Our Children's Art Area + Creating an Artist Mindset
Many of us are spending a lot of time at home right now. I know there is one thing that will keep my toddler very busy and learning at home every day of the week. That is art and creating! I've been reading and learning about children's art spaces in Montessori and also in Reggio environments. While this art area is uniquely ours I wanted to share it with you.
This art space is on our back deck, it's an almost seamless indoor/outdoor environment. The deck is covered and is suitable for working in all year round.
Our art environment:
- is ordered - a place for everything, easy for the child to put things back.
- is child accessible - low shelves, low art table, low easel.
- is inviting and approachable - open or clear containers, easy for the child to see what is available, clear table/space for creating.
- has high-quality art materials - as much as possible.
- has age-appropriate materials - used under full supervision.
- has lots of light
- is easy to clean up - surfaces wipe down easily, mats used under painting areas.
- is calm - not overstimulating, no extraneous materials.
- has limited amount of materials - this is always a balance between too much and not enough, we rotate our art materials, always leave out what is being used/of interest to the child.
- has easy access to nature - this is not possible in all of our spaces, this art area is on our back deck and is frequented by native birds. We often take the large easel down and use under our eucalyptus trees.
- is unrushed - we currently have lots of time for uninterrupted work which is important for developing concentration and connecting with the materials, time for exploration and experimentation.
- has an atmosphere of acceptance - with art I believe there is no such thing as a mistake or doing things the wrong way (unless it's a safety issue), the child's art is uniquely theirs.
The materials. On the left shelves:
- Paint in squeezy bottles
- Coloured tape
- Collage paper - coloured card squares
- Oil pastels
- Crayon pencils (we use these and these)
- Various paint brushes
- Refillable dot markers
- Craft sticks - natural
- Modelling clay
On the right shelves:
- Pump poster/acrylic paints
- Masking tape
- 2 x Tempera paint palettes
- Acrylic mirror
- Glass paint pots/jars
- Paper - various size, colour, weights, textures
- Paint rollers
- Trays and paint palettes
Out of picture:
- Table-top easel
- Table-top acrylic/see-through easel
- Large floor easel
Out of rotation:
- Natural/Earth clay - I like to keep this on the shelves so will put it back on our shelves as soon as possible
- Wax/beeswax crayons
- Liquid watercolour paints
- Charcoal/graphite crayons
- Stamps - to use with ink
- Paint sticks
- Rubbing plates
- Kite paper
- Tissue paper
- Metallic paper
- Origami paper
- Large/sidewalk chalk
- Various shape/theme hole punches
- Coloured craft sticks
- Wire - artist or florist wire
- Coloured twine
- Mosaic tiles
- Diffusing paper
- Paint in spray bottles
- Markers/chalk markers
- Additional props as needed - we often use model animals or vehicles, flowers, shells, seedpods or our entire nature basket, photographs or other images, paint swatches.
The mindset of the artist is like a scientist or explorer. As parents or care-givers we can allow the child to:
- be an explorer - encourage mixing, play, pouring, touching, smearing, dripping.
- be curious - provide different materials that behave in different ways.
- be free to make choices - allow the child to choose which materials to use.
- be free from judgement - provide as much space and time as possible without commentary.
- have an open mind - don't make assumptions for the child and teach, we need to allow the child to make the discovery themselves.
- view art and creating as an everyday right - not a specialised subject, not separate from other parts of learning.
- become literate with the materials - children might not take to the materials immediately, they very often need time to explore and become familiar or 'media literate' develop a knowledge of how the materials can be used. Children need to explore and discover the unique capacities and teachiques that each material offers.
- use art as an expressive language - make meaningful relationships with the materials and use them to express and communicate.
Ever notice how the child may spend longer playing with the paints than actually painting? Mixing, prodding, pouring, watching, stirring paint is a huge part of the process!!
Here Otto spent less than a minute playing with the modelling clay and pushing in the pipe-cleaners, this play was short but still important.
It isn't all about the art, here Otto is learning about how his body works.
Otto loves using the easel and it's worth finding one that is height adjustable or at the right height for your child's body.
"Taking a cure from Reggio's successful model, a child's home drawing environment should be clean and orderly, have sufficient light and be readily accessible. In addition to having a place to work and materials to work with, the drawing space should be relatively free from visual overload... In other words, parents are advised to resist the temptation to make the at-home studio space look 'artsy' or 'cute' by tacking up posters or adding shelves for stuffed animals and favourite figurines. The child's drawing environment should be neutral enough to encourage imagination, exploration and experimentation. When in doubt, opt for simplicity and recall the all-famous quote by the modernist architect Ludwig Mies van der Rohde: 'Less is more'." - Children Draw: A guide to why, when and how children make art.
"Studios are spaces for productivity, for sure, in terms of making objects and building performances. But they are also spaces where minds can and must pursue their thoughts without censorship or shame, where there is time for looking and listening and freedom of expression, and where there is commitment to go deeper into questions that much be addressed." - In The Spirit Of The Studio: Learning From The Atelier Of Reggio Emilia.
Relevant previous articles:
Setting Up The Toddler Art Environment - by a Montessori Art Teacher.
Our Montessori Art Areas - through the years!
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