I’ve been planning to write about our little art area for quite some time and am finally sharing it with you today! We live in a typical, terraced Victorian home in a UK city, with only a small amount of living and storage space. Where possible I like to make little play areas in small pockets of space that we can find in corners of rooms or on table tops, sometimes swapping themes after keeping them out for a duration of time.
You can see our Maths Investigation table here, Spring Nature table here, Autumn Exploration table here, young baby play area here and our older baby and toddler play area here, for examples of these spaces in the home.
As a former teacher, one of my main roles was to write and co-ordinate the art curriculum in our primary school. This is a subject I feel very passionate about and want my children to feel confident at experimenting with from a very early age, with no fear of “right or wrong” or any expected outcomes putting pressure on their enthusiasm. The creative area in our house is a permanent set up that takes up a little side wall of the kitchen, between a chest of drawers and the fridge. It’s small and compact but contains enough art materials at any one time to hopefully allow plenty of independent creativity and free exploration of materials, with more stored nearby so that we can rotate regularly. I think it’s essential for the children to be able to access art materials at all times and be allowed to explore, combine and create in any way that they choose as they find out more about their interests and abilities.
On the wall are some cardboard letters which spell out CREATE, decorated in various media by the girls and I together as a collaborative project last year. The music paper is from old sheet music of Bach’s piano concertos, my Mum’s favourites, and therefore a very special memory.
The space consists of a child-sized table for standing and sitting at (we found this at an antique shop.) Next to this is a chalkboard and dry erase easel (from Ikea) with a tin of fat and thin chalks, to the side of which we store large A3 drawing and watercolour paper pads.
On the table there are tin buckets (flowerpots from Ikea for £1 each) which store various art materials, some of which are rotated. These include coloured pencils, thick and thin marker pens, crayons, sellotape, masking tape, small scissors, pipe cleaners, a range of paintbrushes (from The Works) and glue sticks.
In shallow glass dishes (re-used Gu pudding containers) we have beads, sequins, pom poms, buttons, matchsticks, textured papers, white glue etc. We currently have chalk pastels and oil pastels also set out (ours are from Tiger but can easily be bought via Amazon too.) There are also shaped hole punches and a stapler, with ink stampers and other similar crafty items making an appearance occasionally too.
On the table at all times is a block palette of water-colour paints and a water pot, so that they can access these at any time. I’ve found this to be a good solution to using paints when I’m not supervising as, although the colours are intense and vibrant, they’re not anywhere near as messy as ready mix/ tempera paints and the baby can be trusted with them! (We do also use the other paints too, of course, but not with free access at this stage.)
Under the table, in two pull-out fabric drawers (also Ikea), are stored lots of pieces of recycled packaging for e.g. egg boxes, paper tubes, cardboard boxes, fabric, mesh, netting, ribbons, string, yarn, foil packaging etc. These are for the larger, model making projects and mixed media art work pieces, and we add all sorts of interesting things to this collection as we find them, such as pine cones, leaves, pebbles, shells and other natural elements that are in season. The other drawer contains coloured papers and cards, in different sizes and shapes, some folded in a greetings card style, others stapled into mini blank books.
Above the art table I have framed and hung some of their most beautiful, recent art work. I used Ikea white frames and displayed a range of sizes, media and subject matter, trying to include each child’s work equally. The plan is to add to this, where there is space, and also to rotate some of the art work over time so that the gallery wall remains fresh and exciting!
At the very top of the displayed pieces, I have strung some lanterns created from some duplicate paintings (occasionally they will make a number of pieces very similar in one sitting!) This has been one happy way to keep more than one painting and to display it in a unique way. Read this full post about how we made these art lanterns here.
Finally, to the right of this space is the edge of the fridge, to which the girls can display their own ideas, drawings, and notes, using the magnets and clips that are within their reach. Having their very own gallery space to arrange and organise gives them more ownership over the area and lets them highlight what they think it important to show off.
The girls use this space independently of me and each other most of the time, but occasionally they inspire each other to try new materials, mix things up a little or to work together on the same idea. I love seeing them use the space so freely and so confidently, and it is a lovely way for us to connect and chat while I’m making dinner right next to them.
To see some of the many art ideas we have created in this space, browse all our art and creativity ideas here!
Browse all our other Play and Learning Spaces here. I will be writing about some of our other areas soon too.