I was talking to a friend at the park today about things that keep parents from setting their kids up with art projects. The list isn’t too much of a surprise, and you might even have your own bullet points to add to this (please share if you do!):
- The house/table/furniture could get messy.
- Clothes will need to be changed, washed, or thrown out.
- It requires too much facilitation.
- I’ve seen shitmykidsruined.com, and there’s no way I’m allowing Sharpies in the house!
- I just don’t have the patience for it.
Fair enough. Art projects are not for everyone, but after today’s convo I’m on a new mission to also share ideas that are easy on the parents’ will, time and emotions. In my own effort to tackle some of these issues, N’s little art table is always covered in plastic (our dining room table, pictured above, is an old high school table that came with expletives carved into its legs — so no worries there!), we have aprons for painting and cooking, paints and markers are usually washable, and messy projects are often taken outside.
A couple days ago we embarked on a little color-mixing activity that is SO surprisingly clean that my 2-year old asked, “Why is my hand not dirty? Is my hand dirty?” All you need are some squeezable paints (tempera or acrylic — makes no difference) and a zip-lock bag with a good seal. This last part is critical!
- Set out your materials: zip-lock bag and 2-3 paints
- Open the bag or have your child open the bag. My daughter wanted to hold the bag open.
- Squeeze ONE color into the bag. My daughter really wanted to do this step, so we traded bag for paint. This became an exercise in restraint (for her) when I found myself saying, “Just squeeze it a little bit…like toothpaste. Not too much.”)
- Zip the bag up
- Hand it to your child to experiment with, mush around, squeeze, etc.
- Once this has run its course, add another color and then zip it up again. I used this as an opportunity to teach color mixing by saying, “First we put blue in the bag. What color do you want to add next? Okay, yellow. What color will we get when we mix blue with yellow?”
- Young children will be interested in the sensation of smooshing and mixing, and older children may be interested in “drawing” into the paint by pushing down on it against a hard surface like a table. We tried this, but it was a solitary sport for mom.
After playing with “clean” paint for a few minutes, N was jonesing to actually paint, so I carried the “one color at a time” idea over from the first project into what you see in the photo above. She picked the color she wanted to begin with (yellow), and then chose colors to add, one at a time.” The first painting was yellow/blue, and the second was yellow/blue/red.
After that, she was done.