I haven't been this excited about a guest or a topic for a long time! We're absolutely thrilled to have Dani Henriksen of Pineapple Paintbrush here today to share some insights about the importance of art for children, and to give us some practical tips on facilitating creativity for young children. Dani is also hosting a free online art preschool class that will begin March 14th. She's got all kinds of wonderful art projects lined up to share with you. You can read more about the class here. This is great, great stuff. You will love.
Welcome, Dani, and thanks a million for being here...
First, give us a little background about you and how you became so passionate about art, especially exposing children to art.
It is hard to pin down exactly where my passion for art came from but I know my father influenced me. My dad used to draw a lot, and he could draw things really realistically in his own unique style. I was amazed by his art.
I married my husband when I was 20 and we moved to Las Vegas so that my husband could attend law school. I had to change my major and my husband encouraged me to major in what I loved, Art History. That proved to be a great decision. I loved my art history classes and the incredible professors. As a requirement for my major I had to take a wide variety of art classes…. especially drawing and painting. That is when my personal love for painting began. I spent many hours in the painting studio.
I will never forget my Junior year of college; I was pregnant for most of the school year and delivered my son just one week after my finals. I was so nauseous during my painting classes. Ever since the day my first son was born I looked forward to spending time making art with him. Now, almost 6 years later, we have spent many hours creating art together and it has been so fun and unforgettable. Though our focus was always on fun, he has learned a lot in the process and has become an amazing little artist.
What are some must-have art supplies that you recommend for every family?
Also, I know for many parents, the fear of a giant mess keeps them from letting their children do art projects; what are your suggestions for preventing such a mess?
I laugh at this question about the fear of giant messes. It brings back all the memories of crazy art messes at our house. First of all I have to say that I LOVE a clean house…. I am a bit of a clean freak. It is kinda ironic considering I also love art, which is so messy. So there is often a fight going on inside my head against the side of me that wants to have a clean house and the side of me that wants my kids to have lots of opportunities to create art. Luckily most of the time art wins and I never regret that. There are no magic tricks to preventing messes, you have to supervise and teach your children how to use the art products and set some rules. I have found that close supervision pays off big time in the long run. I can now trust my oldest two children that they will only paint on paper and canvas and not on their bodies or the furniture. They also know how to put away their art supplies and clean their brushes. It was a big investment of time upfront but now art can keep them entertained for hours and they always clean it up. So invest the time and you will be so glad you did.
I think the most important art supplies for children are a variety of the basics: pencils, crayons, markers, tempura paint, acrylic paint (used only under adult supervision for safety reasons), watercolor paint, oil pastels, play dough, glue and scissors. Provide your children with these products and sit back and see all the fun that they have. It is important to know that young children (especially 2 – 4 year olds) like creating art that does not represent anything
specific. To them art is experimenting with different products and what they can do with them…. squishing paint between their fingers and splattering it on paper. Allow them to have fun with the materials and try not to find realistic looking figures in their artwork. If you say to a child, “Oh that looks like a car….” You are telling them that they have to try to make things look real. Art can be anything and try to encourage complete artistic freedom at a young age.
Tell us about a few simple/easy art projects that people might not think of...
I truly believe that art for children should be kept simple. Like I mentioned above… just give them some simple art supplies and allow them to experiment. It seems that well-intentioned parents tend to come up with a variety of cute art projects where kids are told to follow step-by-step instructions and every child’s project ends up looking the same as everyone else’ s. There is nothing wrong with those projects, kids do enjoy them and they can be fun.
However, they are limiting and I hope my online art class does a good job of showing parents how to encourage creative process-oriented art that allows the children to think outside the box and have a lot of fun experimenting.
You can start with these kind of projects when your children are little. Since I have 3 boys we have lots of toy cars and we set aside some of them to be used only for painting…. My kids run the cars through the paint and then run the cars across paper to see the fun lines it creates. We also have a box of a bunch of different object they can use for painting with such as a fork, feather, plastic knife, toothbrush, comb, q-tips, cotton balls and a variety of textured roller and brushes that are so fun to experiment with.
What does exposure to art and expressing creativity do for children and why is it important to give them those opportunities to create at a young age?
Wow, there are so many benefits to art that it is hard to know where to begin. First and foremost art is fun! Art is also a tangible expression of each child’s unique creativity. It gives the child something to show for him or herself. It builds confidence. Art offers endless challenges to overcome, and overcoming those challenges is rewarding. Art develops focus and dedication. Through art children see things more clearly, they pick up on details and they find beauty in things. Making art is the best way for young children to develop their fine motor skills. Since there is no wrong way to make art it encourages freedom of thought. Through these skills…. creativity, confidence, focus, control, and freedom… the child is learning the skills that will help him or her to succeed in school and in life. Wow, that is just the beginning and that is why we need great art programs in schools.
What are a few suggestions you have for us parents to help foster creativity in our children?
My biggest suggestion for parents is to encourage your child. Make sure you are complimenting their artwork from their first scribbles on paper. Hang their little doodles up all over the house and watch how their eyes sparkle to see them on display. Also, allow them to experiment with all the basic art supplies. Don’t interfere with their creative process or teach them the “right” way to draw something. Let them draw things as they see them, that is how they develop their own unique artistic style. Leave art supplies out that your children can have free access to. Make time for art. I try to make time at least once a week to sit down with my children and work on an art project.
A lot of times when I sit down to do an art project with my 5 year old son he gets frustrated because he can't draw very well. I used to think that I wasn't an artistic or creative person because I couldn't draw real-looking figures. How do you help a child not be frustrated by the fact that they can't draw a picture that looks like the Buzz Lightyear toy they're trying to replicate and still realize their creativity?
I would show your son a long list of some of the most famous pieces of art. He would be surprised to see that much of the art does not look “real.” For example surrealism, impressionism, pointillism and all of the different forms of abstract art and much more. There will be many fun art projects in my online class that will open your child’s eyes to the endless possibilities of art and he will realize that it doesn’t really matter if he is good at drawing things realistically.
I want to share with you a sneak peak into one of the art projects we will be doing for my online art class…..
This one is called “Drip Painting.” All you need is either paper or art board or a canvas to paint on, some level 1 acrylic paint, some gloves (see safety in the art room) and a spray bottle with water in it.
Water down the paint a bit so it has a runny consistency.
Have the child paint colorful horizontal stripes across the canvas – it does not matter if the lines
go all the way across the canvas as long as the whole canvas gets filled with stripes of color.
During painting the child can spray the canvas with water wherever they want the paint to drip. They don’t want to spray too much or all the paint will run down.
My kids love making paintings like this. It is so fun to watch them drip! This project will be taught during my week about color and color mixing.
I hope you will follow along with my online art class starting March 14th. I encourage you to share the class with your children’s friends and get together to share their artwork with each other. That is what I am doing with my son and his friends. We will be meeting at my house once a week during the class to share artwork and to work on a project together. We will also be going on a field trip to an art museum and holding an art exhibition night together at the end. I will be documenting it all on my blog. Please join us!
You can read more about the class here.
And you can find a list of the supplies you'll need here.