Having the right attitude toward art and art supplies will help you make sound decisions about art supplies and the many works of art your family can create. We need to realize that having an excess of anything (including good things like art supplies and artwork) reduces our enjoyment. If God means something to be a blessing to your family and you have way more than you can use, keep neat, and enjoy, you are living outside of the boundaries that the Lord intended. Anything we keep that is more than we can reasonably use is putting us in bondage. When I was growing up, my mother would often say: “You are a slave to what you own.” I don’t want to be a slave to an avalanche of art supplies and art projects, so using these principles helps keep those things in check.
Realize the desire for art, color and beauty is a gift from the Lord. It is part of what shows how we are created in the likeness of our very creative God. But while God is the God of beauty and art, he is also a God of order and routine. Here are some steps you can take to help calm the chaos that art can be prone to create:
1. Inventory all the art supplies that you have before you purchase anything.
Gather it all together in one place in your house to see how much you have, and make note of things you have in abundance and things you would like to add to your homeschool art supplies. Look and see what is most frequently used and what is just taking up valuable space.
2. Reduce supplies.
As a new homeschool mom, I thought that at the beginning of each school year, every child needed that shiny new box of crayons, markers, colored pencils, paints, pads of art paper, stickers, and a nice storage box for that set. I have since realized that there were some supplies that were used frequently – but, we simply had too much. This, of course, will vary from family to family, so do what makes sense to you. Once, I put all the crayons together in a small bin, and I realized I will never have to buy crayons again. I also realized our markers were almost never used and often were dried out when we did want to use them. However, we have a wall painted with white board paint in our kitchen and those markers are used constantly. If you have excess supplies, donate them. Schools, teachers, church classrooms, hospitals, the library, and other community places may really enjoy your excess of supplies. You can also offer them to friends on Facebook or through your local homeschool group.
3. Simplify packaging.
Crayon boxes are hard for 3-year-old hands to handle, so using a small bin with a lid became the norm at our house. Think about the process of clean-up when you design the storage, and see if your children can actually use the tools for clean-up.
4. Designate particular areas for art.
I admit that I am not artistic by nature, but a few of my children are. So to calm the chaos, I allow all the messy art projects to be done in one place: at the kitchen table. Anything with the potential to stain, spill, or scratch must stay there. This goes for paint, markers, rocks, sand, or candle-making. Our kitchen table takes the hit, and our dining room table is left, for the most part, without damage from art. I knew I needed a place they could work and have fun, so I got used to the idea that at least one place in the house was going to look like I had a bunch of children there doing art – because I do! If your family can’t have one place where the kids can get messy, consider getting a wipeable, thick table cloth that is used to cover and protect surfaces, then require it to be used for art time.
5. Use a system for temporary display.
When I had one child, her things went on display indefinitely. The discarding process was painful and rarely happened. As you can imagine, this lead to lots of artistic clutter. Now with six children and two grandchildren, I have had to use another system. I have several fridge magnets, and all new art gets to go to the fridge for display. But, once a week I clear off the fridge, choose my very favorites, (if there are any that are worth saving) and discard the rest. Each child in our home has a file box just for his papers. If a particular child is still very sensitive about letting go of art, invite them to add it to his own paperwork box that is stored in his room. When the box starts getting full, invite him to go through it and choose his favorites, and either give away or recycle the remaining ones. Sometimes just waiting awhile can make letting go of old art easier. Another way to ease the pain of letting go is to take a picture of the art, with the little artist holding it. The kids know I keep every photo and they can look back and see the art they have done over the years. Often these end up in my Instagram or Facebook feed where grandparents can see and enjoy it and comment on it. The younger children enjoy the positive feedback and often ask me to take a picture and send it to various people.
6. Teach your children to be a blessing through the things they create.
Consider alternate uses for art. If your family visits nursing homes or hospitals, a child’s work of art can really make a drab room look cheerful. Using art as a homemade gift wrap can be a great way to recycle some of it. Homemade art can become handmade cards (we rarely purchase greeting cards anymore) for special occasions. Each child can make a card or picture as his or her contribution to a family gift. In our family, homemade gifts are considered the best ones, and we love to make cards and other gifts for friends and family.
Copyright 2016, The Old Schoolhouse®. Used with permission. All rights reserved by the Author. Originally appeared in the Fall 2016 issue of The Old Schoolhouse®Magazine, the trade publication for homeschool moms.