Updated: Aug 25, 2019
Would you like to create a space where your child can go to unwind and get creative? A place where your child will feel in control and at ease. Building a space for art is oftentimes easier than we think and the benefits of creative play are immense.
This space could be in your house, outside, or in both places if you have the room for it. Personally I like to keep the messiest stuff outside, like paint and play dough, but there was a time when we did both in the house. It all depends on the age of your kids, climate, the size of your living space and what you are comfortable with.
Your art space could be as small as one drawer in your kitchen full of supplies and a designated open space on the kitchen floor where the kids can sprawl out with these supplies and get messy. You could label the drawer "Kids Art Supplies" then grab some blue masking tape and make a sprawled out kid sized rectangle near the drawer. Tell your children that these supplies can come out whenever they want, but they must stay within the boundary of the tape. Get down on the ground and show them how to do it, remind them that this is their art space and they can come to it whenever they want. You can occasionally switch out the art supplies in the drawer, put the ones they aren't using in a large bin in your garage, and put new supplies in the drawer. They will get excited when they open the drawer and there is something new in it.
At my house we have a few art making spaces both inside and out. It started small and it slowly grew. When my daughter was around one and a half I had her sit at the dining table to paint, I kept supplies in my garage. After a while, I got tired of bringing all the stuff into the house and having to cover the table. That's when I bought an easel and put all painting supplies outside. It helps that we live in southern California and it's always warm down here! I found an outdoor bench that has a storage seat that opens and I put all the paints and brushes in there. My kids now know that they can paint at the easel any time they want. They also know that they can paint on the driveway, back porch, rocks, tree branches, cardboard boxes. etc. At our house nothing outside is precious, although I did draw the line when my daughter asked if she could paint our car. Thinking back I could have let her paint the tires, that would have been fun!
It took me a while before I found a space to put a kids workspace inside. When we first moved into our house we had a small corner in the living room that was unused, I put a plant there. I used to stare at this corner thinking it was such a waste of space. Then one day it occurred to me that I could get a small toddler table and put it in the corner for snacks and other activities and hence our art corner was born. Last winter my kids spent countless hours playing with play dough at this living room corner. I discovered that they liked using kitchen utensils (garlic press, egg cutter, meat pounding tools) more than they liked using all the plastic play dough tools that I had bought for them. But the mess was real. Eventually I got tired of stepping on play dough chunks and picking up play dough off the living room floor, so I bought a plastic multi-drawer container from Target and I moved play dough outside next to the easel. We have a small picnic table out there as well, so it was the perfect setup. Now everything messy is outside.
This year I expanded our indoor art making space. We had a funky area in the back of our kitchen behind an island wall that was never used. It was kind of like my living room corner, I saw it as another waste of space. Meanwhile, a cabinet full of art supplies in my living room was a bursting mess, so I decided to turn our unused kitchen space into an even more kid accessible art corner. For about $60 I purchased some cubby shelves from target and a soft rug to make the space feel more cozy and this became the new art center. Everything in this space is accessible to my kids and they don't have to pick up their stuff every day because I don't use this space for anything else. Now my 4 year old daughter often disappears behind the kitchen isle, spreads her stuff out on the floor and will quietly entertain herself there. It's magical.
Making things easy and accessible for your kids and you is the most important aspect when creating an art center. With a trip to Target and a little trial and error, you'll figure out the best art center setup for your family. Start looking around your house for your waste of space, I bet you will find one!
If you would like to create an art space for your child, but don't have the time or know where to start, please contact me for a consultation! I would love to create an amazing space that your children could use for years to come! If you would like to read more about the importance of building a creative work station for kids at the office click here.
Above is the evolution of our art spaces: (top left) My daughter finger painting at the kitchen table, painting in our first outdoor space, our first art corner table, (bottom) both kids painting in our current outdoor space, our current indoor worktable/gallery wall, our new art corner.