Get this: many of our kids will most likely have careers and jobs that don’t even exist yet. Yikes! Sure, some will be teachers, doctors, service men and women (all of which require creativity), but others will have some sort of crazy job (bloggers!) that back in the 80s and 90s, no one thought possible.
That is what makes creative practice and the visual arts so essential in today’s world. My hope is that all kids have an opportunity for arts education, not just because I’m an art teacher, but because I’m a mom. Yeah, yeah, all moms want their kids to be successful, contribute-to-society-type citizens, but wouldn’t it be great if they loved what they do, too? That’s where creativity and passion come in. Creativity can be practiced in so many venues, but actually making visual art, talking about it, and – bonus – doing it as a family is an all-around wonderful way to catch the creative wave.
Obviously, being an Iowa Citian, an art educator, and fairly new mom, I like to have my eyes peeled, and my mental wheels turning for all things art. Here is a list of three things that you can do with your kids on a cold winter weekend for a nominal fee, or free.
1. For the Hands On
Now, I know that for some it might be a bit of a drive, but hey, it can take me just as long to get to the Coral Ridge Mall on a busy Saturday afternoon as it can to Cedar Rapids. Located in the historic Cherry Building in downtown Cedar Rapids, The Ceramics Center is an amazing resource for professional and budding clay artists. On Saturdays, they have hands-on, reasonably-priced ($15 for non-members. I mean, seriously a movie and popcorn will cost that!), professionally-instructed family workshops where students make and take their artwork. Workshops range from Spiral Clay Bowls to Dragons in a Fantasy World and more. Sign me up!
*Participants under the age of eight must be accompanied by an adult.
2. For the Emerging Art Critic
Iowa City Public Library’s Art-To-Go Collection
Another reason to love the ICPL is its Art-To-Go Collection. In a nutshell, you borrow a piece of art like you would a book. All you need is your handy-dandy library card. How cool is that?! Pieces are framed and prepared to just hang on the wall. Voila! Instant opportunity to talk with your kids about art. Speaking as an art teacher of little ones, some suggestions: allow your kid(s) to choose one piece of art to borrow. Take it home, pick a place to set it up, and spend some time admiring it. Here is the key…LET THEM CHOOSE. Sure, whatever they may pick may not go with the decor for the family or dining room, but the glory is that it isn’t permanent. Then, follow their selection up with a few questions: What do you like about it? Does the title match the artwork? What do you think the artist was thinking about when he or she created it? I guarantee you will be tickled by their responses.
* TIP: Go even deeper and try to re-create the artwork with materials you have at home!
3. For Your Own Home
Yes, yes, for you Type A Mamas out there (I can be in that group), turning your home into a visual arts studio sounds, well…terrible. Getting all required supplies out, making a mess, and in the end having just to clean it up is not everyone’s ideal way to spend a Saturday. I get it. I really do. But, here are three seriously simple ideas for many age groups with minimal materials to get their creative juices flowing.
- Winter Wonderscapes: White chalk and black and/or blue construction paper. Draw the winter scene you see outside your window. Yes, you can get in on the fun, too! Encourage them to use their finger to smudge the chalk a bit. Make the art last longer by going to more than one window in the house to draw from. Then, temporarily tape the art on the window and talk about the drawing: What’s in the drawing? Was it hard to draw with just chalk? How does winter look different than the other seasons?
- Find a HeART: It doesn’t have to be Valentine’s Day to make some hearts using collage, with paper and glue. (Or, choose another shape that represents the season or your child’s interest.) But here is the creative catch: you can only use paper that is in the recycling bin or in a magazine and you can’t use scissors, you have to tear up the pieces instead of cutting them. This is a great way to get those little hands moving and thinking outside the box of traditional art materials. It’s fun to add color with crayons or markers to them after the glue has set.
- Cardboard Village: Every parent knows that a cardboard box is a world of wonder. All you need is cardboard (which can include cereal boxes, snack boxes, anything!), scissors, and masking tape. If you are short on cardboard, you can be like a crazy art teacher (I wonder who I’m talking about?) and take some from the Recycle Center on Scott Blvd. Have the village start in the corner of a room and grow it from there.
* Hint: Pre-cut some pieces for little hands.
Ready? Set? Go!
Hopefully these few ideas offer an opportunity to practice the creativity and passion that will be required of our kids in the future. If anything, they allow kids (and you too!) to take a few steps back and just have family fun on a chilly weekend this winter. Don’t worry about things “looking good” or “right.” It’s all about the practice, and the experience. The best part is: you can get your own creative groove on, too, while hanging out with some of your favorite people. Enjoy!
Special thanks to our Guest Blogger, Megan Dehner.
Megan originally hails from neighboring Illinois, but wouldn’t want to live anywhere else besides in Iowa City, with her husband, Ryan, little girl, Madeline (15 months), and pup, Omie. Iowa City stole her heart after graduating with a B.F.A. in Printmaking and a B.A. in Spanish from The University of Iowa. As an art teacher at a dual-language (Spanish and English) elementary school in nearby West Liberty, Iowa, she is always looking for ways to get creative juices flowing for her family, her students, and herself. Besides practicing creativity with kiddos, she loves catching up with Madeline-cuddles, art-making in her home studio, planning a new trip, or playing with a new recipe for her food blog, The Cooking Canvas.