magazine interview

Jean Van’t Hul lives the mountains of North Carolina and is passionate about children’s art and creativity. She shares her passion and projects on her blog (The Artful Parent) and she has an upcoming book about children’s art coming out soon. I asked Jean a few questions about her Autumn Crafts E-book and discussing her philosophy on children’s creativity.

1. This e-book is aimed at pre-school age – can you tell us a little more about how you engage children becoming creative and keep their attention?

The book is perfect for families with pre-school age children, yes, but also for those with both older and younger children. My three-year-old and seven-year-old daughters enjoyed the activities equally, and I think many of the activities would be engaging for up to pre-teens. Heck, I love most of them myself, and I’m 35!

You can give your children the gift of creativity with encouragement, a few art materials, and the freedom to experiment. It doesn’t take much.

1. Ready access to art materials and tools
2. Encouragement in art and in life
3. An environment where experimentation is encouraged and “mistakes” are okay

If these three ingredients are in place, children are free to be creative in art and that creativity transfers over to play and everyday life as well.

2. You have a new book coming out with Roost – congratulations – are you able to tell us a little about this book – what we can expect and how it came to be?

I would love to! The Artful Parent: Simple Ways to Fill Your Family’s Life with Art and Creativity is a guidebook for parents and teachers who want to encourage their children’s creativity through art. It is filled with our all-time favorite art activities as well as information to inspire and guide parents as they make art a priority in their family life.

The Artful Parent:
• Helps parents set up an art space for their children
• Talks about the arts and crafts supplies they really need (and how to stock their art cupboards without breaking the bank)
• Shares how to talk with their kids constructively about their art (you know, rather than just saying, “that’s nice, dear”)
• And provides more than enough fun art activities to keep families happily creating year round

3. What are you favourite materials and products to use when creating with children? Can you talk a little about setting up a creative space for children?

My favorite materials? The list is so long! I’d say the basics are important and all you really need. There is so much children can do with paints, paper, a few drawing tools, scissors, tape, and some sort of dough such as playdough.

But favorites? Let’s see. We really love colored masking tape in our home. And printed washi tape. The kids use them for all kinds of collage creations, 3-D art, mixed media projects, you name it. I also use both for gift wrap. [Jean's favourite art supplies list.]

Other favorites:

  • Liquid watercolors
  • Glitter paint
  • Glitter glue
  • Glitter (sense a theme here?)
  • Shaving cream (not my favorite, but it’s my kids’ top fave so I have to include it)
  • Model Magic
  • Oil pastels
  • Watercolor crayons

4. Can you talk also about how you have nurtured a creative home and your philosophy when creating with children?

I believe in process-oriented art for children, especially younger children. This means that the process of the art making is more important than the end product. That the art is ultimately open-ended and child-directed. This is pretty much the opposite of what I experienced as a child in grade school where my classmates and I would carefully follow instructions to recreate a teacher-made model of a bunny or snowman or something — cutting out on the dotted line and pasting the eyes on the “x”. Instead, I believe children’s art should be more exploratory in nature — about exploring the materials, different techniques, their growing skill set, and their ideas and feelings.

Having a beautiful end product that you can hang on the wall is great! But it shouldn’t be the whole focus of children’s art. The freedom to explore (and make mistakes) is important to creativity. The books by MaryAnn Kohl (First Art, Scribble Art, Preschool Art, etc) and the books by Susan Striker (Young at Art, Please Touch) both had a big influence on me and my philosophy on children’s art and creativity.

As for a creative home environment, I have made our home as much for our children as for my husband and me. Kid stuff isn’t relegated to one room. We have kid-sized furniture throughout the house, my daughters’ toys and books are in most rooms, and there are spaces for creating throughout the house as well.

Tools and spaces for creative explorations are readily available — I think this is pretty important. The accessibility is age dependent — for example, I kept scissors and choking hazards out of reach when my 3 year old was younger. Now, I continue to keep the permanent markers and some other supplies out of reach to ensure that they are used when I’m ready to supervise. But many of our supplies are accessible for them to use when the desire strikes.

  • There is a child’s table in the main living space where the kids draw or create with playdough.
  • We have a basket of paper and some crayon rocks next to the dining table.
  • We turned a yard sale find into a large chalkboard with a fresh coat of paint a couple years ago.
  • Maia has a desk in her bedroom and she does a fair bit of drawing, cutting, and taping there.

And, as my Artful Parent readers know, we are lucky to have an art studio in our home as well. It started out as a large laundry room, but we’ve turned it into a dedicated art space with art tables, a wall of shelves for art supply storage, and an art drying wall. It’s been wonderful to have, especially for messy art projects, but in the end I think the majority of our family art making happens at our dining table. [More about making space for kids.]

 FREE excerpt 

from Jean’s Autumn Crafts E-book :: Leaf Printed Napkins Project - PDF Download.

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For more kids craft, creative ideas and activities go to the Action Pack website