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Giving Kids Their Own Space to Create

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The end of the school year is nearing. Have you been collecting projects and crafts and classroom-created art-work for the past nine months? Whether you're hoarding every precious piece of glitter-littered construction paper or wondering how you're going to continue to inspire creative thinking throughout the summer, we've got tips, ideas, and solutions for you. We chatted with Parents magazine Editor-in-Chief, Liz Vaccariello about how to give kids their own space to create and how to curate their little "arteests" growing portfolio.

How can a parent learn to objectively curate his or her kid's art work... and not keep everything!?

It’s great to have a file folder or bin dedicated to your child’s art work, but one of my best tips is to hang it up! Hanging up artwork in the space your children create art projects (the craft room, basement, etc.) can be empowering and encouraging. One way to display artwork is to create an art wall by running a “clothes line” along the wall and fasten multiple pictures with a clothespin. This makes it easy to also swap out different creations on a weekly or monthly basis.

Another great way to keep older pieces of work is to scan them into a computer. Save it to your desktop or a USB and then you’ll have it as a wonderful memory for years to come.

You can also encourage your children to specifically make artwork (at school or home) for neighbors, teachers, grandparents, aunts and uncles, etc. Offer to take a walk around the neighborhood with your child to do art drops. They’ll likely get excited to be dropping off these gifts to others and you can even have them write personal notes on the back for recipients. For those outside the neighborhood, package up any art work and make a trip to the post office together.

What are fun and creative ways mom can incorporate her child's art work into her own more grownup space/home?... Besides the fridge?

If you’re looking for something a bit more put-together than the clothesline style idea, why not try a nice frame? Once a school year or so, when your child brings home a piece that he or she is extra excited about, work on framing and hanging the piece together. Turning a paper drawing into a nice canvas print is another great way to liven up artwork.

You can also transform your child’s artwork into functional home items such as placemats, mousepads, coasters, blankets, magnets and more!

Any tips to create a functional and kid-friendly arts-and-crafts space for kids?

If you’re tired of the kitchen and coffee tables being covered in glitter, you’re definitely not alone. Designating a spot for children to produce art is a great way to inspire creativity. Location is important here. Ideally, your children’s art space should have clear lines, but also be close to where the family often spends time. Store supplies so that kids have easy access and don’t need to call for you every time they need a clean paintbrush. By designing the space specifically for them you’ll help inspire creativity and play.

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What crafting essentials should Mom always have on hand for herself and her kids?

Having the right tools is definitely just as important as having the space. Jessica Balsley, founder and president of The Art of Education, says that we shouldn’t cheap out on art supplies because, “children (subconsciously) understand the weight and the quality – that’s why they always want our toothbrush or our hammer.” We should opt for the highest-quality materials we can get within our budget.

Another must-know is that we should edit the materials based on children’s ages. For example, a plethora of supplies may be overwhelming for our younger artists. Balsley advises that for toddlers, it’s best to only put out one piece of paper and a couple of crayons at a time.

It is okay to judge your needed supplies based on your child’s age, capabilities and the storage space you have to offer. One of my go-to tips is to protect whatever table you designate for the space with an oil cloth for a wipes-clean surface. You can use a staple gun to attach or even a heavy duty tape.

Finally, Balsley recommends giving kids one black permanent marker in their basic art kit. Yep, you read that right. “The Sharpie will be your children’s favorite art supply,” she says. The quality of the permanent marker line is bold and satisfying. It’s also great for when your child wants to color over it with paint or glue as it won’t run. Adult supervision is always a great idea here, but don’t be afraid to let your child experiment.

 How can Mom and Dad encourage creativity and simultaneously keep their home organized and neat?

In addition to creating a specific space to create in your home, I think the most important tip is to make clean-up time a requirement. Don’t be afraid of the mess or clutter, it just means that our children’s growing brains are hard at work and developing in a positive way. But make clean-up time a solid rule whenever children spend time in their Space to Create area. The first few times this will have to be a learning experience, and parents may even need to teach children how to clean and put things away, but it’s an important lesson and will keep you from having a breakdown from noticing items constantly out of place.

When is the right time to let loose and get messy? Is there ever a time to embrace the mess?

Absolutely there is! Children really love getting messy, it’s a great way to loosen up. Think of messy art projects as the child equivalent of your go-to hobby for stress-relief and feeling free – that’s making a mess for our children! Research has shown that many people, children and adults, tend to be more creative in untidy spaces. The place you create for your children to use for arts and crafts should be a place where they are allowed to be messy. Think nonporous work surfaces that easily wipe clean and old rugs, flooring samples or tiles where dried paint splatters, marker stains and a few stray cotton balls only add to the inspiration. However, once creative time is over clean up time begins!

This is not a sponsored post. All opinions are our own.

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