Such a simple act that’s synonymous with childhood.
It turns out this popular pastime has a ton of benefits for our little ones such as improving handwriting, focus, patience, planning, spatial awareness, and motor skills. It also stimulates creativity, encourages self expression, boosts confidence, and teaches color recognition.
Little artists are drawn to coloring centers.
We can all agree that this is beneficial to our children, so why, in homes across America, are crayons and coloring books hidden away in cabinets and drawers, only to be taken out when children ask for them? In my experience, out of sight is out of mind.
According to my own (unscientific) research, when these items are available and there’s a space to use them, children will use them more. My children’s art table is, hands-down, the most used play space in our house. As a result, it’s often a mess, but, thanks to some fabulous organization systems, it cleans up quickly.
Here’s how you can create an art table for your children where they can create, play, and learn.
1. Find an appropriate surface.
Fabulous options include an old coffee table, an old kitchen table, a board mounted on crates, or even an old crib. Really, anything will work as long as it’s kid-height and large enough for all of your children to sit and work at the same time. If it’s not, there will be lots of elbowing and tears.
We opted for an old coffee table. It was the right height, has a bit of a lip for legs to tuck under, has storage underneath, and was no longer being used in our living room.
2. Make a seating plan.
Again, there should be as many seats as there are children. Your seating plan may be as simple as sitting on the floor, depending on your table height. Otherwise, cushions or overturned crates would work. You can find pre-loved chairs at thrift stores or garage sales. If you’ve got some extra room in your budget, this rectangular table with these chairs are pretty perfect.
3. Pick a spot.
Now that you’ve got your surface and seating, you need to find a place for your creation station. I prefer up against a wall (so crayons don’t roll off the front of the table) near a window (for good lighting).
No space, you say? Too many toys? Ditch some toys for the art station. Can some be moved to bedrooms, rotated out, or brought to grandma’s house? Toys are beneficial for kids’ little minds, but so is creativity.
4. Stock your station.
It’s all starting to come together! It’s very likely that you’ve already got all the art supplies needed for a fabulous art table. Actually, you probably have more than you need. Walk around your house and gather art supplies from wherever they’ve been hiding. Take this opportunity to weed out broken crayons, used up coloring books, activity books your children have outgrown, ripped papers… you get the idea.
Art supplies out all the time in our house are:
· Color pencils
· Glue sticks
· Plain paper
· Coloring books
Feel free to alter this list based on your children’s ages, abilities, and interests.
Please keep in mind, your children will take better care of their things and appreciate them more when they have less. For instance, 2-3 coloring books per child is plenty. They don’t need 400 crayons and makers. Having too much in this space will NOT encourage creativity, it will encourage a mess and then no one wants that.
You should have as much or as little here as your kids can clean themselves.
And if you stock this space and they prove they cannot clean it themselves, remove things until they can. As they show they are able to clean up, introduce more to the area. Repeat this process as necessary.
5. Create a clearly labeled home for each of these items.
I recommend small buckets or cups (non-breakable) that provide easy access to writing utensils. In the past, I’ve tried boxes and bins, but none seems to work as well as a simple bucket, cup or jar. The latest trend in art-supply storage is clear acrylic turntables, which are super cute, but may be hard to keep neat as the crayons shift inside. There are so many options for labeling, pick one that matches your style and needs.
For paper and coloring books, a simple basket or bin with handles is perfect. I have one basket for each child and they keep their favorite coloring books, as well as some of their finished creations, inside these baskets. I go through the baskets every few months to make room for new artwork. It only takes a few minutes.
5. Finally, create a display space.
Some kind of display for artwork is a great idea to let those little artists enjoy their work. Clipboards, a wire display hook, picture frames, a bulletin board, really anything that fits in your space and fits with your style is good!
Annnnnd you’re done. Sit back and relax with a nice cup of tea while your children create masterpieces. You’ll probably have to explain exactly how you expect the table to be cleaned a few times, but, depending on their ages, they should catch on quickly and be able to clean it themselves in no time!
If you’ve created a space for your littles to be creative, I’d love to see it!
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