A little after my firstborn turned two, which was also just after we completed the 31 Days of Invitation to Create challenge, I decided to set up a dedicated art space in our home for our children to create freely and independently whenever they chose to do so, though at that point in time and even now, it was mostly for Miss 2. Miss 1 has access to majority of the supplies only with close supervision.
Years ago back when I was still a preschool teacher, I came across several wonderful resources by the inspiring Megan at The Art Pantry. Her eBooks “Invitations to Create” and “The New Playroom” in particular really opened up for me a whole new world of viewing art for/with kids, in particular process art, as well as the value of intentionally making space (both literally and metaphorically) for kids to be creative.
One of the quotes in her ebook “The New Playroom” really stood out to me.
What if we put as much emphasis on art supplies and creative tools as we do on toys?
I mulled over that thought for the longest time and it actually had a lasting impact on me in terms of how I sought to set up play spaces in our home for our children thereafter and today, I thought I’d give you a glimpse of what a designated art space looks like in our home.
A Little Background to our Humble Home
For the past year and a half, we’ve been living in a very old and small rental property with only 2 working bedrooms (one for us and one that is shared by the girls). The third original bedroom was converted to a living area/ playroom/ guest room (which you will see a lot of in my playshelf posts from time to time) as the original living area was infested with termites and the wooden beams in the roof had disintegrated to almost nothing so we decided to leave the space unused for safety reasons.
In my ideal dream home, I’d love to have a separate art studio/ atelier but you can really only work with what you have and I was determined to create a dedicated art space for the children so with the limited space that we currently have, I decided that the best place for setting up a dedicated art space in our home was our kitchen.
Why The Kitchen?
The choices were really only between the living room or the kitchen which is a separate room on its own (no open-plan living/dining area here unfortunately). Seeing as our living room was already used for so many reasons and was quite tight on space, the kitchen just seemed like the better option. In addition, as a SAHM with a lot of kitchen-related chores to do throughout the day, it means that the kids can be close by playing/creating even while I am busying in the kitchen. Kids usually prefer to be around where the adult is anyway if you haven’t already discovered that for yourself.
The Art Space
In this space, we’ve currently got an Ikea table that really just fits 1 child comfortably after all the art materials are spread out so we’ll have to rethink this once Miss 1 is slightly older and wants to join in with her sister more (actually she already attempts to all the time 😆). Besides the main art trolley where the girls have free access to all the art supplies on offer, we’ve also got a portable art caddy with a selection of key basic supplies on top of the table which Miss 2 is able to carry around to the other rooms if she chooses to. A plastic transparent sheet to cover/protect the table and light-coloured foam mats under it just to make cleaning at the end of the day a whole lot easier for myself and a rag always hanging on the side of the trolley to encourage Miss 2 to clean up any messes or spills that she might have made in the process of creating.
The Art Trolley
In terms of what’s on the art trolley, because I’ve currently got two children at very different developmental stages despite their 16 month age gap, I have to take into consideration both their developmental needs and abilities.
Previously I had a roaming baby who was constantly mouthing. She’s since evolved into a young toddler who’s in the “lovely” stage of enjoying dumping and doing things like uncapping markers and feeling the wonderful sensory nature of marker tips and drawing on herself, her clothes, the floorboards etc. As such we’ve got all the items that we want out of her reach on the top shelf, so colour pencils, markers, oil and chalk pastels, coloured and plain popsicle sticks, straws, pipe cleaners, washi tape, alphabet stamps, glue stick, child-safe scissors and PVA glue. They’re sorted into cups for easy access for the older toddler and it also makes packing/tidying up independently pretty easy as it is clear where every item belongs.
On the middle shelf we’ve got things in clear transparent tubs, containers and bottles. This is for Miss 2 to know at a glance what supplies and resources are available for her to access while making it a barrier for Miss 1, so pom poms, coloured matchsticks, mini popsicle sticks, a selection of coloured and textured paper, playdough, playdough tools and our much-loved Mala paints from Ikea, the only paints that Miss 2 can help herself to easily with the unscrewing and screwing of the caps so that’s what we currently have on offer.
Next to the trolley is a chopping board which the toddler uses to put her playdough on whenever she wants to play with it (again just another buffer/work space for containing mess 👌🏼✌🏼). Finally on the bottom shelf, we’ve got a whole heap of different recycled cardboard materials just as a different type of canvas to work on or if she wanted to create something.
And that’s about it 🙂 Every now and then, I will rotate the art supplies on the shelf just to keep things fresh and exciting. Sometimes Miss 2 will let me know if she needs something else like a watercolour palette set up for instance. Other times I’ll set up Invitations to Create or #toddlerartinvitations for her.
Having this dedicated art space has really been such a wonderful addition/ complement to our existing play spaces and it has opened up so many learning opportunities and personal growth for my girls, in particular Miss 2, which I’ve shared here as part two of this series.