a lot from them!

Kids make art for the joy of it. You could too.

child directed art activity

Art is a powerful tool for being present, letting go, and expressing emotions if you approach it intentionally, but because we live in a society that says that art belongs to people who are “talented,” it takes a bit of practice to allow yourself to create for the joy of it. I’m not saying you shouldn’t ever teach kids art techniques. These tools are empowering tools for self-expression. However, you can help your kids hang onto their ability to use art for wild, free creation that brings release, joy, and meaning, and let them teach you how to do it too!

child directed art making

Recently, as I made a watercolor painting with one of my kids, he dipped his paintbrush directly from one color to the next, using them as his palette. At first, my perfectionistic side cringed as he “muddied” my watercolors, but I suppressed the urge to shut down his creative idea. He achieved beautiful color variation and created a pattern with a series of these multicolored brush strokes he called his “little onions.” I followed suit and took his idea to the next level, filling up the whole page with these gorgeous “little onions.” (Green onion, maybe?) This painting is one of my favorites and hangs in our hallway where I am reminded of this lesson and the fun we had frequently.

Here’s some tips for letting your kids teach you about how to express yourself through art:

  1. Cut a length of roll paper big enough for you and your children to work together.
  2. Observe: Let your kids initiate the art making. Watch how they hold art materials, apply them to the page, make choices about what comes next, etc.
  3. Let go of expectations/ Reframe your expectations: Know this is not “art,” it’s self-expression.
  4. Imitate and innovate: Imitate your kids’ techniques and images at first, and then take the ideas in new directions as you feel inspired.

I’d love to hear from you in the comments about how this kind of free expression works for you!

If you’d like to learn more about using art as a way to turn off your busy mind and just get creative for YOU, check out my new class, Free Guide to Creative Self-Care. I’ll teach you to take advantage of some easy, fun art techniques to let go of stress and perfectionism and use art as a tool for your own healing and self-expression.

child directed art

Thanks to my friend Missy and her wonderful girls for allowing me to record their art making!

Amy Maricle HeadshotAmy Maricle is art therapist and artist based in Massachusetts. She is also the founder of Mindful Art Studio. She created Mindful Art Studio to share all that she knows about the healing power of art for ANYONE and EVERYONE. Find Amy on Facebook and Instagram.

Inspired by Nature: Four Easy Steps to Follow a Child’s Interests

four easy steps to follow a child's interests

Do you have bees, birds, squirrels, deer, possum, or other creatures milling around your neighborhood?

It’s been wild animal week here at Casa Tinkerlab. We had two big discoveries at our house: a wasp nest in the eaves by our back door and a bird nest tucked into a hole along the siding of our house.

Sad story, we found the bird nest on the ground today, and all of the eggs were gone, probably discovered by a band of squirrels. My two-year old has been keeping a watchful eye on that nest and her first thought went to the mama bird when she said, “I think I hear the mama bird.”

Sure enough, we saw the mama nervously flying around some nearby bushes, and my heart sank for her. We carefully collected the nest and put it back into its spot in the event that the mom can use the nest again.

wasp nest 2

This wasp nest, on the other hand, was something that I was determined to remove myself. No sad feelings here. Sorry if you’re a wasp fan, but rest assured that no wasps were harmed in the process. Basically, I knocked it down (quite heroically) from it’s post with the end of a broom.

My kids were impressed.

The nice thing about finds like this (as long as no one gets hurt along the way) is the opportunity to learn from them.

Of course my kids had tons of questions about the wasp nest. At first we thought it may have been a growing beehive, so we started to search for information on bees, and then we learned that it was in fact a wasp nest. We also noticed it first came out of our eaves it was round and firm, and that it sank into itself after about half an hour on our dining table.

My four-year old loves to join me in web searches for information, so we started off with searches like “bee hive” and “how do bees build their hives?” The hives looked nothing like our little specimen, but by this point my daughter had an idea and she asked me to collect images of bees and related images that you might find in a garden.

bee drawing

I started a Photoshop file and dragged black and white images to a file, resized them to make them all fit to scale, and then printed the images on her request.  She then spent over an hour carefully coloring in and cutting out her images, and then creating the composition you see here. The only thing that seemed to be missing was a pond, but that’s no big deal when you have a market to fill in the blanks.

Projects like this encourage children to be curious, explore, and tap into their imaginations.


  1. Pay attention to what your child finds interesting in nature
  2. If you’re on a walk or hike, take along an field pack: a backpack to save collected objects, camera, magnifying glass, binoculars, pencil, and a notebook to draw or write in.
  3. Go the library to find books on the topic or search the internet for more information or videos. YouTube is often a great resource for investigations like this. Like this, ahem, educational video on how to remove a wasp nest.
  4. Make something that documents your new-found knowledge. How does your child want to interpret his new knowledge? Maybe it’s drawing, building, cooking, writing a story, talking about it, or taking photos?


Inspired by Nature: wasp nest and bumble bee art

More ways to discover nature and follow a child’s interests

Eight Ways to Follow a Child’s Curiosities

Finding Nature with Kids

Build a Nature Table

A Question for you…

What treasures, animals, and natural discoveries have you observed around your home?