Art Ideas and Activities for Children
Encourage your children to make art! Art-making is a wonderful learning activity for children, it allows for self-expression, and supports mindfulness practice.
Getting your children to be creative helps them develop many necessary skills for life! They get to problem-solve (figuring out ways to use the materials), practice independence (making choices for themselves), develop self-soothing skills (they learn positive ways of coping), and boosts confidence and self-esteem (“look what I made!”).
Some other crucial skills that art brings is bonding- so make art with your kids. Art is a great way to get conversation going too (hello, communication)! Let’s not forget learning responsibility- art supplies need to be cared for and cleaned up somehow. Talk to your children each step of the way.
Many of these activities are geared toward younger children but may also be enjoyed by older children because it can help access their imagination. Make it a family project, join your children and make your own too!
Materials that can help:
glue/glue stick, scissors, tape, paint, paint brushes, crayons, markers, pencil, paper, food coloring (might stain some fingers though)
Use recycled materials to make sculptures:
-empty boxes (tissue box, cardboard box, cereal box, shoe box)
-cardboard paper towel rolls
-scrap paper/ tissue paper/newspaper/wrapping paper
-plastic bottles/jars/lids/ milk jugs
-old magazines/mailbox flyers
-misc: buttons, yarn, beads, popsicle sticks, twigs, pebbles, material scraps, old shirts
Project ideas for sculpture:
-create a fantasy world or fairy world
-make a robot
-make a house/vehicle/castle
-create an animal
-nature challenge- use only items from nature
-create a diorama using a shoebox
-learn the art of paper-folding and make your own silly hats
Blind self-portrait or of someone else:
(paper, pencil, and/or markers)
Without looking at your paper, draw your face while looking in the mirror or draw a picture of someone else, but don’t look at your paper while you draw until you are done!
(paper, pencil, markers)
Close your eyes and make a big scribble on a paper for at least 5 seconds- try not to guide your hand (use circular motions, up and down, and sideways scribble.) When you are done look at your paper and turn it different directions to find pictures and color them or draw outlines so you can show other people what you see. Add to your drawing if you would like.
Make a story using drawings: (think like comic book):
(paper, pencil, crayon, markers)
You can fold your paper to make a book/pages, draw a grid or boxes on the paper, or fold your paper to make creases and open it back up so you now have a grid/lines on your paper.
Story themes: “My favorite day”, “If I were an animal”, “If I were an….” (astronaut, teacher, fireman, etc.) Draw a story about your family or one of your family members- don’t forget any pets!
Instead of drawing: Make a story using cut out pictures from magazines and add your own captions.
Finger and Thumbprint people-
(ink or paint- even food coloring can help, paper, markers, pencils, fingers and thumbs).
Using a little paint or ink, make a finger print and thumbprint on paper. Draw silly faces, hair, a body, and clothes. Have an adult cut out cardboard strips, cut your people out from the paper, and glue or tape them to make puppets.
Try making a handprint too - then draw or paint faces on the fingers and thumb!
(wax paper or parchment paper, paint, and blank paper) Get a square sheet of wax paper, put drops of paint in the center of the paper, fold it in half and gently smoosh the paint. Slowly open up your wax paper and gently lay a piece of blank paper to make a print of your art. If you don’t have blank paper, use recycled newspaper or inside of an empty cereal box.
(paint, miscellaneous home objects, paper)
Find home items that have texture or can create shapes, like spatula, sponge, bottom of jar or can, bottom of egg carton, bubble wrap, etc. Dip your object in the paint, just enough to make a print on paper. Be creative and make different things with your prints, like animals, flowers, trees, a silly bug, and more.
Tip- if you use a food safe item, do not use it again to handle food. If you use a shallow baking pan for paints, line it with plastic wrap first. Mix a few drops of water in paint color of your choice to make it a little fluid for printmaking.
(bubbles, food coloring, paper)
Mix a few drops of food coloring with bubbles in a small bowl. Blow your bubbles onto the paper to make a fun design.
Don’t have bubbles or food coloring? Draw your own using cans and jars as a circle template! Personalize them and give them faces with markers, crayons, or pencils.
Make watercolor paint using food coloring and water.
(large stones/rocks, paint, paintbrush)
Look for rocks in your yard- smooth ones are easiest to paint but you can use any rock. Clean your rock or stone really well with soap and water and let it dry. Look at your rock – what shape does it look like? Does it look like an animal or person?
Paint the rock to make it look more like what you see. Give it a face or hair. If you have glue, you can glue things on it like yarn for hair, or eye brows! Have some googly eyes or buttons for eyes?
Blow Painting- (Great for breathing and calming!)
(paint, straws, paper)
Mix a little water in some paints then put a few drops of it on paper. Use a straw to blow the paint around the paper. Keep going using more colors.
For older children (tweens and teens):
(old book, newspaper, magazine, pencil, colored pencil, paper, markers, paint)
For this one you are using existing text from a book or article to make a poem. Find a book you are willing to turn into an art project, a page from a magazine, or even newspaper page. Make sure the page is an article or filled with words and less pictures.
1) Skim (don’t read) the page and, with a pencil, circle any words that appeal to you- don’t worry about any of it making sense.
2) Skim through your circled words and write them on a separate paper in order of how they appear. Read through that and eliminate any words you feel won’t fit- crossing the word out or erasing the circle on our original page.
3) Once you have settled on your final poem, go back with dark or black markers to cover up words you didn’t circle. The idea is to make your circled words pop out more. You can also use paint- lots of great images on the internet to get ideas! You can completely darken the rest of the page or leave it somewhat transparent- it’s up to you!
Tip: If you are using paints, or add water to your paints to thin them, or use watercolor it may create some warping. If you plan to fill a book, just skip a couple pages in between.
Mixed Media Journaling:
(magazines, glue, paint, paper, scissors, markers, colored pencil, etc)
Using some of the ideas above, you can create an artistic journal page. (You can create backgrounds using the print-making technique, collage, paint blot technique, even just do a scribble drawing for a journal entry.
You don’t have to use words to journal- just express yourself on a page. Don’t have a journal book? That’s okay! Use newspaper, recycled cardboard, old books, or flyers from the mail about to be recycled.
(magazines, newspaper, old catalog, glue, scissors, paper, paint, etc)
Using magazines, newspaper, old catalogs- cut out pictures and words that interest you. Gather all your pictures and cut out words and assemble them on a page and glue them down to make a story or single caption.
(similar supplies for collage)
Find images of people and faces- use different pieces (eyes, noses, arms, legs etc.) to assemble from different people and create your own person or portrait to glue on paper.
Looking for more ideas? The internet is full of things-pop in some keywords and run a search through sites like Pinterest or YouTube for more.
The sky is the limit when it comes to art-making. Sometimes it can also help with learning a subject. Learning about an inventor? Make a sculpture of a made-up invention (or a protype of one the inventor created). Learning about space? Create a spaceship or make a diorama with a shoebox to create your own space scene. Learning about animals? Draw an animal if you were to put two animals together- what would it look like? Working on math? Create your own currency and make your own storefront to sell and buy goods. Teaching kids about recycling? Up-cycle those recyclables!
Art can be infused into learning in so many ways. Not feeling confident about coming up with ideas? Give your kids the task of coming up with their own- you may be surprised by their creativity!
Rochester Art Therapy is a mental health practice in Rochester, NY.
Photo credit: Devilsapricot at https://pixabay.com/users/devilsapricot-135481/
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Sheilagh is an Artist and Art Therapist who believes in healing with art and creativity.