Being Inspired: Art with the School-Aged Child

Written by NPN Guest on September 30th, 2011

Arts and Crafts, Natural Learning

Art becomes an especially exciting activity to do with your school-aged child. Her focus is maintained much longer, and her personal interests are developing. Her imagination is well developed and her sense of reality more easily captures true-to life impressions in her artwork.

Keep in mind that it is important to allow art to be art, not craft. There is a time and place for crafts, and they can be quite fun when tying them into the seasons or holidays, but they are not art and will not feed your child’s creativity in the same way as an open-ended art activity. Christie Burnett, founder of the blog Childhood 101, has written an ebook called Art Not Craft that speaks to this subject and is a wonderful starting point for anyone interested in creating art with her child.

Here are a few ideas to get you started as well:

Story Art

When it comes to inspiring a child’s imagination, nothing compares with telling stories and creating art together. If you child tells stories regularly, she can be the storyteller. If she doesn’t, you may want to begin with the story, asking her to pick it up at some point. Then, as one of you tells the story, you illustrate. The illustration can be a series of pictures or just one, depending on your child’s age and capability. If you are illustrating with her, try to keep your own illustrations age-appropriate so she doesn’t feel intimidated by art she can’t achieve. Also, this activity doesn’t have to be done with pencils or crayons only. You can illustrate with paint, stickers, collage, or play dough too.

Inspired by Artists

Art history can lend so much to a child’s expanding grasp on reality and fantasy. While some artists work to perfectly capture a realistic rendering of life, others stretch boundaries on what is real and what is art. So much can be learned by simply observing their work, and even more when you give your child a taste of what their life or work was about. Without having to remember dates or names of paintings, she can explore what it means to be an artist and how to think “outside the easel.”

Take a trip to a local museum together and walk around observing, Ask questions like what is real and what is not, what colors or shapes or textures grab her attention; anything that draws her in and sparks her interest. Then, back at home, pull out some art supplies and ask her to show you through her artwork what she remembers about your trip to the museum. Her artwork may begin as a replica of something she saw there, but it won’t be exact because she’s not looking at the work and from there she will likely allow her imagination to guide her.

Art Dice

In early spring I came across this game at TinkerLab and it reminded me of a game I played with my students as an art teacher several years ago. Rachelle came up with the idea of using dice, while we played it with a single beach ball, since we could toss it around the room. With my students and here at home it has really sparked some creative drawings.

Begin with three blank wooden dice, each one drawn with a single art element (line, color, shape), some markers or crayons, and a large piece of paper. In the game I played with my students you roll the dice (or toss the beach ball) and draw what the dice land on. For example, red, spiral and square. Then you pass the dice to the next person, who rolls and adds on to your drawing. Everyone takes a few turns before the drawing is complete. Rachelle offers a couple alternatives to this game as well.

The game is freeing and inspiring. It can be a fun drawing on its own but it can also be the start to a wonderfully creative piece that is finished without the dice.

What inspirational art activities do you do with your school-aged child?


Acacia is a stay at home mama playing through life one moment at a time with her husband and two young sons. She is a natural parenting, cloth diapering, gentle disciplining, home schooling, wholesome foods eating, spiritually centered steward to this great Mother Earth.

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