FREE CHILD LABOR: HOW TO GUIDE YOU KIDS IN CREATING DECOR FOR YOUR HOME

 
 

"Every child is an artist.  The problem is how to remain an artist once we grow up."  ~Pablo Picasso. 

I frequently find myself inspired by the artwork of my children.  Really, kids are art geniuses!  As they create I wonder to myself what happens as we age that so many lose the desire and ability.  Why not harness your child's skill to add a personal, artful layer to your home? 

The tribal drawing is by our (then) 8 year old son and the drawing in the white frame is by our three year old daughter.

The tribal drawing is by our (then) 8 year old son and the drawing in the white frame is by our three year old daughter.

I am not the kind of mom that saves every scrap of paper my kids bring home from school or scribble on.  I remember my mom had boxes and boxes of stuff.  And we never looked through it because it was just overwhelming!  So when my kids started to bring tons of paper home from school, I made the decision that I was going to be selective so that I could enjoy it.  The art that I do save is original.  I'm sure some of those school art projects where the teacher instructs the kids to stamp out the same thing are fun for the kids.  But the art that gives me a glimpse into their hearts is the art that bloomed out of their own minds.  I truly feel that these creations are pretty amazing.  Sometimes they are extremely simple and fluid, and that makes for good art, frankly!

Here in the Upper Peninsula spring is finally on its way in!  I don't think there are many communities that appreciate the change quite like the "Yoopers" do.  Winter here just hangs on like a stubborn man hangs onto his monstrosity of a recliner.  You know the type.  But that's another post!  In the spring along Lake Superior the sidewalks are bustling with walkers, runners, and bikers.  It's that time of year to open the windows, shake out the rugs and refresh the house.

When I clean I can't help but rearrange vignettes, move art, swap out some framed photos and while I'm at it, frame some of my kids' art!  Today I want to share with you some of the simplest kids art projects that encourage creativity.  I think parents and grandparents benefit from creating something right alongside with their little ones.  I'd say most of the time the kids join me when I start creating.  I am rarely organized enough to plan an art day.  I just start creating out of my own impulsiveness and my kids want to join in.  Also, I know this is hard, but when creating with kids turn off the control freak within you.  Art is messy but especially with anything water based, it can be cleaned AFTER.  Do what you can to prepare (cover surfaces with newspaper, etc.) and let the mess happen.  Or create outdoors if you can't handle it!

 
our son used to draw ticks since we had them at the family farmhouse we used to live at. until we got chickens, that is! this drawing is white charcoal on black paper.

our son used to draw ticks since we had them at the family farmhouse we used to live at. until we got chickens, that is! this drawing is white charcoal on black paper.

DRAWING

It's important to supply good quality materials.  I like to get black, brown or white quality large drawing paper and supply black, brown and white colored pencils.  The kids love the contrast this color palette produces (and so do I!).  There are no rules here: Use whatever color palette you want.  But a limited palette keeps things simple and striking.

Then check in with them after awhile.  When they're done I take the mat from a picture frame and move it over the large paper they've been working on until the mat enhances it, and then I install it in the frame.  The frame really gives the sense that you respect and admire the art and the kids LOVE IT.

PAINTING

the grey abstract painting is by our oldest son done with acrylic paint on cardstock.

the grey abstract painting is by our oldest son done with acrylic paint on cardstock.

Supply watercolor paper for watercolor paints (printer paper will never hold up and will not look good in a frame).  Supply canvas or canvas board for acrylics.  Canvas boards are inexpensive and can be matted and framed in a store-bought frame, giving the painting more presence.  Introduce oils when they're older.  Oils take forever to dry and are messier and stink so I don't recommend them for the little littles.  

If they don't know what to paint have them try painting a value scale, painting in a loose grid darker to lighter values.  It may turn out to be similar value splotches, but that looks interesting, too!  Another idea, and this is almost cheating, but have them paint an object (a toy, a block, whatever) and use cardstock to protect the table surface from getting paint on it.  Sometimes what's left on the paper is art in and of itself.

our son's value scale painting.

our son's value scale painting.

COLLAGE

Collage art can be anything glued to a surface.  Newspaper, scrap fabric or paper are good options.  Again, I recommend a neutral palette but there are no rules.  Have the kiddos use a paint brush to apply Mod Podge to the paper or fabric and have them press it onto the board or canvas.  It can be highly layered and abstract.  They can cut organic shapes or make something more grid-like and square.  They can use a reference image or not.  After the glue is dry they can paint it or leave it.

PALETTE KNIFE ART

As a cheaper alternative to create highly texturized art with kids, mix joint compound with regular school glue and then have them apply it to the canvas or board with a palette knife, old credit card or spatula.  The glue makes the compound less likely to crack, although this is a risk using joint compound no matter what you do.  But this is an easier, cheaper way to create this kind of art (rather than other mediums and gesso or oils).  When it's completely dry, prime and paint, using regular house paint.  I like the texture to be the focus, so painting the whole thing one color highlights the texture.

And finally a cool project for the whole family:

PLASTER HAND SCULPTURE

I haven't done this project yet but it's something I want to try.  There are many suppliers of hand plaster kits, making it easy to make this type of sculpture, or you can go out and buy the alginate (the casting material), the plaster, the bucket and other supplies yourself.  The result is a memorable, fun and beautiful sculpture.

I encourage you to revisit the child within you and introduce your children to her, too.  These ideas aren't designed to be tutorials, but let me know in the comments if you have any questions!  Let these ideas act as a fire-starter for you and get you and your family's creative fire burning.