Throwing pots. Cutting glass. Supporting young artists and writers. Things have been busy at Uncle Dave’s Art Studio. Since I opened in November, things have really taken off. It’s the highlight of my day to see people in the studio explore their own creativity and often be surprised at their own success. But not every moment is busy. In fact, there have actually been a few times when it’s just me, and can you guess what I heard? That’s right. The birds are heading back north. Their soft tweeting outside tells me that spring time is coming. If your kids are anything like my nieces and nephews, spring time means one thing. Go outside! Arts and crafts are abandoned. After a long winter inside, spring means fresh air, blue skies, and running around. But you don’t have to leave art behind with the winter. There are plenty of projects that combine outside play with creativity. Here are some of my favorite ways to encourage art on the playground.
Who doesn’t love swinging? I’ll confess, even I am tempted to take a seat on the plastic and chain contraptions and pump away until I feel as though I could touch the sky. But have you ever tried drawing while on a swing? No, I’m not telling you to hold a pad of paper while you grasp the chains for dear life. There’s actually a safe and very fun way to draw while swinging on a swing. Take a large piece of paper and put it under the swing (you know, where the big oval of dirt usually is). Have your child lay on their stomach on the swing. Then give them a marker or two. Let them get started swinging or give them a push and then see what they can make on the paper. Sometimes it’s fun to just aim for the paper. Getting different colored streaks on the page for some otherworldly rainbow. But for older kids or those who are better at drawing, challenge them to actually make a picture as they sail over their paper again and again. Swing drawing is an example of process art – where the process is more important than the product or outcome. And what could be a better combination than swinging, drawing, exercise, and fresh air?
Another great example of process art on the playground is slide painting. And it’s probably not too difficult to figure out how this works. When you pack up for the playground or the back yard, bring a long piece of paper, some poster paint, and something that rolls (think balls, cars, and the like). You’ll also need some tape. Choose your slide and then tape your long paper to the slide. It should cover the entire slide. Easel paper works really well for this. If you don’t have easel paper, you can still do the activity by taping several smaller pieces of paper together to make one long piece. Have your child go to the top of the slide with a little dish of paint and their rolling item, let’s say a car. Have your child roll the car in the paint until the wheels are covered with it. Then get ready to catch the car as they launch it from the top of the slide and let it go to the bottom. You should end up with some streaks of paint along the length of the paper. Let your child do this over and over, changing colors sometimes and maybe even changing what they roll down. The final product probably won’t be much to look at, but the process is sure to be a blast. Keep your painting or toss it. Or if you really like it, use it as a table runner in the kitchen or dining room. The point isn’t what you end up making but the process of making it and enjoying the outdoors as you do.
With spring comes growth, and that means lots of interesting plants start sprouting. Get your kids outside for a nature walk, and while you’re at it collect some interesting items for a collage. You might collect leaves, grasses, sticks, small stones, seeds, flower petals, acorns, pinecones, or any other interesting items you find along your walk. If you do your walk in a public park, stick to items that are laying on the ground and resist pulling pieces off plants. But if you are at home, there’s nothing stopping you from collecting new leaves and buds too. Either outside or later in your home, grab some glue and a sturdy piece of paper or card stock and glue your items to the page. Just pasting items randomly makes a beautiful picture, but you can also challenge older kids to make a picture or scene with the items they collected. Check out some of these ideas for inspiration. If you want an even bigger challenge, have your kids plan out a picture before your walk and ask them to predict what items they will need to find to make their picture plan. Then see if you can find those pieces to bring your vision to life.
Do your kids love playing with bubbles? Turn their passion into an experience in creativity with bubble painting. It couldn’t be much easier. Add some paint to your favorite bubble solution. Then instead of blowing bubbles into the air, blow them on to a white piece of paper. You will end up with several circles surrounded by spatters. You might even have clusters of color depending on how dense your bubbles are. Add different colors to a few different bottles of bubbles and see what interesting combinations you can get on to the page.
Art probably happens indoors more often than it happens outside, but you don’t have to confine creativity to your home or art studio. Get outside. Move. And create. They really are a beautiful combination if you just give it a chance.