“Above all, we are coming to understand that the arts incarnate the creativity of a free people. When the creative impulse cannot flourish, when it cannot freely select its methods and objects, when it is deprived of spontaneity, then society severs”   ~ John F. Kennedy

Do you set up open-ended prompts or invitations for art-making?

Making art, and in turn creative thinking, is rooted in discovery, experimentation, and the free exploration of materials. Projects that foster independent thinking focus on the processes of creation and experimentation rather than  the final product.

 Washi tape and found book collage. A Tinkerlab Art Invitation.

If you spend any time on Pinterest, you know that the internet is full of ideas for creating beautiful kids’ crafts, but I caution you that while these projects may deliver a tidy product, they may not have your child’s best interests in mind. Your best bet for fostering creative growth is to set up open-ended art-making invitations. Not only will your child’s imagination thrive, but you’ll have less to stress over and prepare for.

To get started, choose a few related materials, lay them out on your table, and see what your child (and maybe you!) can come up with.

Our most recent art invitation included these materials:

tape and paper collage

I placed the materials on the table and began by flipping through the book in search of interesting images. My 4-year old paid attention to my curiosity and jumped right in to share which images she wanted me to cut out for her.

tape and paper collage

We built a small collection of favorites. As she glued or taped, I cut. An added surprise is that we talked a little bit about the content of the images along the way (bird houses versus bird feeders, the most colorful birds we could think of — she insists it’s the Scarlet Macaw and I can’t really argue with that!).

tape and paper collage

Washi tape is one of my more recent art material splurges. If you don’t know about washi tape, it’s a decorative Japanese masking tape, It has a bit of a glossy sheen to it, it’s usually somewhat transparent, and it makes everything look adorable.

Before leaving on a recent trip we visited the art supply store for traveling supplies, and two packs of Washi tape begged for us to buy them. Washi is not cheap, but I’ve noticed that a little bit goes a long way. While my 23-month old could use miles of it in 5 seconds flat, my 4-year old used it sparingly.

The plaid rolls come in this set of three: Kikkerland Plaid Washi Masking Tape. I heard that Target carries an inexpensive brand of washi tape (I think the brand is Smash), but they were all out when I visited. Not surprised, really, since washi tape seems to be all the rage in the scrapbooking world at the moment, but I’ll an eye out for it on future trips.

tape and paper collage

The beauty of the art invitation for us parents is that they cut down on our stress. Aside from making sure that you have some materials to work with, these invitations don’t require a lot of fancy preparations or planning. On top of that, there is no expectation to create something with a specific outcome. Keep these words in mind for successful art making with kids: The Journey is the Destination.

More on Invitations

Do you set up art invitations? How does your child respond to them?

Note: Tinkerlab shares affiliate links for products or companies that we think our readers will enjoy knowing about. If you purchase through those links we’ll receive a small percentage of the sale, which help keep our inspiration engine running!


    • Thanks, Deb. This is so helpful! I was looking in the kids aisle (totally picked over) and I’ll check the office supply aisle next time.

  1. A girl can never have enough washi tape:)…..now thanks to you I will finally have enough. Thanks for the inspiration!

  2. Thanks for the helpful comment! Getting to this label has been a journey for me, and I’m happy to have discovered it. I originally called these provocations, but the word “provocation” felt too much like an instigation. Somehow, having just the right words to describe this process helps me too. The way you’ve describe it as open-ended and semi-structured is exactly right — as parents we may have an idea of where the project may go, but the open-ended nature of the invitation allows the child to find her own path.

  3. Glad to see that you are finally embracing the washi tape love! I of course really enjoy our Japanese brands which are made from rice paper, but since it is a little pricey I always give and ask for washi tape as gifts… Our favorite use for washi tape is making cardboard books. http://thecardboardcollective.com/2011/10/31/how-to-make-cardboard-books/ We then make books about our family life, like, “Things we do to help out around the house”, “Places to play in our neighborhood” and “Favorite ways to fix our hair” and illustrate with printed paper photos.

    • Washi tape is now on my must-have list of supplies 🙂 I’m so glad you shared the link to your cardboard books; this is such a good idea. Washi tape is fantastic, but sometimes hard to find or costly. I would love to receive it as a gift, and adding this idea to my own gift-giving list.

Comments are closed.