My kids are intensely prolific artists. The sheer quantity of art and literature these kids churn out on a daily basis is nothing short of mind-boggling. It has always been important to me to promote their creativity, and so I have always, since their early drawing days, had lots of paper, coloring books, crayons, markers, pencils, scissors, glue sticks, stickers, etc, within reach. Because of this I am regularly gifted with love notes from my girls and pictures galore. As a mother, it makes my heart melt, and I love to watch their skills progress over the years. As a professional organizer, the result of their creative endeavors often makes me cringe. In my efforts to find a balance between unbridled creativity and order, I have spent many hours searching for and testing solutions for managing this craziness. When the kids were 2 and 5, we purchased an art table. At that time it seemed like a no-brainer that this was the solution for us. The supplies had started taking over our living room coffee table and it was time for the kids to have their own art space. The table was low and came with two little stools. It had 6 large cloth bins to hold all of their supplies on some low side shelves as well as a shelf that was above the surface of the table. Over the 2 years that we used it, the thing proved to be utterly dysfunctional. It instead became a dumping ground for all of the art supplies and projects that continued to be created all over the house. In fact, everywhere but on the art table. I don’t know what child or parent would ever keep this table looking as neat and orderly as it appears in the pictures below. This particular table is the Guidecraft Deluxe Art Center Kid’s Table and Chair Set, but this product is not alone in being problematic in design.
I will share with you a few tips below that this table taught me.
Kids are overwhelmed by too many choices
Cloth bins have time and again proven to be a fabulous storage solution for many, many things…except art supplies. After 2 years of collecting supplies in these seemingly bottomless bins, I realized that 1,000 broken, stuck together crayons was very uninviting to a small child. And 1,000 dead, cap-less, markers were also pretty useless. The sheer quantity of selection paired with the fact that the bins were too big and floppy to carry around had me convinced I needed a better solution. I went out and purchased several small, faux stainless-steel bins (from the Target $1 bin), labeled them, and placed the best of the best of the crayon collection in them. Now instead of 1,000 broken crayons, they had 2 little buckets of maybe 65 whole, working crayons. I did the same for my massive bin of markers, consolidating to a little bucket of skinny and little bucket of fat, working markers with lids. A bucket of scissors, a bucket of glue sticks, a bucket of pencils, colored pencils, erasers. You get the idea. By downsizing the quantity of the supplies I had out, labeling them well in small containers that they could pick up and carry, and placing them in an easy to see, easy to reach area off the work surface of their table, the space felt much more inviting. Not only that, but the few crayons and markers they had to choose from were cared for much more respectfully. Though I did throw away the trashed excess of crayons, there were several supplies that I just moved off-site. I have a dedicated closet space for the overflow supplies, as well as the bigger art projects and kits that I don’t want out. These special activities (like the headband making kit, the beading kits, the playdoh, etc) get dedicated time and focus, and they go back home to their space in the closet.
Kids like to stand (and sometimes sit on the floor) when they are creating art
The other joke about that table were the 2 little stools that were provided. I think they were more often used as step stools than sit-and-do-art stools. Not only was the surface of the table never clear enough to afford them any space for doing art, but even when it was, they still opted to stand at my desk which was in the same room. Ultimately, it dawned on me that perhaps another desk just like mine (basic flat Ikea desk) would work better. Granted my kids are a little taller now (ages 5 and 7) so it is a good height for them. I did get them chairs which they use about 20% of the time, but more often than not they stand because they are kids and they are WAAAAY too busy to sit. I hung little wall shelves around the desk so that the supplies would not clutter the work space, as well. The other great thing about those little buckets of supplies that I downsized to is that if the mood strikes them to move to the kitchen table or the couch, they can grab a bucket of crayons and whatever they are working on and go. And when it is time to clean up, it is no longer unreasonable to expect them to carry those little buckets back to their home.
Kids like to be close to the action
There will come a time when my kids will want to hide in their rooms for hours on end. But for now, I find that my kids want to be right in the center of the action. If you tuck your child’s art space off in the corner of a room that you never go in, they will never go there either. At least that is my experience. Lucky for me, my house is pretty small. (I can’t believe I just said that.) So finding a central location was not too hard. But placing the kids art table directly next to my desk seemed to be a great choice. My desk is just to the left of the desk shown above. I can even sit at the computer and work while they sit at their art table and work, too. So now this room is interchangeably referred to as the office and the art room which I kind of love.
A couple of other random features of my art area that seem to have worked out well are below:
– Lots of natural light
– An area where they can hang their latest masterpieces
– A bin for unused paper as well as a bin for completed projects
– A dedicated recycling bin under the table
If you have become overwhelmed by your children’s art hobbies and are looking for a better solution within your home, Beth Deig, Professional Organizer and owner of Sorted Nest, would be happy to help you create a customized art space for your family.
Stay Tuned for Kid Art Part 2: Archiving Your Child’s Art