Creating art with your child should be a fun experience even if you’re not arty yourself. Keeping in mind that your child is making marks simply for the pure pleasure of it, and not worrying about the result, is an important part of sharing the experience with your tot. And understanding that things are going to get seriously messy is essential too. Along with remembering not to admonish kids for getting smeared while exploring art (which can result in concerns about getting dirty later in life), knowing how to talk with your kids about art is a great way to encourage creativity and the exploration of talents.
And you don’t need to know anything about art to pull off a creative conversation. Here’s what to keep in mind:
Keep it simple: Yeah, that’s right. Keep is seriously simple. Start by looking through art books with your child. You can find ones geared for kids or pick up big and colorful art books from the library to explore. You might be surprised at what your child is interested in. No need to start discussions about color theory or historical details, simply sit with your child and look at the art and let the conversation flow.
Ask basic questions: Initiate some discussion when your child finds an image she’s interested in, which also boosts basic skills. Does she see any shapes in the artwork? What colors did the artist use? What is the artwork depicting? What do you see? How does the artwork make you feel? This way your child relates to the artwork and feels comfortable looking at it from her perspective without being lead by an adult to think or see in a certain way.
Introduce beginning concepts: Now is not the time to discuss whether the painting falls into the category of Op art or Minimalism. Focus on introducing simple concepts, like if the painting is a portrait (of a person) or a landscape (of an outdoor scene). Is it a still-life or an abstract (non-representational). Introduce words to your child and encourage her to repeat them while looking at the artwork. Kids retain so much, which means she might remember later and totally surprise you.
Don’t be afraid: Here’s the thing — a lot of Renaissance art depicts naked ladies. They’re lounging, hanging out in totally absurd locations, and flocked by others. Your child may flip right past that page, or like mine, decided it’s the most fascinating thing she’s ever seen. Don’t be afraid. Ask your child about what she sees in the picture and you might be surprised at her thoughts. Mine told me it was the most beautiful picture of a princess and then decided she wanted to paint a picture of her. Don’t feel the need to explain everything. Really.
Be silly: No one enjoys a stuffy lecture (really, they don’t). Art is awesome, so have fun while you’re exploring it with your child. Try to see things from your tot’s perspective, which might change how you see things too. Point out areas that are interesting in artworks, take your child on a field trip to look at art in real life, keep it loose and make learning about art a fun experience.
Talk about it: Use unique words, like gigantic, colorful, swirling, dark, crazy, or amazing when talking about artwork instead of opting for “pretty” or “neat”. Along with looking at art together, you’re encouraging her vocabulary, which is pretty cool too.
Just do it: Really. Instead of sitting here reading this, you should be sitting with your tot and a fun art book. Art is everywhere, even in nature. Go on a hunt for patterns, walk through town pointing out everything that’s blue, or take your child to an art opening.
We’re going to finish my tot’s beautiful princess painting with some glitter glue.
My daughter really loves cooking. She’s been mixing things together since she was itty-bitty, and now that she’s older, it’s time to get her in the kitchen for some real cooking. Well, actually, our craft table has recently been taken over with lots of cooking activities, with some pretty awesome results. I’m always trying to find ways to introduce brain-boosting foods to my tot, making tuna an ingredient high on my list of yummy stuff. But sometimes my daughter isn’t so excited about fish. This recipe for tuna cakes is so easy and the results are delicious. And even if your little one isn’t a big fan, you just might be surprised to see her noshing on these after having a hand at making them.
1 can of tuna, drained
1/2 cup breadcrumbs
1/4 cup shredded cheddar cheese
1/4 cup chopped fresh spinach
1 clove of garlic, chopped
Salt and pepper
Squeeze of lemon juice
When cooking with kids, prep by getting all the ingredients ready before starting. For younger ones, pre-mesure the ingredients, chop and shred, and have in small containers along with mixing spoons and bowls at the ready. Older kids can help prep and even assist chop and shred with some adult supervision. After washing our hands, and getting all the ingredients ready, I asked my tot about what she saw in front of her.
It as simple as dumping everything into a bowl and mixing together. For some kids this can take three seconds, or for others, like my daughter, this can turn into a 30 minute cooking segment. We used our favorite brand of tuna for these cakes and whole wheat breadcrumbs. When cooking together we have a rule that there’s no taste-testing when an egg is involved.
We added a few dashes of salt and pepper, a squeeze of lemon, and the garlic. Then it was time to stir, stir, stir. The tuna cake batter will still be a bit moist, but, have no fear, these cakes are wonderfully delicious without being full of fillers.
Preheat your oven to 400˚ F and lightly coat a sheet pan with vegetable oil. Now your child can scoop spoonfuls of the mixture and press together to create round patties, and then carefully place on the pan. You’ll have enough to make around six tuna cakes.
Once your oven is nice and hot, toss those cakes in and bake for seven minutes and then gently flip. After baking for an additional three to five minutes those tuna cakes are ready to eat. I served our cakes with a side of special dipping sauce (equal parts plain Greek-style yogurt and ketchup) and a slice of lemon, which my daughter really enjoyed sucking on after each bite (as you can see from the picture below).
And you can add other ingredients to these tasty cakes, such as finely chopped green onion, swap pepper jack for the cheddar, or add a handful of corn — whatever your child likes.
Enjoy! We sure did!