If we want our children to be creative, open-minded,problem solvers, and freely themselves, the best way that we can do that is to provide them with an environment in their space where they can freely access materials to create at any point. This post will give you pointers into setting up an art studio in your home (if you’re in a classroom, the info is the same, just on a larger scale). Make sure to check out the post about Why Your Child Needs an Art Space to understand the incredible benefits of doing this – it’s some serious motivation to make this happen!
This is a series of posts designed to help you create an open-ended art space that will inspire your child to be creative, expressive, and to share their ideas and interests through visual art.
PART 2- How to Create an Art Space in Your Home or Classroom
PART 3- Setting Up Invitations to Create
“Art is as natural as sunshine, and as vital as nourishment.” – MaryAnn F. Kohl
Setting up an art space in your home might seem overwhelming if this is something you haven’t done before, but if you follow some of these guidelines, this will help make it seem a bit easier and get you started on creating this wonderful free art space for your kids to enjoy.
Step One: Decide where your art space is going to go
This is a big decision! A lot of times it’s our instinct to want to repurpose an old, unused corner of the house or put the art space away from the everyday places in order to “keep the mess contained.” However, when we do this, what we usually find is that our kids just won’t go there to engage. It’s natural that your children want to be where you are. That’s why they bring their toys to the living room or the art supplies tend to pile up on the kitchen table. Wherever the family energy is, that’s where the kids want to be! So unless you enjoy spending your time hanging out in the cold basement, it’s probably not the best place for your kids’ art space!
Instead, look at where the family action already is. Ask yourself – as a family, where do we spend most of our time together? THAT is where your art space should go. Do some brainstorming – sit down in your “usual spot” and look around you. What can be moved or shifted to make space for creativity? Can anything be repurposed? What makes the most logistical sense? Is there space for storage and organization? Is there a surface for the kids to work on? In our home, we decided that a formal dining room wasn’t a need for our family at this stage of our lives, so we turned that room into our art space, since it’s connected to the family living room and the kitchen, where 90% of our awake time is spent anyway.
A note on space: The beauty of an independent art space is that the size doesn’t matter. Think about a professional chef – could they still create an AMAZING meal in a tiny NYC apartment kitchenette? You betcha! What matters isn’t the size of the kitchen they’re working in, but the quality of their tools and ingredients. The same is true for your art space – even if you’re working with a small apartment, a rolling art cart, and a double-duty eating/art table, it’s the intention that matters most.
Step Two: Organization
Before you bring in any art materials or invite your kids to start creating, set yourself up for organization from the beginning! Think about the art materials you want to provide to your kids (not just right now, but in the future when they have free access to everything) – where will those things go? Consider your big needs, like shelves, carts, drawers, etc. and your small needs – individual containers for materials like glass jars, buckets, bins, baskets, trays, etc.
My favorite place to shop for these kinds of things are IKEA and container sections of stores like Target (I’ve found some of our best little glass jars at the Target dollar spot before! Win win!).
You also want to think about setting yourself up for success for AFTER the art takes place. How will cleanup happen easily and efficiently? Adding things like a trash can, a dust buster, and recycling bin for unused art supplies can go a long way towards keeping an inspired, organized space. Also, if you’re concerned about things dripping or spilling on the floor, cover them! Area rugs on top of carpet will protect from paint or opened markers, and keeps you from being worried every time someone touches a paint brush!
Step Three: Introducing Materials
Once you’ve chosen your location and determined how you’re going to organize everything, it’s time to bring in your art materials. What you DON’T want to do is give your kids who have only ever had access to coloring books and crayons sudden access to 50,000 materials! That example is a bit dramatic, of course, but the sentiment is still true. Start by including only the materials that your children are already used to using in a freely accessible way. If they don’t currently have access to paint without asking you, don’t put paint on the shelves yet. If they’ve never touched clay before, don’t put that out yet. Start only with what they are familiar with using and give them some time to adjust to the space itself.
When your children have adjusted to having a new art space and are used to using their familiar materials, then you can strategically introduce new things, one at a time. Set up invitations to explore and create with the new material (more on this in Part 3 of the series), talk about special storage needs (like marker caps need to go on and clay needs to be in a container), and point out where it will go in the art space when it’s not in use. Allow time to explore this new material before the next is introduced.
And that’s it! Those three simple steps will help you get started with your open-ended, free art space in your home.
Remember – don’t wait until everything is perfect and Pinterest-worthy. This space will always be evolving and changing, just like your kids, so just get started!
Make sure you share photos of your new space with us on social media with the hashtag #yournaturallearner or come share and ask questions and be inspired in our Facebook group.
Not sure where to start? Grab your free printable Art Space Supplies List here!