Today Adèle asked me, “Mommy, why don’t other kids have art studios at home?” I thought it was a simple question to answer but found myself a bit speechless as I tried to think of an answer. She kept on staring at me, waiting, so finally I told her “it’s because most parents don’t know how to make one.”
If you want your kids to access their artistic side frequently, they need to have a dedicated space in the house where they can express their creativity. Here are some tips on how to set up a magical, inviting space that encourages art-making activities.
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A SIMPLE WAY TO MAKE AN ART STUDIO FOR KIDS
I don’t know if you’ve ever thought about it or noticed, but most things in our world are made for adults. When houses are built and designed, when furniture is made – children are usually not taken into account. So, unless you buy child-size furniture, chances are you will be adopting adult-size furniture to child sizes. No wonder once kids start walking and exploring, they want to climb onto things and get into everything. All the stuff they want – the stuff we use – is too high and out of reach.
- This has been on my mind since Adèle was born and I always try to find new ways to make things accessible for her. Consequently, she never climbed up onto furniture and is extremely independent. When setting up her art studio, like with everything else, I first looked for furniture for her size. It was of utmost importance for me that she could go and get the materials herself when she felt like it and put them back herself when finished. I did a lot of research looking for Montessori furniture but could not find anything appropriate that didn’t cost and arm and a leg. So, in the meantime, we bought her this IKEA Children’s Table & 2 Chairs Set. (We tried all tables and chairs in IKEA but this one was by far the best for the reasons outlined below). It was really inexpensive and I figured that if it didn’t last long, at least I would have bought myself some time while looking for something more appropriate. Now it’s been 2 years and the table is still standing strong and even withstood a two months long journey on a cargo ship (whereas our other furniture was damaged). The things that I like best about this table is that it’s light and sturdy and the edges keep art materials from rolling off! It’s also made out of pine and can be decorated – which is an activity in itself! The chairs are not the right size for smaller kids but I don’t encourage sitting for long periods of time (our back doctor who treats olympic athletes told us that sitting is the worst positing we could be in) while making art so when Adèle was too small for the chairs, she would just stand and work at her table. Now she sits down more frequently and it’s great to have a second chair which I (or guests) can use when making art with her. So far we tested the chairs up to 80kg and they are strong enough.
- We also have a Montessori Cube Chair and it’s perfect for a growing child. Once the child is tall enough, the chair becomes a stool. Adults can also use it, of course, and if you have two, the second one becomes a table! This is what it looks like: Wooden Cube Chair/Table Set.
- Melissa & Doug Wooden Table and 2 Chairs Set Classic look, wooden – a fancier version of our IKEA set.
- I like to buy things that last a long time and grow with the child,so if you have older children, a table with adjustable legs like this IKEA Children’s Adjustable Desk would be ideal.
- Hape – Early Explorer – Art Play Station and Stool Set Non-toxic, has storage, modern design.
- KidKraft Art Table with Drying Rack and Storage Wood, excellent for a Montessori home.
Make art supplies accessible – i.e. make sure they are low enough that your child can reach them! Once again, for the above mentioned reasons, we use IKEA Children Pine Storage. It’s very versatile, does not tip over and is the PERFECT size for toddlers. You can choose drawers of different colors to match your decor or to use different colors for different art materials. We went with white and green for Feng Shui purposes (I’ll write more about that in another post.) Once again, we bought pine so that Adèle could decorate it. Also, the drawers are very light so I don’t worry about them falling and hurting her toes. I would avoid buying tiered models as that encourages climbing and tipping over.
Now, before you put down all this furniture, make sure that you put something down to protect the floor (unless you don’t care.) We use two Hulsig Home Living Room Rugs and unless the entire bottle of paint spills and sits on it for a long time, the paint does not seep through. I like using rugs because they make the space feel warmer and fit in better with our decor in the house. They are also warmer on little bare feet (and big bare feet, too). However, for very messy art-making or when working outside, we usually use a tarp.
Until Adèle turned 2, I had dedicated art clothes for her. Now she doesn’t want them anymore and prefers to put on her MALA smock (or nothing when she knows that she won’t get dirty). Our favorite smock was a Micador smock that my husband got her as a gift when we were living in Australia. It has cloth as leaves and the elastic is made so well that even though the smock was large on her, the sleeves did not get in the way. She also used her MALA smock, but because the sleeves were so long, they’d smear the paint. I tried rolling them up, but it was too balky and got in the way. If you have an older/taller child, then the MALA smock would work well. For toddlers – If you can buy Micador from Australia, it is cute, comfy and easy to wash. Otherwise, here are some reusable smocks options:
- Kuuqa Waterproof Art Smock BPA free, non-toxic and has pockets.
- Melissa & Doug Long-Sleeve Artist Smock the material is thick so not very ergonomic for little bodies, but it has storage pockets and chest pocket which can be personalized and that is definitely a plus.
- Crayola Core Art Smock No elastic around the wrist which could be annoying, but for the price, does the job.
Easel and Step Stool
While most painting my daughter did till 2 was made directly on the floor, sometimes she still wants to paint standing up. It’s too difficult to do that on the table as her little arms cannot reach all the way to the top of the page. That’s why we got her an easel and if you can afford one, it’s definitely worth it.
- You don’t need anything fancy – our IKEA MALA Easel does the job perfectly.
- Melissa & Doug Deluxe Standing Easel Paint trays (plastic, so easy to clean) and paper clips are a nice addition. It’s a versatile easel that includes a dry-erase board, a chalkboard, a paper-roll holder and a child-safe paper cutter.
- Little Partners Deluxe Art Easel This one is one of the more expensive ones, but it comes with storage which is a huge plus.
- ECR4Kids 3-in-1 Art Easel Has adjustable legs so can be adjusted to your child’s height.
- Hape Easel Non-toxic and wooden. It has everything the others do plus is versatile, adjustable and safe.
- KidKraft Easel A deluxe, wooden easel. Solid and sturdy.
With an easel we use a light, portable Forsiktig Children’s Step Stool which Adèle istalls by herself. This way she can reach up to all the parts of the paper (if using a larger one).
A Place to Dry Wet Artwork
Unless Adèle wants her paintings to drip while drying, she does not use a drying rack (we have a clothes drying rack that she uses for hanging paintings with clothes pegs). If we had more space, I would get her this paint drying rack. In either case, kids love to hang things and the drying rack can be used for other hanging activities as well. Otherwise, the artwork dries on the rugs or on top of plastic container lids.
A Dedicated Art Studio Space
Avoid putting the art studio in the kitchen, especially with younger children. In my humble opinion, kitchen is for food and only food. I actually don’t allow any toys or anything non-kitchen related there. When we eat, we eat together and focus on what we are consuming. We discuss food. We cook together. If I were to bring art supplies to the kitchen, my little ones would think that it’s food and would be tempted to put it in her mouth. Cooking is an art in itself and already has it’s special place so, unless your circumstances really don’t allow it, find another place in the house – a room with natural lighting is the best. Preferably, it should be an inviting room to which people in your household gravitate to. Children like to be close to you, so make their art studio in a place that is close to you (if possible, of course).
If you have an outside space that your kids can use (even if only during warmer months), then this IKEA RASKOG trolley is a must-have. It’s metallic, easy to wash and has wheels. I wheeled ours onto the terrace at our old house and Adèle loved using it when painting during summer. There are three tiers so it’s easy to organize supplies into simple categories (more on that later). You can attach magnetic jars to it and adopt its use as the child grows. You can also attach various other removable containers. There is even a group on Facebook called “Pimp My Raskog” which is dedicated to Raskog lovers. Ours is creamy color as I thought it is the most neutral. Our studio gets very colorful with all the paint flying around, so I like to have neutral-colored furniture that does not take away from the artwork. My friends, however, have turquoise Raskogs as they look more retro.
Once I took my daughter on a play date and both kids were given wrinkled computer paper and pencils whose marks were hardly visible. It was very frustrating for them and painful for me to watch. It didn’t spark joy. Make sure all art supplies are of the best quality you can afford. You don’t have to spend a lot of money on them, but just make sure that whatever you get works well so that the child will enjoy using them. The art materials you choose will depend on and change with your child’s age and preferences. I update our supplies periodically, depending on what Adèle’s interests are at the moment.
To summarize, here is a list of what you will need
- A table and chairs
- A set of drawers to keep art supplies accessible and tidy
- Something to cover the floor (unless you are lucky enough to have the type of floor that doesn’t need cleaning up)
- A smock and/or clothes and shoes dedicated to art-making
- An easel and a step stool (if your child is not tall enough yet to reach up higher and/or if your easel is not height adjustable)
- A drying rack and a place to dry wet artwork
- A dedicated art space with natural lighting
- For an outside space – a trolley
- Art supplies (discussed separately)
Here is Adèle’s latest studio. I’d love to see what your child’s studio looks like! Remember to tag me on Instagram as @Rainy.Day.Sunny.Play and use the #Rainy.Day.Sunny.Play hashtag.