Art with Littles, by Jennifer - MetroFamily Magazine
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Art with Littles, by Jennifer

by Jennifer Geary

Reading Time: 3 minutes 

As my two-year-old has gotten bigger, one of the biggest challenges with homeschooling is that she wants to do everything her brother does.  Never mind that her brother is seven years older and two feet taller, she’s determined to try the same things.  If she wants the same math sheet, that’s an easy enough fix.  While he’s doing fractions, we can take the same page and look for certain numbers or count the problems, and usually that satisfies her.

Art is another story.  It’s pretty obvious if Jack has paints out and she doesn’t.  When she was younger, I could make some substitutions.  Instead of giving her regular paint, I would give her bathtub paint—soap, really.  It colored things but was easy to clean and didn’t stain.  Now that she’s older, though, she catches on to these things, so I’ve had to make a plan, and after her amazing work last week, I think I’m ready to share it!

  1. Break projects into steps:  Really, this has been a sanity saver for all of us, not just the two year old.  Sometimes it’s hard to find a large uninterrupted block of time to complete a project in one sitting, but if we do a step or two and then come back later for more, it’s easier to fit in projects that might otherwise get passed over.  It also gives less time for frustration (on everybody’s part!) to build.
  2. Prepare materials ahead of time:  Again, this is helpful for kids of all ages.  If you have the materials they need sitting out, there’s less confusion for everyone.  I also do any cutting ahead of time for my daughter because if it’s already cut, she’s good with it, but if she thinks I’m helping her out, she doesn’t like that.  Another tip: if you’re working on a table, tape your papers onto the table before you start.  It’s no fun to have someone sneeze and blow their paper onto someone else’s.  Not that that’s happened around here or anything.
  3. Exchange materials:  I can’t pass off the bathtub paints anymore, but I do sometimes make substitutions.  If it’s been a crazy day and you can’t imagine adding watercolor paints to the mix, bring out the watercolor pencils instead.  We’ve done projects that called for oil paints with oil pastels and they looked great, the mess was minimized, and everyone was able to be successful.
  4. Have extras:  It never fails that if I have only exactly what we need, someone will spill or rip or in some way completely destroy an essential part.  When you add a toddler in, these things are 267% more likely to happen.  Or they’ll want to add seventeen sticky eyes to their project instead of two.   Or they want to glue three thicknesses of tissue paper instead of one.  The possibilities for using extra supplies are endless, so go ahead and have the extras out already.
  5. Be flexible:  Without fail, Alice wants to try what we’re doing, and at least half the time, if not more, she ends up going off with her own idea.  It’s okay.  I’m not expecting a perfect project from my seven year old, let alone from the two year old that just wants to try it out.  It’s a chance for her to explore with different supplies and just have fun.  Oooh and aaah over what they’ve created and enjoy it.
  6. Work alongside them:  If you simply tell your kids how to do a project or show them an example, they’re not going to enjoy it as much as if you work with them.  I always set up three spots when we do a project and go through the steps with them.  It helps them to see what the next step is going to look like as they get to it and if you’re like me and a little art-impaired, it also shows them that even adults have difficulties, too.

As your kids get older, they will be able to create art projects more like the examples.  Sometimes they’ll be able to do it when they’re young, too.  No matter how they turn out, enjoy your time creating together!


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