In our home, Evan and Clayton have always had a creative space of their own. At first, it was only a basket of supplies that they could get out and use at the dining table. As they have grown and as we have discovered what type of space works best for our family, this area has changed and changed again.
I love watching how their creativity and independence can grow when they are provided with the tools they need and the freedom to use them as they wish. They decide what they want to do in this space, what tools they want to use, what they will create. And since this space is theirs, they are also responsible for taking care of it. We teach them how to clean up their tools, but they are expected to do so on their own…or at least of their own initiative. I do help clean up often, particularly after they paint.
In my own studio, I often leave my work-in-progress out for days until I can come back to it. I try to remember this when the boys leave a pile of torn up paper all around the desk and markers strewn about the floor.
But we do have a few basic rules. Every day or two, we work together to make sure their tools are put back where they belong – markers and scissors back in the jars, pricking pins safely stowed away, completed work hung on the pin board or put in the storage boxes. But any unfinished work stays right where it is Then, once every week or two, I help them to clean up a little more thoroughly. We sweep up the glitter, recycle the tiny bits of discarded paper, and make sure everything is put away properly.
Last month, we repainted the playroom and decided to make a few small changes to the boys’ art area. We wanted to make the supplies more accessible to them and also easier for them to keep organized by themselves. We also wanted to add a space for them to display their work.
We moved their art and craft supplies from a closed cabinet and tall, deep bookcase to open wall shelves. I have always found that they use most often that which they can see. The doors on the old cabinet and the depth of the old bookcase meant that too much was out of sight. Now, we can keep the supplies they use frequently right in their reach. The upper shelves contain special things we only use occasionally or which require supervision, as well as an archival storage box for each of them.
We used this tutorial to make a giant room-length pin board with foam insulation board and some inexpensive seersucker fabric. (Note: I love the look of the seersucker, but a slightly thicker fabric might have been a better choice. The lines of duct tape where the foam boards were pieced together are somewhat visible through the light material.)
We bought this drawer unit from Ikea to store paper. Paper, in fact, has always been the biggest organizational struggle for the kids’ craft area. When I stored it on a shelf, it always ended up knocked on the floor as they were trying to pull a specific sheet from the bottom of the pile. When I stored it in a wall magazine rack, they always pulled multiple sheets when they just wanted one and then ended up crumpling the whole stack into the bottom of the rack when they tried to put the extras back. I chose this chest because the drawers are big enough to fit even oversized paper and they are narrow enough so that we will not be tempted to cram too much into them. And with nine drawers total, we can store a single kind of paper in each one.
We all love the new changes, but my very favorite part of their creative space is still something we already had. We bought this very inexpensive and surprisingly sturdy table from Ikea last year. It is big enough for Evan and Clayton to work side-by-side, at least now while they are still small. And because it was cheap, because it is not used for anything else, and because it is unfinished wood, nobody has to worry about it getting messed up. In fact, we chose it with the intention of letting its beauty grow over time, because we know that creativity is messy stuff.