Over the years, I’ve had parents approach me at my programs and say “I bet you do a ton of art at home with your kids, right?” They are very surprised when I tell them that no, actually, I don’t!
The reason is this. I have a very active son. And I mean active with a capital A. He decided he was done napping when he was 13 months old and celebrated this decision by vaulting out of his crib. I have a younger daughter who puts everything in her mouth. Absolutely everything. So art supplies were not the best match for our active, mouthy little household. My one experiment with crayons resulted in eight decorated walls, and my son referring to my daughter as a “great artist” with something akin to awe in his voice.
This winter, however, I decided that everyone was a little older (and hopefully, a little more careful) and we were ready to try again. I put together a little art studio, in a little house, on a little budget.
I decided that the studio would be in our kitchen, since we already had a second-hand table parked there that had previously served as a train table for my son. I purchased a couple $4 art caddies from Michaels craft store:
Inside the caddies are scissors, a glue stick, a hole punch, markers (regular and thin), a tape dispenser (for a good one, see this post), and plastic shape tracers purchased 3 years ago.
We had been using 3 drawers in the kitchen for toy storage. I moved the toys elsewhere and set up art storage.
The top drawer holds crayons, colored pencils, and regular pencils. The middle drawer holds construction paper and patterned paper. The bottom drawer has sketch pads and white paper. It might seem like overkill to have these supplies divided into three drawers, but I wanted the kids to be able to segregate the supplies easily and put them away on their own (it worked too!).
The final art storage area is located in the bottom of our pantry, which is right next to the art table. Again, I didn’t pack the pantry full of supplies because I wanted the kids to have plenty of room to access the supplies and put them away on their own.
I stocked a canvas bin full of clean recyclables: empty oatmeal containers, cereal boxes, tissue boxes, toilet paper tubes, paper towel tubes, plastic retail packaging, tea tins, etc. Every now and then, I replenish the bin with new stuff. In many ways, it’s a small-scale version of the recyclable program I run at my library. Here’s the canvas “art bin” in action:
Tucked next to the art bin are containers with Playdough…
Watercolors (not tempura or finger paint – not quite going there yet) plus extra brushes
And a miniature version of the Bling Bin, which contains odds and ends like pom-poms, pipe cleaners, a pair of unused shoe laces, ribbon, clothespins, feathers, craft sticks, even those little hook thingees that come on new pairs of socks.
Also in the pantry was the biggest splurge – a huge roll of easel paper for floor projects. But a 40% off coupon really helped knock down the price. In fact, I used Michaels 40% off coupons for all of this stuff, slowly acquiring supplies and stashing them in the basement until the big reveal on New Year’s Day.
So, how did the art studio go over? That morning, my son spent 4 hours in the studio, creating things. He made a roadway with easel paper, a jet pack, a rocket, a drawing of a haunted house, a train map, and a train bird feeder, which he promptly asked me to hang on the porch. These days, he’ll head to the art studio to manufacture his own toys to play with. Here’s a shot of that snazzy train bird feeder. Look at that fancy tape work!
My daughter favors Playdough, coloring, and using pom-poms from the Bling Bin in various scenarios around the house (ice cream store, grocery store, some sort of complicated sports game with vague scoring parameters). Often, she can often be found scribbling away at the art table with multiple markers at once. She says this is a drawing of a playground. Can you guess what her two absolutely favorite colors are?
This past holiday weekend, we stepped into the studio to create some snazzy submarines with spinning propellers (toilet paper tubes, drinking straws, cereal box cardboard, and plastic medicine cups).
And, continuing with the nautical theme, we also made these boats out of tin foil (that’s sailboat on the left and a rowboat on the right). Then we floated them in the bathroom sink.
In short, the studio was a success and I didn’t need to invest in something big like an easel, shelving, or even new storage bins to make it work. In fact, I was surprised and delighted to learn that many of the containers and art supplies were already lurking in the house.
Oh, I can still fantasize about my dream home, where a whole room would be dedicated to art. It would have big windows, a sink, a tile floor, a drying rack, a patchwork sofa, a drafting desk, decorative mobiles hanging from the ceiling, and walls adorned with the cheerful work of my genius children.
But right now, I’m happy with my little kitchen studio, and so are my little artists.