Few things have the power to make a parent as nervous as arts and crafts. In the hands of a small child, scissors, finger paint, glue and glitter can be weapons of mass destruction.
As a homeschooling mom, I can’t just leave art to the professionals (i.e. my kids’ teachers). It’s an important part of our curriculum and helps kids practice valuable skills. But I also can’t have my house looking like a bucket of paint, glitter and construction paper exploded inside it.
Through some trial and error, I’ve found a few hacks that make doing art projects at home with kids much easier. Now I actually enjoy it — and my kids have created some seriously cool masterpieces.
Create a portable art station.
One of the most annoying parts of crafting with kids is setting up all the supplies. Make this process more convenient for everyone by keeping a portable art station fully stocked with the essentials. You can move it into the kitchen while you make dinner or even bring it outside for a little “plein air” painting without hauling armfuls of materials back and forth. Ikea and Target both sell utility carts for $30 or less.
Buy everyone an art journal.
For a while, my kids burned through reams of construction paper whenever they got on a drawing kick. Their “collections” were littered all over the house. Then I bought them each an art journal to keep all their freestyle art contained in one place. I recommend this mixed media one, which holds up to paint just as well as marker or crayon (making it good for most projects).
Invest in quality materials.
You know what’s more annoying than a kid who wants to do an art project? One who ends up crying because the paper rips when she colors on it, her watercolor palette is all dried up and her glue sticks aren’t sticky enough. Make an investment in your sanity and buy good quality materials. Cardstock paper hardly ever rips. Liquid watercolors are beautifully vivid. Crayola glue, crayons and markers often last longer than dollar store brands.
Prepare for the mess.
I wish I could tell you there’s some secret to doing mess-free art with your kids, but there really isn’t. The only trick is to prepare in advance so cleanup is easier. Stock up on old newspapers and dollar store tablecloths to protect your table and floors. Throw oversized T-shirts on your kids for smocks with better coverage. Keep paper towels or dish rags within arm’s reach for spills. An ounce of prevention goes a long way.
Forget about the end product.
If you hate doing art with your kids because you’re always stressing about how your kid’s paper plate farm animal looks nothing like the Pinterest tutorial you’re following, let it go. Art educators emphasize process over product, so remember that the value of doing art isn’t what you can hang on the fridge — it’s the way your kid finally learned to draw a circle, or discovered that blue and yellow mixed together make green.
Make a plan for storing and displaying art.
So, you’ve followed all the other steps, and now you’ve got something to show for it? Great! But what the heck are you supposed to do with all this art?
You’ve got a couple of options: hang it like this, this, this or this; file it away in an art bin; or eliminate the paper trail completely by archiving it electronically. Do whatever works for your family but don’t try to save every single scrap — you’ll drive yourself crazy.