Q&A: Creating an Artful Life with Kids

Months ago, I received an email from a friend. With her permission, I've posted part of it here:

Q: "I love the pictures you post of you and your girls doing artistic, fun things together. I love seeing what your daughters come up with, and how creative they are, just like their mama. The reason I'm writing you is because I want help. Lol! I want to know how you started being creative with your kids, how old they were when you taught them how to journal and create with various media, and how you encourage artistic creativity without feeling like you're forcing an ideal upon them.

I want to be creative with my girls. I want them to get the chance, from a young age, to draw, trace, paint, colour, write, sketch, or whatever. I want them to have the chance to ENJOY art. Because I don't know how to approach something I'm not good at. 

Any suggestions/advice/tips? Thanks for your time."


First of all, thanks for your question, and my sincere apologies for taking so long to answer it. 

I didn't always do art. I spent the better part of my life pushing against anything that suggested I even try. I told myself I was a writer, I was creative, but in no way was I an artist or the least bit artistic. I journaled, I wrote, I scrapbooked, I doodled, I collaged. But I drew the line at anything requiring a paint brush. I knew absolutely nothing about canvases, brushes, different types of paint, etc... and am still slowly learning my way around those sort of supplies.

When my firstborn daughter was about 1 or 1-1/2 years old, I bought jumbo crayons. Crayons didn't intimidate me in the slightest. I bought coloring books, activity books, notebooks, and little journals in the years to come. 

At some point I bought WASHABLE Crayola watercolor paints for kids. Emphasis on washable. At that point I was very hung on up messy, and anything that was going to be messy I resisted. Especially if it was unfamiliar. I would bake cookies from scratch, but painting was out of my realm.

So to start with, there were crayons, white printer paper, and washable watercolor paint sets that came with a single kids paintbrush. That's where we started. You can get all of that for $10. It's a basic place to start -- blank surface + color.

Color + Heart = Art.

Through the years, we've learned together, the girls and I, about canvases (buy packs at art/craft stores to save money), different types of paper, and various media such as pencils, paints, oil pastels, etc...

If you're ready for a little more than Crayola's basic art supplies for kids, you might buy a combo pack of paintbrushes of assorted sizes, a pad of watercolor and mixed-media paper, a spiral bound blank book for each child, and some inexpensive but surprisingly nice quality watercolors. I LOVE these Loew-Cornell Simply Art Watercolor Cakes. Under $7, luscious colors, and I have personally used this set for over a year for all of my art journaling and art projects. 

Some additional supplies you might consider are easel rolls of white paper, construction paper, glue, Mod Podge, markers, gel pens, and stickers. When we went "Back to School" shopping for this year of learning at home, we bought each girl a sketchbook, a paint and marker paper pad, whatever new crayons/makers/paints they were low on or had used up. Art is incorporated in our home learning and playing.

For a person who had no artistic experience, and was quite frankly completely intimidated by anything art-related, I have learned to whole-heartedly embrace art and its messiness. 

If you're worried about the mess involved, I recommend a drop cloth or old sheet, art smocks or aprons, Mr. Clean magic erasers, all-purpose cleaner sprays, and paper towels. The type of media (paint, markers, etc...) you purchase can make the clean up process easy-peasy or a little more of a challenge, so consider before it goes in your shopping cart what level of clean-up commitment you are prepared for.

My girls are 9 and 6 now, and there's only one art product we own that I'm not prepared to clean up on a daily basis, and that's tempera paint. It's messier and thicker, and will temporarily stain skin. When we use that kind of paint, I need to know that we're staying home all day or at least have a several hour chunk of time I can devote.  Sometimes for school we have Art Day, and that's the type of day I usually pull out the more messy, time-consuming paint and craft projects, like homemade Play-doh.

As for my art "philosophy," I believe everyone has the ability to be artistic. I think art and creativity are things we need to introduce kids to at a young age, and make available for them to explore throughout their growing-up years. I believe fervently that life will knock you around, and that we all, regardless of age or background, need something to help us process, heal, and calm. For some that might be running or some type of sport. For others that might be gardening, baking, or music. Or it might be journaling or painting or doodling. I want to be the kind of parent who introduces my kids to a variety of activities that they can choose from when they need a place of solace, inspiration, or therapy.

There's no right way to do art. There are no mistakes. Art should not be graded. Just give your kids some tools to explore and make something colorful. Hang it, frame it, and show them their art has value.

Create together. If you sit down with a notebook and some colored pencils and start doodling or sketching, most kids will gravitate to you and show curiosity and interest. You don't need to have any artistic ability to introduce kids to art. All you need is a willingness to play and try new things.

More resources on creating with kids:

Ucreate with Kids


  1. Thank you. :) I'm amazed that you were not artistic all your life, and now I'm inspired to try.

    My 4-year-old (the oldest) has an easel; one side has paper and the other a chalkboard. She received a collection of art supplies from a great-aunt who loved a quote I posted from my daughter on Facebook: "I want to be an arter!" (she meant artist), so now she owns watercolours, paintbrushes, a sketchpad, and more. One of the first items I purchased for her church quiet bag was a large spiral sketch pad and some Crayons. She has a giant box of random Crayons - most of them broken with the paper peeled off - that she keeps in her room with colouring books and blank paper for her to use at her leisure. And until we moved in June I was trying to do a craft every week or so with her in the evening after work.

    So it's not as though I've been avoiding art or ignoring her need to experience it...I just don't know how to participate in it with her like I see you do with your girls. I love that you can create together with your daughters and I want to get to that point with mine. I think we're headed the right direction...mine are just younger. :)

    Thank you SO much for sharing your journey and thoughts on making creative outlets available to your children and the whole family. I think I've had your same philosophy all along...I'd just never put it into words.

  2. Also, one more thing: I think you'll enjoy this blog post, if you haven't already seen it making the rounds on Facebook. :)


  3. I think this is so true. While sketching, watercolors, oils and such really used to be my thing, I kind of abandoned them when I started sewing. I've always drawn and doodled for my kids, tho. When J started the playhouse business almost four years ago, he couldn't draw to save himself, and he's actually learned to be quite good at it. Our kids have picked that all up by default. Some of them definitely have it "in their blood" as far as talent, but they all draw, paint, sketch and doodle because it's a big thing their daddy and I both do a lot of. We didn't actually think to encourage them to be artistic or to express themselves that way. It just happened, but it is something really special about our family that we love. And now we encourage it as much as possible!


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