Fostering creativity won't just increase your child's chances of becoming the next Picasso. You're also helping him develop mentally, socially, and emotionally, says Ecklund-Flores. Creating art may boost young children's ability to analyze and problem-solve in myriad ways, according to Mary Ann F. Kohl, author of Primary Art: It's the Process, Not the Product. As kids manipulate a paintbrush, their fine motor skills improve. By counting pieces and colors, they learn the basics of math. When children experiment with materials, they dabble in science. Most important perhaps, when kids feel good while they are creating, art helps boost self-confidence. And children who feel able to experiment and to make mistakes feel free to invent new ways of thinking, which extends well beyond the craft room.
6 Ways to Inspire Creativity
Foster process-focused art with advice from Leslie Bushara, deputy director for education at the Children's Museum of Manhattan.
- Prepare for a mess. Set up an art space where your kid can be free to experiment (and get messy!), advises Bushara. Throw a drop cloth or a newspaper on top of your kitchen table or in the garage. If weather permits, let kids paint outside.
- Avoid giving direction. Don't tell your kid what to make or how to make it. Instead of saying, "Paint a rainbow," encourage her to "experiment with mixing colors using different types of brushes and paper," suggests Bushara.
- Speak specifically about art. When talking to your child about his artwork, try to be precise in your comments. For instance, instead of giving a generic compliment, Bushara recommends saying, "I see you used a lot of purple. Why did you choose that color?"
- Explore your child's process. Often the best way to encourage conversation about your child's art is simply to say, "Tell me about what you made," or ask, "Did you have fun making it?"
- Don't draw with your child. When parents draw something representational while a younger child is sketching, it can frustrate him, warns Bushara. "It's better to be near him and let him know that you're interested and supportive of his art-making," she says.
- Let it be. When a child finishes a piece, don't suggest additions or changes, advises Bushara. It's important for a child to feel that what she's created is enough -- even if it's just a dot on the page.
Fresh Art Ideas
Go beyond doodling with markers or crayons with these projects from art educators that encourage kids to enjoy the process of making art.
Natural arrangements Present your child with natural objects such as pinecones, stones, sticks, leaves, and shells, and a blank stretched canvas. Let her choose and arrange her nature materials in various patterns and designs on the canvas.
-- Cathy Southerland, director of early childhood education at The Children's Museum of Indianapolis
Shaving-cream canvas Spray shaving cream onto a cookie sheet and add a few drops of food coloring. Let your child blend colors and make designs in the foam.
-- Cathy Southerland, The Children's Museum of Indianapolis
Found-object printmaking Take everyday objects (bottle caps, wood pieces, cut cardboard, fruit and vegetable slices, corks, sponges, marker caps) and let children ages 4 and up dip them in washable paint that's been spread on a foam tray. Use the objects to make unique prints.
-- Amy Yang, founder of Brooklyn Design Lab
Packing-peanut sculpture Slightly dampen the end of one packing "peanut" (the biodegradable kind made from cornstarch) and stick it to another to build tall, spiraling towers and beautiful shapes.
-- Andrew Ackerman, executive director of the Children's Museum of Manhattan
The Ultimate Art-Supply List
- modeling clay
- washable paint
- cotton swabs
- stamps and inkpads
- washable markers
- colored pencils
- plain and colored paper
- tissue paper
- craft foam
- ice-pop sticks
- chenille stems
- colored tape
- cotton balls
- sequins and glitter
- ribbon, yarn, string
- packing peanuts
- drinking straws
- egg cartons
- cardboard tubes
- cupcake liners
- paper plates
- plastic cutlery
- magazines, newspapers, catalogs
- wallpaper samples
- wax paper
- aluminum foil
When it comes to crafting with kids, there’s one magical material that always comes through: paper. Whether it’s construction paper, computer paper, or yesterday’s newspaper, your art supply drawer isn’t complete without this particular DIY ingredient. That’s why we’ve gathered up 20 crafts that spotlight paper in a big way, from cootie catchers to garlands to festive hats. Check ’em out below!
photo: Alpha Mom
Hop to this hat craft that you can make anytime of year (not just Easter!). Directions from our friend Alpha Mom call for scissors, one pink marker, and one paper plate. The site offers other great ideas for paper plat hats like decorative crowns and heart hats so check it out. For more great simple and fun hat crafts click here.
photo: Fireflies & Mudpies
Giant Paper Airplane
We love this jumbo-sized paper airplane the crafty mom behind Fireflies & Mudpies made for only $1! Have the kids decorate the wings before heading outside for an afternoon of flight lessons. See these fierce flyers in action, and learn to make your own here.
photo: Creative Jewish Mom
Simple Apple Tree Craft
This craft involves a little bit of twist and a little bit of curl. And remember there are many fruits out there that you can jazz the branches up with. Maybe add a bird or a squirrel or two! Check out Creative Jewish Mom for the full low down on how to twist, curl, and create this fun paper bag craft.
For more paper bag crafts click here.
photo: Mer Mag Blog
Paper Doll Chain Ballerinas
Paper doll chains are a pretty classic paper craft and we think this one from Mer Mag has a particularly irresistible charm. It's perfect for your aspiring prima ballerina's room decor or next birthday party. Learn more here.
photo: Handemade Charlotte
Props to Handmade Charlotte, who came up with this super cute and easy idea for critter-inspired masks. All you need is repurposed paper bags, sharpies, and some imagination to get a house full of wild animals. Click here for all the inspiration you need.
For more easy masks that'll transform your day, click here.
photo: A Subtle Revelry
Bright Cat Garland
This one goes out to all the itty bitty kitty lovers out there. Thanks to A Subtle Revelry, you can whip up a DIY garland that's totally cat-tastic. The shapes and gluing are pretty simple and you can customize colors and whiskers too. Find the how-to here. For more easy garland ideas, click here.
photo: Buggy & Buddy
Crumpled Paper Art
Are you digging the tie dye effect of this art from Buggy & Buddy? This activity is all about cheery watercolor and the perfection of imperfection. Get all the info you need here.
photo: Babble Dabble Do
Homemade Harvest Herb Paper
Okay, so this craft is less crafting-with-paper and more make-your-own-paper. It’s an educational combo of art, science, and design and a great way to teach the littles about where paper comes from. Head here to Babble Dabble Do for step-by-step instructions for all kinds of homemade paper.
photo: Cutting Tiny Bites
Here’s something to roar about: an ultra-easy dinosaur hat from Cutting Tiny Bites. Great when you need a quick prop for pretend play or a special accessory for that dinosaur party. Learn more here.
For 9 more dinosaur activities for kids, click here.
photo: Babble Dabble Do
Your budding architects will get a kick out of creating their own paper town. After some adult prep (for the x-acto knife steps), this turns into a paper coloring and gluing activity that’s sure to entertain for an afternoon. Snag the free house template at Babble Dabble Do here.
photo: Easy Peasy Fun
You know those cootie catchers you couldn’t get enough of when you were a kid? They’ve gotten a shark twist from Easy Peasy and Fun. Get the kids prepped for beginning origami and then get the template and instructions here.
photo: Confetti Sunshine
Printable Shadow Puppets
Cardstock straws glue = some of the cutest shadow puppets you’ve ever seen. If the littles aren’t scissors savvy yet, you can handle that part and then pass the puppets off for coloring. Score the downloadable free printable here.
For more awesome shadow puppets click here to discover 3 easy shadow puppets you can make with just your hands.
photo: Intello Kids Blog
Newspaper Sun Hats
Your teatime will be extra stylish with a DIY newspaper hat. This is a great way to use up old newspapers–and your little miss can go wild with whatever flowery, feathery toppers she wants. Find out more here.
For more fun and easy hat craft ideas for kids, click here.
photo: Create in the Chaos
Dragon Marionette Puppet
This idea from Create in the Chaos is one of those deceptively easy crafts. It only needs a few materials, there’s a free printable involved, and we’re willing to bet that your kid will be glad to color away. Get everything you need here.
photo: Babble Dabble Do
Kirigami Water Blossoms
This idea from Babble Dabble Do is one part science lesson, one part paper project, and totally amazing. It involves paper flowers that expand in water–mimicking the real-life natural phenomenon. Click here for the full instructions.
Which paper craft are you excited to try? Share with us in the comment section below!
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