Art Journaling with Children

Hey, it’s Sarah here.

„Every child is an artist. The problem is how to remain an artist once we grow up.“

– Pablo Picasso.

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Every child is born with an unbroken will to discover the world around them. Children learn by doing, by feeling, by exploring and by imitation. They don’t worry about the outcome, they do not care about the danger, they don’t know about other persons reactions to their doings yet, they don’t understand how they need to „function“ in our world, they haven’t found their place- and if they did, they are discovering new every day.

It is our obligation as parents, siblings, aunts, friends of their parents, teachers, sunday church teachers, group leaders, etc., to help children grow up in a save and loving environment, where they can explore, test and do what they need to become fantastic bigger children and amazing adults. And fearless, unbroken, carefree artists.

You don’t have to feel like a great artist yourself to create such an environment for your children.

There are endless possibilities to help your child explore the huge and fantastic world of creativity.

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It starts with art supplies. Provide them to your children. Start with coloured pencils, crayons and huge sheets of papers. Children start painting out of their shoulders, so they need a lot of room to paint. If you let them draw on the floor (which helps them to give them the space they need), use materials you can get of your floor or place foil or something under it. If you’re too afraid they will make your house dirty in those first tries, don’t ever tell them or show them. Creating art freely is more important than your urge to have a clean and tidy house. But if you can’t deal with the thought that maybe they will leave a mark somewhere, give them street chalk and go outside. Rain will wash it away, the children have enough room and everybody is happy. You can even let them try to paint with watercolours, acrylic paints and whatever else you have lying around. Speaking of my own experience watercolours are easier for them, if you use tube watercolours and let them make „dots“ on paper first and later hand them the paint brush and water. And remember: don’t let your own fears (of a messy table or the outcome) show. Children don’t care about those things at first, it’s just about creating.
Once they get older a bit and manage to paint out of their wrist (and later with isolated finger moves), you can provide them with more art supplies. Such as non-toxic stamps, clay, glue, scissors (please watch them carefully), different kind of paper, etc.

Don’t hand them your most expensive supplies, because there’s a big chance they won’t survive it.

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But children not only need art supplies for being creative, things such as wooden blocks, lego, colourful books, nature outside etc. also help to discover creative processes. Just let them discover all the possibilities with the things around them. Play with them, discover with them, try to see the things around you with their eyes. Encourage them to try new things and find their own ways with things. Don’t ever tell them, they are doing it wrong. Telling children they do creative processes wrong dulls the natural exploratory spirit children have. Everytime I catch myself thinking my son is doing something wrong, I have to tell myself, that he’ll find out, how to do it right and then I have to think about what’s the right way anyway? Tell them, they are doing great, tell them what specific they are doing great and what you really like about their creative outcome or their art. Examples: I really like how high your tower of blocks is, I love how much of red you used on your painting. Children need their parents to praise them, to encourage them to go farer. Older children (once they can talk) also love to talk about their art and creations- ask them questions about their creations, about the background, why they used black. Be interested and what they do and what they create.

I know there are pedagogues who say, that if you praise your children too much, you’re raising spoiled brats, which simply isn’t true. As I said before children need a loving and safe environment to explore and grow up and you create that environment with caring about them and showing your love (with words and gestures- not big presents). Praising has nothing to do with not giving your children rules, they need those, too. Raising children with love and praise and encouragement lets them grow into loving, caring and encouraging adults – and probably fearless artists.

How to make kids feel like they aren’t artist and what they produce isn’t fantastic:

  • Tell them their colour choice is shit
  • Tell them their ideas are shit.
  • Tell them they can’t draw.
  • Tell them they use the materials totally wrong.
  • Tell them they’ll never be as good as their brother/sister/aunt/cousins/your neighbor/Pablo Picasso/everyone else.
  • Tell them their art is shit.
  • Tell them all they do is a waste of time.
  • Tell them they aren’t creative.
  • Tell them they and their art is useless.
  • Tell them all they do is wasting money and materials and basically their life.

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“Every child is an artist, until he’s told he’s not.”

John Lennon

What have you’ve been told?

What are you telling yourself?

How do you feel about it?

Why?

Who started to plant those things in your head in first place?

If we are aware of our own background, of what made us feel good or bad and what we told and tell ourselves and reflect about those things, we not only can help our children, but also ourselves to be a free artist.

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When in doubt if you’re an artist, just start creating art. Jump head over heels into it. Lie on the wet floor and paint with all you’ve got. Do it how children do it without even thinking about it. Your heart, your soul and your dreams. Being alive makes you an artist. You are an artist!

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An other really important point is that you let your children see, that you are an artist. Because, you are. Show them your art, your art journals, your painting, etc. Let them see you create. Create, while they create. Paint with them. Use new materials with them.

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Once you let your children be the explore and artist they naturally are they will produce tons of art (and you maybe will too, if you try to be fearless and careless as them are).

And here’s the most fun- at least for me:

You can art journal with your children or with their art.
Bigger children can of course have their own art journal and you can have “art journaling dates”. I can’t wait for my son to be old enough, but until then here’s what I do.
I sometimes let him paint/scribble, etc. directly into my art journal. At first I was scared about the outcome and if I could handle it, but it is really freeing and fascinating. Here are a few examples of collaborative pages of him and me:

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he used a biro and I coloured the pattern he created

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The other thing I love to do is to alter his art and put it into my art journal. He produces so much and never care what happens with his finished products. If your children are already old enough to care, ask her or him what you can use – let them help you cut up their art/trash and I guess they will be proud of how you treasure their art in your own art.

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He are more of the pages I created that way:

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Now, get your supplies and your children and start creating!

And if you don’t have children, think about the questions and try to overcome them and try to create freely as children do!

3 Comments

  1. Stephanie manic

    I love all of this! You are so inspiring!

    • Sarah Fuchs

      Thank you Stephanie! ❤

  2. Eleanor McComb

    So much love for this. Working with my boys on their art and making sure they feel creative is something I have always really strived for. I should use more of their work in my journals for sure!!