In an era when arts education is being cut from schools, many parents are looking for ways to fill in the gaps. Private lessons are nice, but not everyone can afford them, and hardly anyone has time to cart kids to yet another scheduled activity.
While it may seem counter-intuitive at first, some parents are turning to technology to help make art everyday parts of family life. There are so many arts apps and digital enrichment programs that finding the right one can quickly become overwhelming. We’ve collected some of our favorites here to help you get started. (Stay tuned; we'll soon have a collection of great music apps.)
Every parent of a small child needs a finger painting app to end the stress of standing in a long line or sitting in a waiting room.
1. Doodle Buddy. FREE, iOS
2. Art of Glow. FREE, Android
3. Drawnimal. If you’re ambivalent about teaching your preschooler digital art before they learn the real-world basics, the charmingly clever Drawnimal helps preschoolers create animal pictures by drawing shapes around an iPhone set on a piece of paper. It also helps teach the alphabet. $0.99, iOS
6. Seattle Art Museum offers online lesson plans that tie in with current and past exhibits, and their multimedia Special Exhibition Resource Guides are packed with information for more advanced readers and parents to explore together. FREE, Online
7. Google Cultural Institute. In its effort to contain all the data everywhere, Google has captured the contents of hundreds of museum collections from around the world in its Cultural Institute. Users can curate galleries of their favorites; explore virtual exhibits on significant events in human history; or take a virtual tour of the wonders of the world. While the interface is simple enough for grade school students to manage, the content will continue to be valuable for much older students. FREE, Online.
8. Thrive Art School, based in Seattle, offers online drawing classes. There are beginner and intermediate programs for ages 6-12, with an advanced program for ages 9-12 coming soon. Each program includes six approximately half-hour online video-based lessons, as well as access to a video library of instruction tips for parents. Costing a little more than one month of classroom lessons, there is no expiration date – which means the whole family can take the course as many times as they want. $99 per course, Online.
9. SketchUp is not for mobile devices, but it lets everyone from grade school students to professional architects draw in 3D. SketchUp Make is free and doesn’t require a license. SketchUp Pro is free for educators and heavily discounted for students and schools.
10. Design It! A step up from paper dolls, this is one of many apps for designing clothes. FREE, Android.
Art students can use virtual flash cards and quizzes to learn the titles, artists, and media of famous artworks.
11. Art History Test $1.99, iOS
12. AP Art History Test. $3.99, Android
Fashion-minded teens can go beyond Instagramming their outfits and actually design their own clothes. Who knows? Design might even lead to craft – homemade is cool if you call it ‘bespoke.’
13. Style Studio. $0.99 plus add-ons, iOS
Finally, some of the most interesting apps actually help users to create art. There are lots of apps for all platforms that use the screen as a sketchpad or painter’s canvas.
Some of them are quite sophisticated:
14. Sketchbook Pro. for Apple or Android is one of the best, and can be equally valuable to grade school students and professional artists. $4.99
Maybe your kids will add their own stop-motion animation to the ranks of YouTube’s amateur movies. Extremely popular YouTube channels can even make money for their creators.
16. Stop-Motion, FREE, Android
Other ways that young people can become working artists include selling their iPhone photos as stock images and creating interactive digital books that they can sell on the iBookstore.
About the author: Gemma Alexander is a Seattle-based writer and mother of two.