There are so many great crafty bloggers out there who share art and learning activities for kids, but one of my must reads is Jean Van’t Hul, blogger at the Artful Parent. Her site is full of great ideas for creating with kids and generally supporting families making together.
Her book, The Artful Parent: Simple Ways to Fill Your Family’s Life with Art & Creativity, came out back in 2013 and I only just got around to finishing reading it. It took so long, in fact, she has another book out now, The Artful Year. (Which I can’t wait to check out, by the way.)
But I’m glad I finally got it done, because it’s a really great book.
Not only is it full of activities to try in a variety of situations — with one kid or a group, simple things you can do at a moment’s notice or more complex activities you need to plan ahead for — it also provides lots of tips for setting up your house and your life for more creativity and why that is so important for kids.
The first part of the book covers things like planning and making space for art, gathering materials and what you really need, encouraging a young artist, sustaining inspiration and how to store, display and share art your kids make.
We learn that art is good for creativity, stimulates the brain, promotes fine motor skills, gets kids ready for writing, helps with problem solving, gives kids a better understanding of themselves and their world, helps them connect to others and more.
It has great ideas on how to incorporate more art into your day, where to find ideas for art activities, how to set things up so kids will be interested in them and how to design a space for art and what to put in it.
Even these early chapters have some projects, such as a sign for the art space, a smock made of an old T-shirt and a plaster-of-Paris marker holder.
The book also has great tips for talking about kids’ art with kids, reminding us not to say “that’s pretty” to everything they make or to try to guess what they made, because both can undermine the child’s confidence in expressing what they want to express.
The way parents talk to children about their art can foster self-confidence, help build their vocabulary for understanding art experiences, and keep them interested in and excited about art. … We just need to train ourselves to talk about children’s art in a more constructive, open-ended way that reflects and guides how small children think about their art.
The book goes on to lay out a ton of great projects or experiments to try with your young artists, from easy things you can do every day and projects that are great for beginners to fancier projects, active art, projects for quiet time and things to try in groups or for art play dates.
There are some classic projects here like making suncatchers with contact paper, tracing and decorating your body, using random stuff to make prints and painting with Q-tips.
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But there are a lot of things here I haven’t tried or thought about before, and I’m excited to try them this summer. The girl has never worked with melted crayons, for instance, so that’s one we’ll want to try. A mobile made to look like a jellyfish is also a cool project, and I’d love to do glue batik just on my own, but I know she’ll love it, too.
Usually when I buy these sorts of books I keep them handy so when the girl wants a project she can flip through and pick something that looks interesting. This book will be great for that, but there are things here I want to be conscious about trying.
I also loved just reading through this book to be inspired about the importance of art in young people’s lives and how important it is to live in a creative home. I’m so glad we’ve been able to give that to her and with the help of this book we have even more great experiences to try.
Do you have a favorite art or craft book for kids? I’d love to hear about it!