Keep Materials Handy: Paper, crayons, paints, boxes, paper bags, scissors, glue, playdough, and kinetic sand. You don’t need to stock all of these — even a box of crayons and some scrap paper kept at kid-level can get your artist started.
Create Together: Sometimes I use family art time to help wind down after dinner. My daughter will often pick a theme (“Let’s draw winter pictures! Let’s draw haunted houses!”) and sometimes we just get lost in coloring, finger painting, or rolling playdough between our fingers.
Praise the Process, Not Just the Product: It’s really easy to dole out general praise when your child holds up a picture for you to admire. “Nice! Great job! I love it!” But this type of praise has limits. It doesn’t teach your child anything, and it doesn’t recognize their creativity and effort. The most effective feedback emphasizes “one of three things: a child’s effort, a child’s strategies, or a child’s actions.” Aunt-Rachel-the-artist is particularly good at this. We text her pictures, and she responds with specific insights that never fail to delight the kids:
“I see swirls in the sky! It looks like it’s a windy day.”
“You used four different colors in that flower. It looks so happy and friendly.”
“You put five animals in your jungle. You must have spent a long time working on this.”
“Look at all those amazing shapes: I see circles, dots and triangles.”
Through trial and error, I’ve learned that helping my kids express their inner artist often means I give them materials and time and get out of their way. They are artists, and their vision of the world enriches my own.