The school holidays are the perfect time to give your child the gift of a semi-permanent art corner for a week or two.    Paints, crayons and pastels usually come out every now and again and are tidied up and put away as soon as the child has completed his picture.  After all, who has the space to dedicate a corner of a room permanently to art?

A number of years ago I had the privilege of getting to know and interview child art specialist Johanna Donau who had over 30 years of experience interpreting child art. She was a strong advocate for the fact that children who have free access to paint and paper are able to express their thoughts and feelings spontaneously in a safe and creative way.

She said, “It is so healthy for children to be able to put their feelings on paper instead of bottling them up, especially the really young children who do not yet have the vocabulary to say what it is they need to express.  Having access to an art corner whenever the need arises gives them permission to express themselves.  You’d be amazed how you can track the emotions of a child through their artwork – their frustration, happiness, anger, sadness and many more.”

Why not set up an art corner at home this holidays so that your children can express themselves in new and different ways, whether they are arty or not, whether they are in preschool or primary school.

 You will need

  • The corner of a room, patio or garage
  • A small table on which to work, or an easel
  • Paints in non-spill pots preferably (see Smile’s Perfect Paint Set)
  • Thick paintbrushes
  • Large pieces of paper A3-size is ideal (large used architect’s drawings also work well)
  • A large sheet of plastic or newspapers to put underneath the work area so that the you and your child know that the carpet underneath is safe

What to tell your child

Tell them that this is a special art corner just for them, and it will be available for the whole week (or two)……… whenever they feel like making a picture, and that their special pictures will be stuck on the fridge/wall for everyone to see when they are dry.

You will need to lay down ground rules such as:

  • You can paint whatever you like as long as you paint in this area (indicate the table and the paper)
  • Walls and floors are not for painting on
  • When you paint try to remember to put on your apron

What if they ignore the art corner?

You may find that your child forgets that the art corner is there for a while, but just you wait until they get the hang of it.  Perhaps you should try your hand at some artwork at the end of each day once you have put your child to bed.  You may find that it is the most therapeutic outlet for all the stresses as well as the excitement you have experienced in a day.

Johanna’s advice for adults indulging themselves in the art corner: “Remember not to think too much about what you are putting on paper.  Just do it.  Paint your feelings instead of actual objects.  Young children are so spontaneous and uninhibited by how things “should” look, they just paint “as it is” or “as life feels” to them at that moment.  Art is an expression of a moment in time and every human being is constantly evolving which is why we see such dramatic changes in a person’s art if they continue with it over a period of time.”

Some rules about how to interact with your child’s artistic creations

  • Never ask a child what he/she has painted
  • Never label what they have painted unless they have told you that what looks to you just like a blobby cloud is, in fact, a butterfly!
  • Never show a child how to draw or paint anything! This circumvents all his/her own creative development.  Art should be their own interpretation of something that is important to them at a particular moment in time.
  • Never tell a child what colour to paint whatever it is they are painting. Colour is a very important aspect of creativity development and it is subjective.  Allow it to remain so.

Dare to create this wonderful space and opportunity for your child during the school holidays, and see what happens……………….

For more creative ideas, click here for my blog on how to make ooey gooey slime.