For a long time I suffered from a condition I like to call Art Phobia. After speaking with many other mothers I discovered that this is a fairly common condition. I also learned that my case is quite mild, since I know parents who cringe if someone gives their children play dough for Christmas.
To set the record straight, I was never afraid of the mess, and once we began homeschooling I felt it was my job to give my children the gift of art. Plus, I had plenty of old towels, t-shirts, and tablecloths. No problem. I was more annoyed by the huge chunk of time it took to gather supplies, set up an activity, clean the mess, and put the materials away. How was I ever going to find the time to do all of that and prepare dinner or do whatever else needed to be done that day?
Enter the art box.
I filled a plastic crate with everything we might need to complete a painting project. On painting day (something we’ve added to our weekly rhythm since making nice with Waldorf), a rainy day (a.k.a. hurricane season for us), or any day we need to shake things up and have some fun, I can grab the box and bring it out to the kitchen table. Within five minutes, we can all be happily painting. Having everything portable and in one place made a huge difference, and I actually look forward to painting day now. Needless to say, the kids enjoy more opportunities to paint and a less stressed mama.
Here are some items to consider when putting together your own art box:
- Plastic File Crate – Technically, any box will do, but I bought several colorful plastic bins for $3 each during one of those “deck out your dorm room” sales at the end of the summer. They come in tons of fun colors, so the box itself adds an element of fun.
- Vinyl Tablecloth – Sure, you can use a pretty vintage table cloth, especially if you snagged it for fifty cents at a garage sale. But really, I don’t need more laundry. The vinyl wipes clean with a wet towel, and I usually find them on clearance after holidays.
- Old T-shirts – I like to keep an old shirt for each child in the box. My oldest can certainly find her own shirt in her room, but it does make it easier to have them in the same place. The older child can even help the younger put their painting shirt on while you set up something else.
- Empty Jars or Cups – Baby food jars and washed out yogurt containers work great for mixing paints and for holding clean water to wash brushes.
- Old Towels or Rags
- Paint Brushes
- Oil Pastels – These are great for watercolor resist paintings, but you could use crayons in a pinch.
- Other Art Items – Think of things that might keep a toddler or preschooler busy for an extra ten minutes while an older child finishes a painting. Items they might use to add on to their painting or to alter a previous piece of art include collage items, glue, scissors, stickers, sequins, and anything else you can think of and find room for in the art box.
Michelle is a wife, mother, writer, and Cajun who prefers everything extra spicy. Read more about how she overcomes her Art Phobia and fills their weeks with paint, color, and fun at Lagniappe Academy.