Making art time with kids is an investment. It’s kind of like any other long term investment you make with your time (dieting, exercise, saving money, learning a new skill, etc….) it takes a long time to feel a pay off. But when you do, you are SO grateful for all the boring groundwork you put in.
Art with Nova has been a long game for me. She’s always liked to play with paint, but paint is really messy and early on the clean up took like 3x as long as the actual art-making. And for a long time painting was the only medium that could hold Nova’s attention- markers, crayons and everything weren’t very engaging to her.
A big part of it was that when we first got home from China she was still learning to hold writing utensils.
Backing up a bit…. before we brought Nova home I took this e-course. I highly recommend it. Not only are the project ideas great, but the overall attitude I learned from Elise helped me so much. She has a very inspiring perspective about how often to do art with kids, what kinds of supplies and what kinds of art. It made me realize that the most important and, really, only goal for Nova early on was to just make projects. It didn’t matter if she could only stay interested for three minutes, it didn’t matter if the end result was “frame-worthy” and it didn’t matter if she got messy or got paint on her clothing.
Anyway. I definitely enjoyed the e-course and recommend it to any mom or person who watches young children.
I will be totally honest. Nova has always been pretty interested in music, but she didn’t seem very interested in art at first. It just didn’t come as quickly. When we were first home Jeremy and her would sit on the piano and sing songs and play random piano notes for hours- but art projects took her, like, three minutes.
After eight months of consistently offering up art as an option to Nova it all the sudden sunk in. And it happened overnight. We were making art with the nieces at summer camp and all the sudden Nova painted four paintings in a row. I was totally caught off guard. The next day I tried again just to see if it was a fluke and she painted six pages in a row.
A few days later I was at Office Depot making copies and I saw a pack of dry erase markers. We had this Ikea easel (it’s only $20 and it ships from their website). I knew we didn’t have any markers for it, but I still almost didn’t get them because they were $10 and I was pretty sure she wouldn’t even use them.
She proved me wrong! That night she drew on her easel for almost an hour erasing it with her shirt (lol) and then drawing some more. It was one of my high points as a mom because I felt like she was having a butterfly moment.
The next few days I kept erasing it and she would fill the whole board over and over again. So exciting!
This is from last week when we had our first painting picnic. We used these washable paints and canvas paper. To be honest I don’t really buy hardly any art supplies for Nova because I can just use leftover stuff from my DIY work. But I do recommend kids washable paint if you care AT ALL about the paint washing out of clothing.
I have a few outfits of hers that are already ruined from paint so I just use those most of the time. And sometimes I just throw caution to the wind and let her paint in cute clothes, because at the end of the day what is more important- Nova’s creative journey or a dress from baby Gap. right?
Today we had like an hour and a half before nap time so I decided to do another outside painting session and let her try a large canvas for the first time.
She painted her big canvas and then asked for another one and then another one. It was honestly one of the happiest moments of my whole life.
Here are three tips I have (so far) for nurturing creativity in a toddler:
1. Never say no because of the mess. If you don’t have time for a bath just put less paint on the plates or do markers or watercolor paints instead. Nova isn’t really into watercolors (I think because of her low vision and they are so much lower in contrast) but just keep a few options on hand. You don’t have to have fancy supplies either- just paper bags from the grocery store or paint your junk mail! Sometimes our project time is just Nova practicing cutting up paper, but that is good too! All these little sessions add up over time.
2. Keep all your art stuff in one location. Whether it’s a little bin or a designated area where your kid can make art. Nova can reach all her markers without me helping. Yes- she has marked on our sofa, but no I don’t care. It’s a small price to pay for Nova to feel like she can make art anytime she wants.
3. Do more of whatever your kid enjoys. We paint a lot because Nova asks for it- but maybe your kid will like something else. Nurture whatever they are already enjoying.
I’m writing this post because I know it will help some of you to feel more empowered to make art with your kids. I totally get that it can feel annoying or discouraging, especially when they are small with a short attention span. But it is totally worth it.
My mom just texted me that one of Georgia O’Keefe’s earliest childhood memories was painting outside on a quilt at three years old. I got a little tear.