Helen Collins - artist

6 Steps to Self-guided Creative Time for Your Kids

Nov 04, 2019

Creative corners are always fun for everyone, from toddlers to teens, even for the adults. If you saw my last blog post, you'll know what essentials I like to include in my kids creative corner, but what are the best ways to encourage your child to play independently and spend lots of time in self-guided creative time?

Here are my six tips! Feel free to try some, all, or none them...because you know what's best for your kids, but these are some of the things I've seen as a mum and teacher, time and time again that inspire even our littlest artists to spend hours creating  (and give mum or dad a much needed few moments to themselves). 

1. Introduce everything in stages 

It might start with just the pencils and the paper. Then move on to stickers and tape, but whatever is in your creative corner, introduce it over a few days, even weeks. Introduce things gradually. This will encourage your child to explore each item that is there, rather than just "all the things" all at once, which often result in just a big mess constantly being there and they loose interest very quickly. This can seem slightly picky and a little painful to do... as we want to put all the fun stuff out in our new picture perfect corner to start with, but trust me, it makes a difference. 


2. Model that everything has a place

As you introduce each stage, have a designated spot that each item belongs. It not only helps when the crazy mess may need packing up, but if you model packing up to your child when you show them the items you've put out, it not only encourages them to pack up, but really helps keep the space neater which makes it much more appealing for them to go and play at. Encourage them to pack away, but if you see them finishing up, and they haven't, just model the pack up and invite them to help. Positive reinforcement of a nice tidy space will more likely catch on if you're keen to do it too. Everything having a space makes this process easier for you and them. 


3. Say the DO'S not the DON'T 

"Don't draw on the chair!" If a child hears this, the last thing they head you say is "draw on the chair", so the first things they probably will do is draw on the chair. If you've got the washable markers I suggested in my last post, marks on furniture or faces aren't a huge issue, but its good to encourage them to "only draw on the paper." Make your statements positive. "Hold your scissors facing down. Can you click the lids on tight? Remember to always draw on the paper." These types of statements won't put grand ideas of what other things they can draw on into their head. I'm not saying they won't do these things, but if we say "don't....." it is often the first thing they do, because we put the idea front and centre. 


4. Give them clear access to a rubbish bin

Having a clearly designated space, that is very easily accessible, where the mess goes, will more often than not mean most of the mess ends up there. Again, it needs to be modelled and reinforced, but if they play then clear their mess, they may continue to play independently. Making for a much longer creative time (and more mum or dad kid free time!) I suggest it's a special creative corner rubbish bin, for those times that markers or large amount of paper go in. You don't have to rescue them from the kitchen garbage, just pop them out and the creative corner is back in business. 

5. Display area for finished tasks

It might be a tray, or a pin board, or a string with pegs, but something they are able to display their work on, or pack finished tasks to the side. Again, I'm coming back to the idea that a child will enjoy continuing an activity if the space is clearer. If they can complete or pack away a task, they often continue with another. If not, it is still important as giving them the choice to display their work is wonderful for their self-confidence. 

6. Rotation 

Have an activity that every so often, and you'll know when's best for your child, you change it up. I mentioned having a special activity tray in my last post. This is a great spot to put something fun, stickers, stamps, textures paper or craft sticks,  that every week or so is different. Variety will encourage them to see the whole space as new. They'll do something different with all the regular creative tools, because there is something different to combine them with. 

So there they are, my six tips to encourage your child to self-guided play in their creative corner. I'd love to know if you give them a go and which ones work best for you? 

If you want to see some fun activities for your little ones you can follow along on my instagram account, where I post some of what I do with my kids, or join The Fox Box family and I'll send out (not spam you) a few art activities for kids. Or if you want to just send the somewhere else to make the mess.. come along to one of my classes... THE FOX BOX - art class adventures.


Stay creative! H





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