One might say I am a bit of an art enthusiast! Just check out my craft cupboards, yes that’s a plural. My house is full or ribbon drawers, craft trolleys, paints in all the different shades, never ending containers full of ‘all the things’. When my daughter was diagnosed with cerebral palsy, I jumped into the world or art even more so, as I knew the opportunities it presented were endless for working on developmental skills.
I totally get that a lot of parents can get overwhelmed by the thought of doing art with their kiddos. But if you want to start getting creative with your children here are my top-secret tips for minimising the stressful art explosion you’re probably envisioning!
-Be organised. Whenever we get creative I always pre-plan. If things need cutting up, I cut them beforehand. If the experience involves a lot of craft materials, I set it up earlier. Anything that can ease the load makes the experience a lot more enjoyable for you.
-Clean as you go. My non-negotiables are wipes/cloth and a rubbish bag. I simply clean up mess as we go. Paint gets on the wall, I wipe it. Off cuts of paper fall on the floor, I pick them up straight away. Finished with something, I chuck it in the sink straight away.
-Use a covering. I have a craft mat I cover the table with before we do any art, simply just wipes off and if for some reason it doesn’t it’s just a craft mat. If I don’t use this, I use an old sheet or a large roll of butcher’s paper to save the furniture.
-Set the scene. Might just be me but whatever we are doing I set it up, so it looks organised. This itself makes the art experience (whatever it is) not seem overwhelming (in other words you’re not stressed out with the amount of art crap that had exploded all over your living room). Containers, paper plates and small bowls are my jam. If everything has a spot, I notice my girls respect that and its more enjoyable for all.
Might sound silly but I also put some nice music on with my diffuser and/or candles. It just creates that calm feeling and seems to work wonders for us, well it does for my mindset. I become a cruisy, calm, and collected Zen craft mum instead of a crazy stressed out “Omg look at all this mess” freaked out mum.
Benefits of art
So many benefits of engaging in art. I was known as the craft lady in my early child teaching days, but it gave me so much joy watching a child work on a skill in a creative way, in a way that isn’t causing them stress or frustration. Therefore, it became such a huge element for home therapy with my daughter who has a diagnosis of cerebral palsy and autism. It saddened me that she struggled so much with so many things, but our therapy play at home was so special and turned the therapy chore into our special time together.
What can art help with?
-It engages all the senses
-Works on motor skills (fine motor and gross motor skills)
-Develops hand eye coordination
-Has calming effects
-Develops problem solving
-Works on communication and vocabulary
-Encourages neural connections
-Can work on bilateral skills
Here are some of our favourite art activities. Check out our Painting blog and water colour blog for more ideas!
Crepe paper collage
This is a great activity that isn’t messy! Got your attention there, didn’t I? All you need for this activity is crepe paper, A4 paper, water, and a paint brush. Crepe paper can be a bit tricky to cut, so for my youngest daughter and my daughter with cerebral palsy I pre-cut the crepe paper. My eldest daughter cut her own pieces, this was more age appropriate for her, allowed her to be more creative and worked on bimanual coordination. Simply place the pieces all around the page (here you can work on patterns, colour recognition), then use the water to stick the crepe paper to the page.
If you want to add an extra element to this activity you can also use spray bottles, my girls love using this option and it’s a great way to work on hand strength and hand eye coordination.
Tissue paper bleed
This is like the above activity, but you substitute crepe paper for tissue paper (bold bright colours so the colours will bleed/run). All steps are the same but this time the colour will run and bleed across the page which makes some aesthetically pleasing effects. It also causes a lot of excitement, as they have no idea what their creations are going to look like. My girls will do this over and over, especially when spray bottles are involved. A great activity for those children who struggle with attention and staying on task as this activity is almost certainly to grab their attention.
My girls and I love going to bunnings and grabbing a stash of paint cards for art experiences (we are rebels). There are so many creative ways you can use them; I feel like this deserves its own blog *stay tuned. For this activity you simply cut them up into tiny pieces, again I do this beforehand, unless you are working on cutting or bimanual skills for your child
The girls choose a design to draw up and then they simply use glue to stick all the coloured pieces onto it. I like to buy tiny little PVA tubes as it really gets the girls to work on their hand strength. This is a great activity to work on fine motor skills, planning skills and hand eye coordination.
You can find these little cardboard people cut outs everywhere, so stock up when you go past some. There are so many creative learning experiences they can be used for, but the girls love to dress them. I pre-cut some clothes and they glue them on. This can be a great activity for younger children as it can start the self-help skills of dressing “Where should his T-shirt go?”. It also works on planning skills and hand-eye coordination.
The girls also love to make all their family members (cousins, nanas, pops, and all), it can be a nice little activity to build self-esteem and confidence.
Using items to trace around is a great way to work on bimanual skills and coordination. You can use stencils, wooden craft cut-outs or simply items from around the house that create unusual patterns or shapes.
Drawing on a background
We often make some beautiful creations using paint or water colours and then draw over the top of them once they are dry. This is a great process art activity that gets children thinking about the planning process. Any type of activity that engages a child to draw is wonderful to work on creativity, pencil control and pre-writing development.
Collage is a great way to enhance creativity and imagination, simply use anything craft materials and glue. I like to use a glue stick to encourage the use of two hands (take lid on and off), perfect to practice bimanual skills. Collage also works on hand eye coordination and fine motor skills.
Scrap book collage is another enticing way for children to engage in this type of craft. I often encourage the use of scissors to practice cutting skills and to work on bilateral coordination.