Create and Craft Christmas–Art Ideas and Inspiration
Written by Julie Bisnath, BSW RSW
I think for most of us, we know deep down that art is good. We know that children learn from doing. We appreciate the artistic talents of others. We have good intentions and great ideas (thank you Pinterest!). Where we sometimes get bogged down is in the logistics, the preparation, and most importantly, the mindset:
- Making the commitment to offer more process oriented art.
- Allowing the children to come and go from the “art table”.
- Having them decide what materials to use, how to use them, how much or how little to use, and when to stop.
- Understanding that art is not always about having a “finished piece” or “product”.
- Knowing and preparing for the fact that there might be some mess.
- Accepting that art ideas and interests are as subjective as the art itself.
- Embracing the learning and creativity that comes from consistent, unstructured (not unsupervised!), access to art.
When we really challenge ourselves to shift our mindset and include art as a part of our children’s daily experience, we open the door for them to explore, express, innovate, create, craft, discover, wonder, imagine, question, problem-solve, enjoy, and so much more. We build confidence, pride, and self-esteem. We instill and nurture a sense of agency, mastery, accountability, self-efficacy, and ownership.
If providing daily access to open-ended art seems difficult or unmanageable, start with changing only one or two small aspects of your usual art activity/routine. Try to increase access to art. Try to include new or different materials. Think about how to arrange your time and space to be “art-friendly”. Follow the interests of the children. Extend books or dramatic play onto the “art table”. Invite the children to suggest ideas.
Offer art activities often, provide variety, and modify as needed. Follow the cues from your group. Consider the age range of your children, their varied abilities, and their individual interests. Most importantly—is there joy? Are the children curious? Is there wonder and delight? Lead with a happy heart, be open to new experiences, and share in the learning—enjoy the opportunities and your children will too.
Many of my favourite holiday activities involve art, crafting, and creativity. Here are a few ideas for inspiring art and supporting the artistic and creative expression of young children:
Ideas for Encouraging Process Art:
- Messiness is ok and to be expected! This does not mean that the children are permitted to paint your walls or each other! Have them wear play clothes so no one has to worry or feel anxious about getting dirty. Talk to parents ahead of time and explain the concept (and value!) of process art. Have clean up items (towels, wipes, water, etc.) readily available.
- Provide access to open-ended materials—paint, fabrics, water, shaving cream, glue, markers, chalk, paper, pompoms, collage items, clay or play dough, bits and bobbles, etc. You do not have to provide all of the materials at the same time! Too many options can be overwhelming. Large amounts can also be too much—start with a little and add as needed.
- Supervise without providing instruction. Lead by example. Enjoy exploring and creating with the children. Try new things. Get messy!
- If it’s easier—go outside! This is especially true for glitter! Or go outside just for fun and to experience process art in a different environment.
- Introduce materials and tools found in nature: twigs, stones, leaves, grass, etc.
- Use recycled objects: bottle caps, sponges, containers, toothbrushes, bubble wrap, etc.
- Try to allow for long periods of time and/or have the art materials available for children to access and explore throughout the day.
- Comment occasionally on the specifics of the process and/or ask questions: “I noticed that you are using the toothbrush to move the paint around on your paper.” “You mixed glue with paint. What happened to the colour? What does it feel like?”
- Let the child decide when they are done and whether or not they want to keep the end result. Do they want to include their name? If so, where?
Ideas for Encouraging Product Art:
- Keep the project age appropriate and set the children up for success (i.e. pre-cut any difficult shapes, pre-measure any difficult ingredients, etc. but let them do as much as they can themselves).
- Provide several models so that the children have a guide but also know that their product does not need to look exactly like one specific model.
- Offer choices: colour/texture of material, added ingredients (raisins or chocolate chips?), glue stick or glue pot and spreader, etc.
- Explain the steps and do the project together (each person can do their own or it can be a combined group effort). Provide visual aids and examples of each step.
- Help the children understand that with some projects following the steps and directions are important. Ask questions. Encourage problem solving. Give them opportunities to learn and practice new skills.
- Do not correct or fix their work—3 eyes and 5 legs are ok! For older children, if the product didn’t quite turn out (to THEIR expectations) that’s ok too, focus on what went well and encourage them to try again. Learning any new skill takes perseverance and lots of practice!
- Focus on positive outcomes: “We did it! We followed all of the steps and now we each have a duck! My duck is yellow, with one eye, and green feathers. Tell me about your duck!”
Examples of Christmas Process and/or Product Art
These ideas can all be modified to better suit the age of the children:
- Marble, golf ball, or jingle bell painting (on plain or pre-cut paper to have a product)—use a tray or closed container (place the paper inside the closed container).
- Bubble wrap prints (on plain or pre-cut paper to have a product).
- Collage of various Christmas materials and textures (fabric, paper, old cards, ribbon, etc.).
- Paint using evergreen branches.
- String beads on pipe cleaners to make an ornament.
- Provide a sensory experience and offer to make prints on paper or pre-cut shapes.
- Use Christmas cookie cutters to stamp with paint.
- Make and paint salt dough or clay ornaments with the children.
- Spice art: the children apply glue and then sprinkle on spices (ginger, cinnamon, clove, etc.). Use plain paper or a pre-cut shape.
- Paint with various tools (spray bottles, squeeze bottles, droppers, pompoms, fingers, Q-tips).
- Provide contact paper and a variety of Christmas bits (sequins, glitter, ribbon, etc.).
- Use the end result from process art to make a card or framed piece of art.