I’m not sure how many art spaces I’ve set up for my little ones over the years. I can count at least nine off the top of my head, but I’m sure there’s more. You see, creative making has always been something my two kiddos have been interested in. Schlepping art supplies in and out of hard-to-reach places, however, is not something I’m ever interested in! I like easy access for both myself and my little ones. I like spaces that make sense with the rhythm of our family, that are in tune with my kids’ interests and ability levels, and that don’t throw up unnecessary barriers to making. And call me crazy, but I also don’t like giant messes all over the place…
Over the years, with each different art area set up, I’ve learned something new. Things to look for, to consider before setting up a dedicated space (or choosing not to), what to include or exclude, and so on. I’d love to share some of those lessons with you today, so that, perhaps, you can pick up a few tips without setting up quite so many spaces!
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1. You don’t need a lot of space
When I talk about setting up a dedicated art area for your little ones, I’m not talking about big spaces here. I live in a city – our first apartment was smaller than most of my friend’s places. We’ve since moved to a house…which is still actually smaller than many of my friend’s places! So you see, it’s not necessarily the amount of space you have – it’s how you use it. Look for awkward or unused areas – under the stairs, a closet that could be turned into a little art nook, an oversized laundry room or den.
Example: In our apartment, I took an awkward 3X3 foot space up against a kitchen counter and a window (it may have actually been smaller!) and turned it into our first art space with a small, orange thrifted kid’s table and a rolling cart for supplies. This worked perfectly until my little ones were 2 and 4, when we moved. Our current space is located in an equally awkward room (is it a den? a sun room? it has no clear use) that also houses our Great Dane’s equally large crate. It went from being a bit of a junk room and my solo space, into our own little art room (still with a dog crate!)
2. Keep it together, folks!
As you know from previous emails, I’m all for having a couple of areas in your home dedicated to making. That being said, having your art supplies spread out all over your home is just not efficient. You will also inevitably forget that you have something, whether that’s a loved but forgotten art medium, that one last thing you needed to finish a project, or something super important like where you put the tape (glue, scissors, etc). If you can, find ONE space in your home for your creative supplies. It can be a dedicated shelf, an art cart, a dresser (they are for more than just clothes!), a closet – just be sure that it’s all together so you can easily see to inventory and grab what you need.
Example: When we moved into our house we stored our art supplies where we could – some went up high in a closet, some were kept down low in a dresser, and some were on open shelving. While yes, things were out of sight, I kept forgetting what I had and where I put it. With my most recent reorganization, I moved all of the art supplies into one space and Hey! Look at all these cool supplies! By keeping things together I can easily see and access what we need (I still followed Danielle’s suggestions about sorting supplies into 3 categories – the 3rd being on a high shelf that my kids can’t see or reach.) And the types of making my kids do has also been expanded since they too have access to new and different things.
3. Consider this – your kids, the floor, the room, the mess factor
Before you set up your space know this: it’s going to get messy. I know this should be obvious, but it’s a key factor even I forgot at times! Will you be annoyed cleaning scraps up off the floor all the time? Is there carpeting that can get stained by paint or markers? Is the space somewhere centrally located in your home and if so, can you deal with the visual clutter? Is the space in an area your kids already like to be in? The trick is finding a space where your children and family often gravitates to, but isn’t so central that the space disrupts the flow of your home.
Example: Once I set up an art space in the living room behind the couch. Sure, I couldn’t really see the mess behind the couch, but it also made for an awkward room layout. Next I moved that same art space, still in the living room, to right in front of the non-working fireplace. It was to the side of the room, so the flow was fine, but it drove me nuts trying to clean up the space every evening so that I could have some semblance of a tidy family (read: for adults and kids) space. Then I moved the art space to the kids’ bedroom. It’s a space they love to play in, close to the kitchen and backroom (where I spend most of my time), and the mess didn’t bother me as much. But because they had so much free reign in that space the mess factor was HUGE. I finally moved their space into my own creative space (an area they loved to play in anyhow), which seems to be working well for now.
4. Dedicated or shared space – which to choose?
Having a dedicated space is something I really enjoy having in our home, so I make sacrifices – with space and room function – to make that happen. But your home, your children, and your family may be different, though it doesn’t mean you value art and creativity any less! Before jumping in and creating a dedicated space, think about your little ones. Is this something they would like and use? Is your family willing to make some sacrifices or room changes to create a space? Does a dedicated space make sense for your home and family? If not, then perhaps you’d prefer a shared space – a space that does double (or triple!) duty. One of the most common is the dining room or kitchen table. Put art supplies in cabinets, drawers or shelves in the room for easy access and clean up.
Example: Danielle’s family keeps their art supplies and works in progress right by their dining room table. With bookshelves flanking the table, they have found a solution that works well for their family, especially now that she’s added some handmade curtains to hide the creative mess (as beautiful as it is!)
5. Use what you have
Finally, creating a dedicated art space does NOT mean you have to rush out and buy all sorts of new shelving, tables, or chairs. Use what you have! An art table doesn’t need to be fancy – it’s probably going to get “decorated” along the way with a variety of mediums. If you do need a new table, check out your local thrift shop, flea market, or garage sales for something you’re not going to mind getting dirty. Art supplies can also be housed in a variety of containers – mason jars, baking pans, trays, baskets or buckets.
Example: Our current art table is an old card table and chairs I snagged for under $10 at an estate sale. Our shelving consists of one of those big, square Ikea shelves and a host of crates, baskets, tupperware, a baking tin, and lots and lots of mason jars!
So those are a few of the lessons I’ve learned along the way. Like nearly everything else related to parenting, it seems to be all about observing your children, what they like, and where they gravitate, then adding in your own opinion and needs (because they matter too!) and finding a solution that meets everyone’s needs. It may take some trial an error, but once you have a space that works for your home and family, it really is quite a special thing!
So now I want to know, where do your kid’s create? Do you have a dedicated space or a shared one? Or do you have a question about either a space you have already created or one you are planning on putting together? Let us know in the comments below!