Parental Play Dates

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Parental Play Dates

7 Easy, Enjoyable Ways to Experience Art with your Children

My first and fondest memory is lying, belly down on a cold concrete slab on a hot, summer day; our front porch in Quantico, Virginia. My mom’s rocking chair squeaked beside me as I drew cactuses, teepees, cowboys, horses. While waiting for my big sister to return from school, I spent long days creating with crayons and lined paper torn from a spiral notebook. Mom told me I was, “a good little artist.”

Are those days gone? Schools have eliminated art programs. Families are completely out of the habit of creating with our children; out of the habit of letting their imaginations run joyfully wild and free. We don’t teach kids to be creative thinkers.

There are many benefits to enjoying art together as a family. It brings us out of our habitual, day-to-day schedule. Enjoying art gives us new stimulation; fresh communication with our kids. It fires their brains; inspires. Art enables children to ponder new thoughts, new concepts. And frankly, making art is fun! You can’t do it wrong!

Consider an art play date with your kids. Here are seven ways to experience art together as a family.

1)Kitchen Table Playtime

How about creating a rooster “drawing” of macaroni and dried beans? This silly idea was my favorite art project and hung on my family’s kitchen wall for years. A friend of mine talks about creating flip books as a kid: she drew a carrot and tiny changes as it acted out drama, keeping her entertained for hours. Can you make a flip book of a carrot jumping off a cliff? Of a teacup melting? How about a goofy, smiley face turning sad, then scared, then happy again?

2)Beginners Vision Board

What are your child’s dreams? What does he/she want to be when they grows up? Want a simple answer to that question? Grab some construction or notebook paper, a legal pad, newspaper…any kind will do. (Kids don’t care! Most just want to be invited to create, and more importantly, to be with you. You can’t get it wrong!) Grab a few magazines. Collect pens, glue, markers, glitter, and scissors. Tear out pretty pictures, and words, and invite your child to do the same. Anything goes. Your child likes that picture of a puppy? Have them tear it out. How about boats? A tree? A swing? A picture of chocolate milk?

Tell them to tear out all the pictures they love. (Important!!! Try not to guide their choices. Support your child with questions, rather than direction. This is your opportunity to discover his or her subconscious desires.)

Ask them to pick their very favorite 10 pictures (it doesn’t have to be 10. I just threw that out there.) Grab scissors, cut off the excess, and glue all the pictures together on your original piece of paper. This is your child’s first vision board!

When your child is done, ask them the following questions…

1)What makes you happy about what you created?

2)What do these images mean?

3)Why did you pick those particular pictures?

4)What’s your favorite color in the piece?

5)Do you want to write anything on the piece?

6)Did you sign it to claim it as your own?

7)Do you understand that you just made art?

3)Abstract Trash to Treasure

Collect household art supplies. For example, grab boxes out of your recycling bin and cut them up: tear pieces of aluminum foil, spill little piles of herbs on a napkin, grab Q-tips and cotton balls, tear tissues, empty tea bags, snip leaves from a houseplant, crunch dried flowers, choose books that can be reincarnated. Pile them on your kitchen table.

Draw a simple grid on a piece of paper, dividing into four sections, or six, or eight. Tell them to start gluing things wherever their heart desires. (The grid will help give them direction without you telling them what to do.) Let your child get really messy! It’s an important part of the creative process!

4) Ask and ‘Ye’ Shall Receive!

Google search for galleries, museums, or a local artist in your area. Plan a visit with your children. (Artists love to receive calls for studio visits!) If you’re in a small town, you can go to a library, hospital, university, municipal building, science exhibit, or historical site. Find images on the wall…any image will do! They can be abstract, historical, or figurative. Ask your child following questions about each picture on the wall.

1) What emotion does this provoke? Or if they’re younger, how does that picture make you feel?

2) What does it make you think about?

3) What’s your favorite part of the picture?

4 ) Does that picture remind you of anything?

5 ) If you made that picture, would you change anything? How would/could you make it better?

Ask these questions, and listen, truly listen to your child’s answers… and ‘ye’ shall receive a wonderful conversation with him or her.

5) Nature Art

Plan a leisurely walk to your favorite place in nature. Gather sticks, stones, pine cones, sand, leaves, etc. and pile the stones as high as you can. Pick your favorite object you’ve collected, and let your child pick their favorite. Set the objects on the ground together. Then take the other branches, twigs, grasses and leaves and decorate around your two favorite pieces. Or, make symbols or pictures with your objects.

Draw pictures of one another in the sand or dirt, or make stick figures with actual sticks: a pine cone as the head? Make up your own language or tell the story of your family. Sticks as arms and legs? Make other figures like animals.

Tell your child you’re making a gift for the next person who comes by this spot. Tell him/her that you are making this place in nature a little more sacred by your blessing of creativity. Making art slows us down, and makes time together even more special for children.

6) Take a Class

Have you ever thought of taking a painting class? How about, glass blowing, painting, jewelry making, sewing, or quilting? Bead stores and hobby companies like Joann’s or Michael’s offer one-day classes of all kinds. Ceramic painting coffee shops have become popular in many towns.

My best tip to find an unexpected art adventure? Register with [ __title__ Groupon], which offers discounts for experiences daily. There is probably a creative opportunity very close to you, of which you may not be aware! Most can be used within a year.

7) Cloud Pictures

Remember laying in the grass, looking at clouds, and wondering what animal they would be? Making dandelion chains? Building log forts with sticks and stones? I spent full afternoons rearranging rocks in the Creek. Or my friends and I would draw with markers on old jeans or T-shirts.

There are so many things you can do to inspire creativity. Plan a monthly artist date with your favorite person… your child. You’ll reap more benefits than having a clean house, or cooking that extra meal.

I would love to hear your ideas for Easy Ways to Experience Art together as a Family.

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