Making Art with Kids: Guides for the Craft-Impaired

Contributed by Jennie Marable

An oft-cited fear of those considering homeschooling is the subject of math, or rather, teaching the subject of math. I’m not jumping up and down at the thought of revisiting (or let’s be real–learning for the very first time) Geometry, but what really gave me the shivers was the thought of doing art projects with my kids. I am tragically, dramatically bad at art–all of it. I can’t draw, can’t paint, can’t sculpt, can’t knit or knot. Even my handwriting is offensive to the eye. But homeschooling is all about being resourceful, and stretching, and going to the library and figuring it out. How-to books are often expensive, and even more often, sorta dumb, so I’d like to share the fruits of our research. Here are two of our favorite guides to arts & crafts!

For ages 1-3

Craft1The look on that jellyfish’s face sums up my feelings about crafty-ness…but thank goodness for Crafty Kids: Fun Projects for You and Your Toddler, by Rosie Hankin. This book guided me through some simple, little kid-friendly craft projects. No expensive materials or harrowing trips to Michaels necessary. We made sea creatures and monster trucks and lots o’ things with egg cartons. But then we outgrew the projects and needed something more sophisticated, so I found this:

For ages 4-forever

Craft2Discovering Great Artists: Hands-On Art for Children in the Styles of the Great Masters, by MaryAnn Kohl & Kim Solga. Some of the projects in this book are still beyond us, and some of them we can do now and do later–it’s a book to grow with, and into. It’s organized by style and has a pretty broad overview of Western art from the Renaissance to the Modern period. Each project idea is pretty prescriptive, which I like. It helps me to prep an activity, give my learners some basic instructions and then let them interpret it in their own fashion–creativity abounds! Each artist-inspired activity includes a small biography and discussion of each artist’s style, and my pre-schoolers enjoy listening to these while they work. One caveat: The artists represented are drawn heavily from the traditional Western canon, so you will not find a lot of women represented, and I think there are only two artists of color, but the projects are so great I think it’s worth it to find some supplementary works. I’ve discovered a great way to introduce young children to art outside the canon is through folktales. Go check out some good quality illustrated folk tales or fables from the library. The illustrations are usually a great springboard for fun crafts–we have made traditional African masks, Pueblo Indian geometric designs, arranged mosaics, written calligraphy, designed totems, and done traditional Chinese panel painting–all ideas borrowed from children’s books found at our awesome Portland public libraries. Happy Making!

Craft3

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