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Fostering Creativity at Home without Making a Mess

November 17, 2010

Katy McDonald and Cristy Lillig of Creative Days Art Studio

Contributed by Kathy McDonald, Creative Days Art Studio.

Katy McDonald, originally from Jefferson City, has been living in Columbia since 2000. After receiving her degree in Early Childhood Education, she taught preschool for 5 years before starting Creative Days Art Studio a children’s studio, with her sister Cristy Lillig. At their studio, they focus on providing children with a fun and safe environment for them to explore and learn through art. Their studio was earlier featured on 8 Goes Green for promoting sustainability among children.

Throughout their young years, children dip, flick, squish, spread, crack, and poke everything as way to find out more about it. They are curious. To them, exploring art is another learning experience; to reach out and connect with a world they are just beginning to understand. To the parent, this process brings visions of rainbow streaked hallways and paint-spattered floors. So how do we allow our budding Rembrandt exercise their creative rights while at the same time preventing messes and steam cleaner rentals?

Yes, many of us cringe at the thought of putting a three year old at our dining room table with glue and scissors. But just as we know to take an umbrella with us on a rainy day, we prepare a space; a space where creativity (and its aftermath) can take place. An old cardboard appliance box can be opened and propped up to become the child’s personal studio where their art can adorn its walls. Old adult shirts make fantastic smocks as well as do pillow cases. This area doesn’t need to be an entire room; a small corner of a bedroom or family room where a table and chair can be set up will do. What’s important is that the child sees this area as their space to create while you keep your floors and walls nice and clean.

No coloring book or fancy marker that does five colors at once will take the place of the art that comes from your child’s dreams. Some of the best materials and tools to expand your young artist’s curiosity can be found around the house. The coupons that come on your doorknob make fantastic scribble papers and can become crowns, notes, envelopes, paper chains, and books. Catalogs and magazines are great to use for cutting practice. As they progress in their cutting skills, these clippings can be glued down to paper and turned into art. Paper bags have almost as many applications as duct tape when it comes to projects.

How do you know if they are the right age to introduce a new material? We don’t know, but the key to trying one out with your child is to model safe behavior. The more play you do side by side, the better their understanding of how to use it properly. Crayons, markers, chalk, and colored pencils each provide your child with a unique physical and aesthetic texture and are (for the most part) clean. Glue comes in many forms that are easy to use and through practice, and trial and error, can be trusted in your little ones hands. “Just a dot, not a lot” is great mantra but sometimes squeezing a pool of glue over a square of paper teaches the same lesson, so keep a damp rag nearby. There are also many fancy scissors out there but we’ve found that a pair of children’s round-ended scissors are great for young ones. Manufactured craft dough can be expensive and stinky but a safe alternative is a simple flour, oil, salt, and water mixture that you and your child can experiment with the color and texture.

We need to breakdown our preconceived notions that art is something kids can’t do because it could get messy. By putting time and interest into your child’s first art experiences, you not only encourage their learning, you allow them to expand their imagination. Who knows, you might enjoy poking, squishing, and dipping as much as your child.

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