Have you ever asked your child to draw and they straight up shoot you down? Ok, no biggie right? But then you ask a few days later and they still show zero interest? I've been there. This was actually my son when he was younger. I wanted nothing more than to engage in art projects with him but 9/10 he would shut me down! My art teacher heart was devastated. But then... one day he started asking ME if we could make art together. That's because on the sly, I started creating spaces & habits that were subtle yet intentional in sparking his creative interest. Want to know how you can encourage creativity and creating without asking? I got you!
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1. Create a kid-friendly Creative Space
I'm not saying you have to create an entire art studio for your child, I'm talking about one area that you child knows they can sit down and create at any time. It could be a small kid- friendly table with a caddy of supplies on top, a "creative corner" made up of a small desk and accessible supples (more on this later), it could even be your dining room table that has supplies easily accessible letting your child know that this is a space for them to make (except when it's dinner time). It doesn't have to be anything big or elaborate... just their own special space to create. If you're interested in seeing incredible examples and learn how to create a creative space for your child, I highly recommend the book Art Workshop for Children by Bar Rucci. It's incredible!
2. Create an Open Invitation
Nothing stops my son dead in his tracks more than an open sketchbook, and new or exciting art supplies. Laying out a piece of paper, whether big or small with materials that will excite your child creates an invitation for your little one to sit down and just start making. The key here is having some supplies out and available already. There is something that happens to kids (and adults) when we know we want to make something, but lack the energy to go digging through cabinets and setting up an art space. When you have the supplies already out (it could just be one specific material) you are eliminating the hardest part. You can also create an invitation by having a project started, or leaving out a prompt for your child. This also takes any guesswork out of "but I don't know what to draw". I have a free list of 40 Drawing Prompts that you can download for free.
This has been hands down the most efficient way to get my kids to want to make art. I used to only paint or draw when my kids were asleep... but when they started waking up and finding me painting in the kitchen, the first thing they say with a sleepy voice and disheveled hair is "Can I paint with you mommy?" Cue *HEART BURST * Of course my response is always YES, let's get your sketchbook! Kids look up to their parents and teachers. When they see you making art, it inspires them to want to make art too! You are their biggest role model, so modeling making time to create is the loudest way you can can encourage your kiddos to make art themselves.
4. Display Art They Have Already Made
Who has read the book "The Dot" by Peter H. Reynolds? Well if you haven't you absolutely should because it shows the power that an adult has when they show that they believe in a child. The little girl in the book didn't think she was a good artist, but when she saw that her art teacher had framed her little dot she drew, it filled her with pride and inspired her to keep creating. That is absolutely how a child feels when you make it a priority to display their art. Now, I know kids can make A LOT of art, and you might feel as though you can't keep it all (I get it) but by displaying a child's art you are telling them that you are proud of them and that their art matters. I can be something as simple as hanging a clothes line with clothes pins on a wall to clip art to, or a Magnetic board, or even a frame on the wall (btw have yall ever seen these frames that allow you to easily change out children's art? Amazing!)
5. Take Interest When They Create Something
Try to shy away from the typical "You're such a good artist" and instead comment on specific things about their work. Like, "I love how creative you are when you start to draw" or "You have great craftsmanship when you create something. You really take your time". Also, try asking specific questions about their art, and ask them to share more about it, like "Can you share more about what's happening here?" "What made you want to draw that?" "Tell me more about that". Of course, please resist any urge to laugh, tease or tell your child that they are not good at art. Because by golly- the second you say that, they will believe you and never try again. I can't tell you how many people have told me over the years " Oh I used to love art as a kid, but then my art teacher told me I wasn't very good and that was it for me". Do not be the reason a child's creative flame goes out.
6. Lay Out New Supplies
I'm a sucker for new art supplies and apparently so are my kids! Because new art supplies are just pretty- and beg you to use them! When I place a new art supply on their table they are like moths to a flame! Some of our favorite art supplies over the years have been:
7. Resist the Urge to Hide all Art Supplies
When are kids most inspired? When they see art supplies that excite them! Ok, ok, I can feel some of you rolling your eyes at me as you read this because you're thinking "No way, I am hiding any mess I can!" I get it. So here are a few ways you can display art supplies to be visible, yet organized.
- Create an Art Cart that is stocked with your kids favorite supplies but are contained to one item.
- Use clear bins to store individual art supplies, and then store those materials in a cabinet. They will be hidden from the naked eye, but if your kiddos know where to do, they will be able to open the cabinet and see exactly what they need.
- Have open shelving if you can. I know this is a big ask and can potentially turn into a huge mess, but open shelving is magical to a kid who can see all of their supplies and have access to them when need be. But of course, expectations are always good to have with your kids regarding cleaning up after themselves and how to take care of their art space.
8. Have Drawing Guides Available When Needed
Kids have the most beautiful and creative minds, but sometimes their hands don't always sync up with their brain and when a child tries to draw something and it isn't what they were expecting, it can leave them frustrated and embarrassed. This is why directed drawing art lessons can help raise the confidence of little artists by having each step broken down. Their is nothing better than seeing a child beam with pride and sometimes shock that they were able to create something that they are proud of! This is why I started creating drawing guides for my students, because when they would come to me and ask how to draw a specific thing, I wanted them to feel empowered to draw it on their own, but with just a bit of help. Drawing guides not only build confidence in children, but also allow creativity and decision making by having many choices available. When my son was 4 I started sharing some of the drawing guides I had made for my students with him and I was blown away that he was able to follow along with each step and create a drawing he was proud of! If you're looking for a huge variety of directed Drawing guides (23 and counting) for your children or students, you can find my Drawing Guide Growing Bundle here! Some of the stand out favorites in the bundle are: Simple Self Portrait Guide, How to Draw Cats and Dogs, Things That Go (curated by my son), Tasty Treats and my Winter Village Guide.
9. Give Them a Sketchbook to Create Ownership
One of the ways that I create ownership in the arts for my students and children have been by providing them with (or creating) a sketchbook. Why does a sketchbook feel more special to a child then a piece of paper? Well, because it's truly theirs. It's a book that they can customize and create anything they want in without the fear of judgement. It's a safe space to create and fill a book of their very own with ideas that are special to them. One of my favorite companies to purchase sketchbooks for kids from is called Bare Books. There are so many options and the best part is that kids can completely decorate the cover to their liking. I prefer the spiral binding for my kids, but really all options are great. We have larger sketchbooks (8 x 10) that we keep on their art desk and keep smaller sketchbooks (4 x 6) in our "Things to entertain the kids when we go out to eat" bag. If you're interested in learning more about why I am a huge advocate for sketchbooks, you can check out this post.
10. Add an Element of Play
Do you have a kiddo who is a non stop mover and you're thinking "How do you expect me to get this child to sit down long enough to create?" Don't worry, I gotchu ; ) Because I too have a busy little one who never wanted to stop playing long enough to make anything. For these busy little bees, try blending art and play together! For example, one of the most effective hooks in getting my son to draw with me was when I would roll out a long piece of white paper and would just simple draw a road going all the way down. As soon as he saw that road, he would stop, drive his mini cars over and start driving on it. It was then that he would start saying things like "Oh, mommy we should draw a park!" or "Let's draw a fire station for my fire truck!" Pretty soon, he was all in with the creating process and would go back and forth between drawing and playing with our piece of art. It was the best of both worlds!
11. Give Them a Cardboard Box and Get out of the Way.
There is nothing that kids a kids MORE excited than a giant cardboard box am I right?? This was a huge turning point for me and my son when it came to his interest in art. He is definitely a busy boy and wants to play 24/7. So getting him to sit and draw on paper with me was a challenge in the beginning. But when the pandemic hit and we were all home, (much to the dismay of my husband) I started saving every cardboard delivery box that came to the house. Then, I would bust it out and ask my son, "Ok, what are we going to turn this into today??" Sometimes we made a jet, sometimes we made a card, sometimes we made a house, one time we even made a school! He absolutely loved creating something that he could also play or interact with. It was a win/ win! Well, except for when he refused to get rid of said cardboard box creations for months.
I hope that you are able to implement some of these strategies into your home to raise your children to be creative thinkers. Have fun and don't be afraid of a little mess ; )