How to fit art and creativity into your everyday busy life – an interview with The Artful Parent

Does your heart ache when you think about how much you wished you were doing more art with your kids?  We want creative families!  We want to spark our children's imaginations and watch them discover their capabilities…but how can we do this in our already packed lives?

Today I'm delighted to have Jean Van't Hul here to help us out with this question.  Jean is the author of the freshly released book:  The Artful Parent: Simple Ways to Fill Your Family's Life with Art and Creativity.  This post contains affiliate links to these exceedingly lovely books.

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Alissa: Welcome Jean!  Your book is beautiful and contains a lot of very practical advice on making art more simple to bring into family life, so here's my first question: 

So many of us would love to do more art activities with our kids, but between work, school, homework and meal preparation, they’re out of time. How can you slip art into a busy day?

Jean: This is something most of us struggle with, it’s true. But with a little bit of planning, I really do think it’s possible. I also think the results can be surprising (in a good way).

Adding a bit of art or creativity into a family’s daily life need not take a lot of time or effort and it can actually make the day go smoother rather than the other way around. For example, art can help with transitions and can keep the kids happy while you are otherwise occupied (preparing dinner, for example).

There are so many wonderful kids’ art activities that are quick and easy to set up and do – everything from Q-tip pointillism and mirror self-portraits to contact paper collages and playdough exploration.

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But the best tip I can give is to just make some art materials accessible so that your kids can create any time they feel the urge, regardless of what you are doing or whether you can set something up for them.

This can mean something as simple as a portable art caddy with markers and crayons kept near the kitchen table or it could be a dedicated art space. We have a low kitchen drawer with playdough and tools that my daughters can access anytime. (Of course, you will be mindful of your children’s ages when deciding what to make accessible for them. )
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Jean with her daughters.  Photo by Lenka Hattaway Photography

Planning for art

I dedicated a chapter on planning for art, but here are a few quick tips:

  1. Make a list of art activities you’d like to try soon with your kids (find ideas in books, on blogs, or via Pinterest)
  2. Think about your day and when you could slip a little art in (after breakfast, before nap) or when you currently have a difficult transition (after preschool, after nap) that might be improved with a few minutes of simple creating.
  3. Begin gathering materials for one of the art activities from around your house or adding them to your shopping list, if necessary.
  4. Just do it! Set out your art materials. Give some guidance as necessary but stand back and let your children explore the materials and the process as much as possible.


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Alissa: What are a few creative yet simple art activities parents can set up for their child, even if they don’t feel like the creative type themselves?

Jean: I like to take a mix and match approach to art.

For example, you can use any drawing tool (crayons, colored pencils, markers, chalk) with any drawing surface (white paper, colored paper, patterned paper, cardboard, newspaper, wood).

You can use the same mix and match approach with painting, collage, printmaking, sculpture etc. The possibilities are endless!

Alissa: Do very simple art activities help kids grow creatively?

Jean: Yes, any open-ended, age-appropriate art activities will be beneficial for increasing kids’ creativity. The simpler the better actually because then more is left to creative interpretation. Also, the same materials will/can produce entirely different art experiences and results each time, depending on the child’s moods, questions, prior expectations, etc. – so don’t be afraid of setting out the same materials or activities over and over!

I find that the more complicated the art activity, sometimes the less room there is for creative exploration. The big weekend arts and crafts projects can be great for some quality time with your kids or for trying out a new technique (and there’s plenty of learning to be had there, it’s true…) but it’s truly the regular exploration of simple art materials that go the furthest to help kids grow creatively.

~~Thank you Jean!

Jean's book, The Artful Parent: Simple Ways to Fill Your Family's Life with Art and Creativity  includes over 60 Art Projects for Children Ages 1 to 8.  It is available now at bookstores nationwide.  I received a copy for review and I love it.  Jean gives instructions and photographs for a wide range of artistic activities to try with your family plus she includes so many down-to-earth suggestions that really help you find ways you can be creative without being stressed out about it.

She also has an eBook series: The Artful Year, available for instant download!