art with pre-schoolers
The past few days have been spent indoors while the wind rattled the windows and torrential rain fell. The ground is officially soggy and our moods are much the same. Thank goodness for new art supplies!
Dragonfly Toys recently sent me a few products to test out and I had the opportunity to interview Meagan from Whole Family Rhythms. Meagan and I have been blogging since our firstborns were young and over the years we’ve formed a beautiful friendship. She’s the first person I go to when I’m seeking inspiration for play, craft and wholefood cooking. She always shares such valuable advice (she’s on instagram, too) and her seasonal guides for rhythm in the home are perfect for those wanting a little more guidance in the early parenting years.
Personally I find that creating a dedicated art station (even if it is only temporary) is important if your child needs a bit of encouragement to create. Sitting beside them and working on your own artwork helps to lengthen their attention span and discussing the beauty of “filling the page with colour” is subtle inspiration and the best way to minimise paper wastage. And when they ask for help when drawing animals, flowers, boats and people? I encourage them to look through picture books for ideas.
Intent on initiating more art-making with my kids this year, I went to Meagan for advice and thought it best to share it with you.
Jodi : How do you initiate art-making with your children?
Meagan : We try to have one craft day each week depending on our weekly ‘theme’. For example, a few weeks ago our ’theme’ was spiders and we weaved our own spider webs with sticks and yarn. We also do watercolour painting, but this is much more of a meditative practice and doesn’t require a theme. My younger children know the days of the week based on the activity planned for that day. Every week it’s the same, for example, baking on Monday, watercolour painting on Tuesday, crafting on Wednesday etc.
Jodi : In your opinion, what are the essential art supplies that every house needs?
Meagan : Oh my- it’s hard to narrow it down isn’t it!? We always have watercolour paints on hand. We use Stockmar paints (with wooden holder and glass jars) which last a long time, you just add a small teaspoon of the concentrated paint into a jar of water and stir to dilute. We also have a small pallet of watercolours that you use in the traditional way- wetting the brush and dipping straight into the colour. With these you’ll also need a few good brushes of various sizes and a sponge to wipe excess paint on. We do have a small amount of the washable kids paint as well for potato prints, painting wood crafts or fingerpainting. We also use beautiful beeswax crayons – both stick and block – as well as Lyra colouring pencils.
Finally another supply we use on almost a weekly basis is modelling beeswax (or homemade saltdough for smaller, less agile fingers). Other essential craft supplies include a painting apron (Dad’s old dress shirt is just fine) a good pair of children’s scissors for each child, watercolour paper (which is thicker than regular craft or computer paper), glue sticks as well as white glue or ‘mode podge’. Most other things in our craft cupboard come from nature or our recycling bin – feathers, toilet paper rolls, cardboard, icy pole sticks, elastic bands, tissue paper, ribbons, cotton buds and empty egg cartons.
From ages 5 and up a few balls of good quality yarn, felt, embroidery thread and needles are also a great addition to the craft cupboard but only if you feel you have the time and energy to sit with your child to help them master this kind of handwork.
Jodi : When it comes to watercolours, how do you guide your children in their painting?
Meagan : First and foremost, I set up watercolour painting only when my babies are napping! As much as I can I try to prepare the space before the children are involved – setting out painting mats, choosing the colours, getting water, putting the sponges out and wetting the paper (for wet-on-wet watercolour). I often say a verse before we start. Something like, “Bright colours show me the way, I wonder what I’ll paint today!”
Jodi : Why are block crayons so good for little hands?
Meagan : I have learned through experience and observation over the past few years that in fact, block crayons are great for all hands – not just little hands! Yes, block crayons are wonderful because they allow tiny hands to grasp with a proper grip but what is most beautiful about block crayons is that they enable you to easily fill the whole paper with gorgeous shades and colour. Block crayons have what many Waldorf teachers call a “Daddy Side” a “Mummy Side” and a “Baby Side”. You can use the largest (Daddy) side to create a background colour (or colours) on the entire page and then use the medium (Mummy) side for drawing and shading larger things like trees, houses, fences and finally you use the smallest (Baby) side to create smaller shapes and details like blades of grass, flowers and faces.
Jodi : From a practical point-of-view, how do you set up an art station and what do you use to ensure the mess doesn’t get overwhelming?
Meagan : As I said above I make sure babies are napping when we do crafting or painting together as this minimises the mess and also allows me to be fully present with the older children. I also try to set everything up as much as I can before we begin so that we are not all rifling through the craft cupboard together and there are no arguments about paper size or paint colour etc. We have a small colouring station at a child-sized table that always has fresh paper, a bowl of stick crayons and a bowl of block crayons at it. The location of this table changes all the time depending on the ages and the length of my younger children’s arms! You don’t want crayons at reach if you have a toddler who’s into drawing on walls at the moment. But these phases pass quickly so just change your art routine to suit your particular family’s and needs.
I’d love to hear your advice for art-making with kids. What are your go-to supplies and what are some favourite activities in your house?