Image courtesy of Laura Stewart DeRosa

How families are engaging their children with the creative arts while sheltering-in-place.

Around the world, schools have closed and governments are issuing Stay at Home orders to stop the spread of Coronavirus (COVID-19). This means families are self-isolating and hunkering down at home. If you have kids, this may seem like both a blessing and a curse. Be it a toddler or a tween, you’re probably scratching your head on how to fill the hours of the day, and most importantly, establish a sense of normalcy and calm in your household.  

This is a time to be creative with how we engage with each other, especially our kids. As artists, we are an innovative bunch. Now is the time to embrace our ability to create ... with our children! Looking for inspiration? Here are a few ways families are using art to build connections. 

 

Create space for making.

Our children have a right to a space in our home and, let's be honest, they already take up most of the home anyways. Create a dedicated spot for them to unleash their imagination and make art. 

Denver-based artist Laura Stewart DeRosa has transformed her dining room into an “enticing space to create and learn” for her seven-year-old and four-year-old sons. “I put up a clothesline for artwork, gave them each a whiteboard and markers, and reorganized a bunch of art materials to seem like new again,” she shares.

And, it’s ok for these spaces to seep into the rest of the house. “We have nothing but time on our hands, so I am open to total destruction of the studio or kitchen for the sake of a creative experience,” said Stewart DeRosa.

Get started at home. Share an artist’s studio with your kids. Whitney Museum artists are giving virtual tours. And, Artist’s Studio Museum Network lets you see famous artist studios around the world. One of our favorites from their site is Salvador Dalí’s home and studio. 

 

Be inspired by the Masters.

In art school we learn from the Masters; we study their techniques in museums and in the classroom. Our kids can learn from looking closely at artwork, too. 

Sarah Levine, a mom sheltering-in-place in San Francisco, uses book covers to inspire her toddler. She gives him a head start by outlining some of the major shapes and then lets him interpret the book covers of classics like Eric Carle’s The Hungry Caterpillar.

Get started at home: Try using the book covers of Beatrix Potter, Maurice Sendak and Artwork Archive user, Oliver Jeffers, who is also hosting live readings of his books on Instagram, every day at 2 pm EST!

Image courtesy of Andrew Cunningham. 

 

Invest all of this time in a long-term project. 

Everything is slowing down. We have (lots!) more time at home with our children. You can use this time to invest in longer-term projects like constructing sculptures, painting large works or creating a book.

One family is utilizing their backyard and exploring a new type of artmaking—woodworking! Andrew Cunningham, a sculptor in Gloucester, Massachusetts, is opening his shop to his 12-year old son and making impressive chairs out of sticks. 

“We venture into our woods to cut down black birch saplings, haul the wood back up the hill, take measurements, make sketches, and then spend the rest of the day building,” shares Cunningham.

Giving our kids time to collect materials and formulate plans is a wonderful way to ignite imagination and cultivate creative thinking. 

Art is providing them with an opportunity to keep their minds engaged, learn new skills, and spend their days. This new situation in which they have so much more free time is providing them an opportunity to explore new kinds of art making.” Andrew Cunningham

Get started at home: Look up the works of Maya Lin, Patrick Dougherty and Andy Goldsworthy with your kids and try a project inspired by their environmental art. 

 

Lead by example. Demonstrate for your kids.  

“My son really likes to ‘watch Mommy do it,’” says Sarah from San Francisco. And why not enjoy this downtime with our kids? Making art is great for us too! “I love art. Drawing with and for my son is so much fun for me,” shares this maker mom. “And when I feel like a fun mom, I think I’m a better mom.”

Denver artist, Laura, has her studio in her house. Her two sons join her in the studio to sit, and usually, wrestle. In Laura’s words, “this time is valuable to me since my sons see me focused on something that I’m passionate about.” 

Get started at home: Exhausted? That’s understandable! Let others take the lead virtually. Mo Willems hosts lunchtime doodle sessions. And, here is a list of virtual storytimes from Time Out.

 

Turn old artwork into a collage. 

Are you using this extra time to clean out your house?

Are you irritated by clutter, but find it impossible to throw out your childrens’ doodles from years ago? 

Give the art a new life and turn them into a collage! You can use the time assembling the pieces to talk to your kids about the artworks or the times when they were created. 

All of those magazines lying around are great collage content too!

Get started at home: Share the work of artists that work in collage, like Man Ray and Joseph Cornell. 

Image courtesy of Laura Stewart DeRosa

 

Explore negative space. 

Is being cooped up giving everyone in the household grumpy vibes? 

Spin that negative attitude into something positive! 

Create a piece of art with negative space. Apply tape to a canvas or paper and have your kids paint over the tape. When you pull away the tape, you’ll magically reveal crisp white spaces. Ah, refreshing.

Get started at home: Introduce your kids to other artists that work with negative space like Rachel Whiteread and Jean Arp. 

 

Explore new art tools.

You don’t need a Dick Blick’s in your house to create art. So many things in your home can be a tool to make art! 

Have old credit cards? Spread paint with them. 

Fetch leaves from the yard and incorporate them into your pieces. 

Melt crayons with a blowdryer. 

Make marbleized paper with shaving cream. 

Image courtesy of Laura Stewart DeRosa

When Laura takes out cans of shaving cream it is also a time to draw in the foam and create sculptural heaps. “It is a total mess but it smells great and the activity keeps the boys engaged and calm,” she shares.

Or make ice-pop brushes. Add food coloring to water in an ice cube tray, place a popsicle stick, or stick of any kind, into each cube and freeze. Once they are frozen, let your child paint with the melting “brush.” This is great for toddlers.  

Get started at home: Marcel Duchamp’s Ready-Mades are wonderful artworks to share with this theme. 

 

Take advantage of the surge of art prompts online!

We’re seeing a lot of creative activities on the internet. 

You can find coloring books to print like artist Mike Perry’s

Artwork Archive has a wonderful list of creative prompts like building sculptures out of those once precious toilet paper rolls, now naked cardboard tubes. 

Or, you can find online art classes offered by artists like Erin McGee Pharell.

 

Art as an extension of in-home schooling. 

Art is fabulous for motor, sensory and emotional development. Brit Korsch, an early-education educator from St. Johnsbury, Vermont, incorporates art into her daughter’s daily schedule, COVID-19 or not.

“I find that when my daughter is creating art, she tells stories that give me insight into what she’s processing each day,” says Brit. 

Art can be an extension of their schooling too. With school cancelled, you can incorporate any theme the teacher sends into an art activity. Our Vermonter mama shares, “I find it’s an easy way to teach without the feeling of learning being ‘work.’”

 

Make art for someone else.

Give the art a bit more meaning and purpose by asking your kids to make a postcard for a neighbor, nurse or first responder. What a wonderful surprise for someone to receive in their mailbox!

Get started at home: Put on a performance! Artwork Archive’s Elysian Koglmeier’s toddler watched an impromptu play across the street while socially distancing. Their neighbors put on a little show that we could watch from the comfort of our front yard. You can do the same with virtual tools like Facetime. 

 

Art is not just a replacement of screen time. 

Art forges mental, emotional and physical connections. Use this time to nourish your children’s development. No one has to make a masterpiece. Let it be messy, unexpected, silly and wondrous!

Be open to the possibilities! Laura shares, “I am hoping to keep our family healthy, and to create alongside my kids whether that means working with oil paint, elephant toothpaste, or shaving cream.” 

 

And don’t forget to record all of this! 

This time shall pass and when it becomes a part of our memories, we’ll want to pull out photos and videos of these sweet, creative moments. You can save and share them from your Artwork Archive account and create an archive of this time.

 

Itching for more activities? Join in on the creative fun with these art-making prompts!