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OMG people!! This is what it is all about… for me that is! Once you have read this article and watched Jonathan Fineberg’s video, hopefully you will understand why I find children’s art so absolutely fascinating!

In September of 2006, the prestigious Phillis Collection in Washington, D.C. is holding a wonderful exhibition of the artwork of famous and not famous children including Picasso, Klee and others called "When we were Young: New Perspectives on the Art of the Child".

Watch the narrated four-minute tour of the show to see commentary on some of the artwork being presented.

What I am so excited about is, the high level of recognition this event will give to the artwork of young children.

As you will hear in the video, the curator of the exhibition Jonathan Fineberg is an Art History Professor from the University of Illinois. His insightful words on the ‘giftedness of children’s art’ rings true all the things I have felt about children’s art at an instinctive level.

As Frank Greve from  McClatchy Newspapers writes in his article called "Artwork by kids, some later famous, rates a show of its own", "Art by kids gives more people more joy than any other kind. But it’s like McDonald’s fries: so eagerly consumed and abundant that almost no one appreciates it articulately. "

I can’t agree more with Greve. One of the saddest things I see with people regarding children’s art, is their lack of lasting appreciation of the work while it is abundant.

It seems that most people only truly appreciate a child’s artwork as real art, when they are no longer a child. When there isn’t any of it left. Wouldn’t you love to have some of your own childhood art? How about your Grandmother’s?

Think about this… If you are a parent of a young child right now, what happens to their art?

Do you gaze at it fondly and hang it on the fridge for awhile, only to replace it with something else you think is better later on?

Then what? Do you put it in a box or do you eventually throw it out?

Just think how precious those few pieces of art saved from Picasso’s and Klee’s childhood have now become… Priceless.

How do you look at your kids art now?

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You heard me right… If you’re looking for great craft supplies for your kids you need to look no further than the trash!

(Before you actually throw them in the bin of course, but I think you know what I mean. )

I am a big fan of recycled crafts for kids. In fact those that know me well, know that I love the concept so much that I once had a small craft show on a local network called the "Sophisticated Scrounge" ,where all the crafts shown the viewers were created from ‘scrounged’ or recycled materials.

I recently came across an article about an artist who teaches children to use recycled materials in her art classes.  After reading the article it reminded me of what a valuable resource the things you may consider ‘junk’ can be for your kids.

Getting kids to work with materials that can be found around the house is great for many reasons.

It allows them to think more creatively when working on their art. It teaches them that there is more than one way to use something and to waste as little as possible.

Plus, because the materials were going to be thrown out anyways, using recycled materials in your crafts saves you money.

You can make some of the best costumes from recycled materials too!

Last year both of my kids made their own homemade robot costumes.

They had so much fun, starting by covering boxes with tin foil and then gluing ‘robot like’ accessories found around the house.

They glued on old CD’s, dead batteries, broken headphones, wires, metalic papers, buttons, knobs, old jewelry, glow sticks, film cases, and even a K’nex motor and gears!

The comments they received while Trick or Treating made them feel so proud and thrilled that they had made the costumes themselves.

Keeping a box of recylcled materials that your kids can use for craft supplies, means you’ll have a place to put those funny little odds n’ ends and your kids will have a valuable resource that they can go to when creating art.

So go ahead, keep some of that junk and tell your spouse you’re, "Doing it for the kids!"

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As most of you already know, I am crazy about kid’s art and art projects for kids that build confidence and self-esteem.

I feel it is very important for children to have the opportunity to create art in their own ‘voice’. To discover who they are, what they can do and what is interesting to them personally.

It is important to discover these things in a creative and supportive environment. One where they are not judged and where the process of creating the art is more important than the actual result.

You’ve heard it said before, "It’s the journey, not the destination."

This morning I was reading an article about an art teacher that teaches summer art programs for kidsout of her barn-turned-studio. She creates an environment where the children are free to create art their own way using a variety of techniques and materials.

My favorite line from the article is something the teacher said about what is important to her in teaching kids art.

"I want the kids to learn that art is about losing your inhibition, expressing yourself, about not looking around the room to see if you’re doing it the right way," she said.

If you are reading this blog you probably already agree about the importance for art in our society, but there are many people who don’t realize how the creation of art and the skills learned, can benefit other areas of their child’s learning and development.

When your child discovers they can run their fingers through blobs of paint to mix colors, they find out how new colors are made. (Science)

When they attempt to tape CD’s to a box to make wheels for a cardboard car and they fall off, they see that glue can be stronger than tape. (Physics)

When they cut out a rectangular paper door for their paper ‘House Collage’ and realize it is too big to fit, they learn to look back and forth to their original for reference. (Math, Measuring & Surface Area)

And when your child creates something beautiful using their own two hands that makes their heart sing, they begin to understand that they are capable and that they can make a difference. (Self-Esteem)

So throw a big pile of art supplies on the table and let your child create whatever their heart feels like creating.

You will not only be giving them something to do, but will be giving them the freedom to learn… in their own way!

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(For those of you over thirty ‘Chill-ax’ means to be cool and relax . Something we are going to have to do as parents if we really want our kids to succeed.)

 

Are we putting so much pressure on our kids to succeed that it’s bound to blow up in our face?

I know we all mean well but the pressure that we are putting on our kids these days is getting so intense it is taking its toll on their lives.

Many children are growing up, never feeling quite adequate or up to our standards. It’s causing depression, stress and a lack of self-confidence in our children. Exactly the opposite to what we are trying to create in our kids.

There is even a  term for this style of parenting;  ‘helicopter parenting’ which comes from the constant hovering over everything our child does.  An excellent article worth the read on this subject is called "How pushy parent syndrome can leave you depressed".

Here’s a quote from the article that particularly hit home with me:

"The most dangerous feelings a child can have are of self-hatred, yet middle-class parents are unwittingly instilling those feelings by expecting so much,’ she said. The ‘helicopter’ parent insists on meddling in every area of their child’s life, for example by going into school to challenge a teacher about a mark their child has received.

But they are actually hampering their children’s development by denying them opportunities to deal with difficult situations.

‘Kids aren’t having the experiences that are mandatory for healthy child development – a period of time to be left alone, to figure out who you are, to experiment with different things, to fail, and to develop a repertoire of responses to challenge,’ Dr Levine said. "

How do you feel about this hovering trend? Are you a helicopter parent?

 

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Are you so completely buried in wonderful kids art that you no longer know where to put it? Is the fridge so full, stuff keeps falling on the floor? Are drawings and posters leaving your kid’s bedroom walls feeling like a pin cushion?

The solution… Magnetic Paint!

Just as fun and creative as chalkboard paint, magnetic paint can now be used on just about any surface to turn it into a ‘virtural fridge door’. Use it wherever you want a place to hang artwork, photos and those important bits of paper you want to have close at hand.

The cool thing about magnetic paint is that you can paint any color latex paint over the metalic primer. The greyish primer actually contains real metal filings making the surface it’s painted on magnetic. Paint it over with regular latex paint and no one will even know it’s there.

Magnetic paint is a much easier and flexible option than the typical corkboard or white board and way nicer to look at. Your child can feel free to hang their art and memorablia any where they like without the mess that’s left behind when they move it.

You can even use magnets as part of the decor. If your child has a garden theme you can put magnets on silk flowers, ladybugs and butterflies. For a fish themed room think, fish magnets and seashells to pull together a moveable dispay.

I think it would be fun to paint other objects with the paint as well, such as the side of a desk, a bookcase, on a room divider, or a closet door. You could also create a multipurpose wall by first painting with magnetic paint and then covering it with chalkboard paint. The idea is to get creative!

To read more about this cool paint check out this article called "Make your walls talk with fun, functional paint".

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It was all so exciting!

Last week my two children (Willow and Fisher) and two students from West Point Grey Academy  (Kate and Mathew) were interviewed by Kush of Kids CBC in front of our KidArt Spirit Bear named "WPGA School Spirit".

Kids CBC is a hugely popular kids show viewed every weekday morning across Canada by the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, CBC.

The kids were filmed at the location of the bear in Vancouver, B.C. on Tenth Ave and Sasamat in the West Point Grey area.

Kush, the Westcoast Host of Kids CBC, interviewed the kids as a ‘Roving reporter on the scene of the exciting sightings of spirit bears all over the Vancouver area!".

The kids loved the ‘overly dramatic’ Kush in her very loud pink jacket as they explained to her that the bear was actually a friendly bear and that they were some of the children that created the original artwork for the bear.

It was a very special opportunity for the kids to be involved in such a fun project. They were all very excited about the chance to be able to be on television. It was an experience I’m sure they will not soon forget!

The segment will be aired several times in the fall of 2006 with the exact dates and times TBA.

I will let you know when it airs so you can check it out. (Canadians that is.) After it airs I will see about posting the video so you can all see it.

It was really cute to see those happy little guys talking so proudly of their great art!

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Maybe I’ve been in denial …

Surely my children’s rooms won’t be as messy when they get older and more mature?!

This is just a phase. They will soon outgrow all these toys and then there will be less stuff in their rooms to get strewn about. Right?!!

I just read this article about a messy teen whose room was being tackled by a professional organizer. (Seems organizers all the rage now… Have parents finally lost the battle?)

The article was kind of funny since the kid wasn’t mine.

The mother kept twisting her ankle on the stuff on the floor and the boy’s girlfriend would have cried if she saw their prom pictures under the pile of clothes and junk in the corner. 

Turns out the flooring was actually carpet and not spagnum moss as they had thought before the room was cleaned!

Anyways, it looks like the same problems that plague a young child’s room affect the older child’s room too, if they are not dealt with.

Too much stuff. Not enough storage. Units too big and stuff gets lost or too small and stuff won’t fit . So guess what, it doesn’t get put away!

Storage pieces that are hard to use. Old hand-me-downs with rickety shelves and drawers that stick are very common in kids rooms.

No logical system in place for putting things away, is also a big problem for kids rooms. Electronics mixed with toys , books and clothes makes things hard to find and difficult to put away.

Let’s face it… If it’s not dead easy, it’s not going to get done. At least not by your child.

So looks like I should probably head out to Walmart and Ikea for more storage bins and boxes and see if I can’t help my kids set up a system that will work for their rooms.

I just can’t bear the thought of things getting any worse in their once cozy little rooms!

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I know it sounds strange, but over praising your child’s artwork can actually hinder the development of positive self-esteem rather than support it.

Just as you would tend to become suspicious of a friends’ motives if they were constantly praising everything you did, "Ooh I love you hair and your clothes and your house and your kids and your husband!!!!"… Your child will quickly disbelieve your sincerity if you are constantly saying "Oh you’re a fantastic artist, I could never do as well as you!"

Being an artist I have a great interest in my children’s art. I found myself constantly telling my daughter what a fantastic artist she was and how she would probably end up to be a much greater artist than me. Surely that couldn’t hurt her, to tell her that?! After all it’s true and it encourages her to aim high right?

Well it never really dawned on me that this could be a problem until my son started drawing. Being three years younger it took awhile before he started to get good enough for her to consider him competition. But then one day he got bigger.

She started asking, "Am I a better drawer than Fisher? Mine is a lot better right? Who’s art do you like better, Fisher’s or mine?"

This behavior worried me because I wanted her to be confident in her artwork and I didn’t want her to feel she was in competition with anyone, especially her brother.

I also worried about how it made her brother feel. Being smaller he was already ‘behind in skills’ as far as he was concerned, so he really didn’t need his sister always talking about how much better she was.

So how do you encourage your child to continue creating art without over doing the praise and causing self-esteem issues?

Well after reading several articles, parenting books and magazines I have discovered it is more important to admire the development of skills instead of the work itself.

Try saying things like, "I like the way you used the side of your crayon to get texture in your drawing. I’ve noticed you are adding more detail to your drawings than you used to. I like the way the dog looks like he’s smiling in your picture."

An article I read today called "How can praise be negative?" is an excellent article on exactly this issue of over praising your child. Take a moment and read it. It has some great ideas that may help you give your child the type of praise that will build his self-esteem instead of tearing it down.

By the way, I’ve noticed a big difference in the way my children see themselves and their artwork since handling the praise I give them a little differently. Maybe it will work for you too!

 

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Working on a variety of decorating kids playrooms and bedrooms articles, both my husband Doug and I have been reminded again and again about our own childhood bedrooms.

 

Maybe you remember the bedroom paint colors… a quilt… or a picture perhaps? Or does a special toy, or a cozy seat by the window fill your memories when looking back into the past?

 

There is always something that you can remember from your child bedroom decor. As you try to bring your minds eye to those little things about your room, a flood of other childhood memories come rushing in.

 

Talking with Doug about his childhood bedroom, he remembers the nautical decor, the aquariums and the radio that took all day to warm up enough to listen to.

 

My dad remembers the attic bedroom with the arched ceilings he shared with his two brothers, and the tall dresser in which he got the bottom drawer because he was the youngest.

 

My mom remembers a bleak, drab bedroom with little to no ornamentation. A room that was always cold and shivery to her.

 

As for me, I have cozy peaceful memories of the bedrooms I had when I was a child.

 

My sister and I shared a room in every home we lived in as children, except one. There was even a time when my brother also shared our room.

 

I tend to remember things spatially. The way the room was laid out, where the closet was and how the beds were placed.

 

I don’t really remember any of the bedroom colors except for the one turquoise striped room I didn’t really like that much. Mom and Dad found a good deal on wallpaper and bedspreads for my sister’s and my room while we were at school and surprised us with them.

 

I remember being pleased our room was getting updated but never had the heart to say I didn’t like the color. 

 

It wasn’t like I hated my new room; I just didn’t feel very comfortable with the bedroom colors. I was never angry with my parents for ‘choosing for me’ but I never felt like it was really mine.

 

To give my sweet parents some credit, I remember one of my child bedrooms with great fondness. It was the one time I had a room of my own.

 

I really wanted to have one of those wallpaper murals that covered the whole wall with a scene. They were expensive and my parents weren’t sure whether they were worth the money. I loved this one that was a country road lined with trees in fall color and I wanted it really bad.

 

I was twelve at the time and could picture myself taking long walks through those beautiful trees.

 

They bought the mural for me and hung it on the wall with quite a bit of difficulty. The squares of wallpaper had to be lined up perfectly or the picture looked all wrong.

 

I remember lying on my bed dreaming of peaceful outings by the hour and being thankful that they had put it up for me.

 

The one thing in common in every child bedroom I had, was a picture of a puppy investigating a little green frog at the edge of a pond. No matter how old I got I was never too old for this picture.

 

I think some how you never outgrow what you love and understand.

 

This little picture now hangs in our daughter’s bedroom along with the paintings we made of her drawings and the photo of her first cat.

 

It is funny how much your own past child bedroom decor can have such a big impact on you as an adult.

 

I think as parents, how we remember our own childhood bedroom also affects they way we go about decorating our children’s rooms.

 

Were we given the opportunity to express our own personalities in our rooms? Were they our own rooms or just extensions of our parent’s house?

 

Were our rooms cozy or bleak? Were they creative, original and filled with art and treasures? Were they filled with the things we loved or were they decorated in someone else’s tastes?

 

When our children were very tiny, Doug and my tastes tended to dominate their rooms.

 

As they are growing and discovering their own likes and dislikes we are seeing changes in their needs to influence how their rooms are being decorated.

 

Their rooms are the one place in the house that is truly theirs alone. Big discussions have to be made now when we are interested in adding or removing any elements in their rooms, such as furniture, bedding, toys and artwork.

 

Since our memories are so strong about our own childhood bedrooms, we are assuming theirs will be too, and want their memories to be of comfort, individuality and empowerment.

 

We are hoping that our children can look back on the memories of their own childhood bedrooms with fondness. We also hope they hold onto a few of their precious treasures to share with their own children when their memories are just tiny snapshots in their own minds eyes.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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If your family is anything like mine, then your kids’ messy rooms are a continuing issue your house.

Right this very moment my daughter is attempting to tackle her disgusting dirty clothes ridden room and my son’s bedroom floor is so littered with Lego and K’nex pieces that trying to maneuver them in the dark is like maneuvering a mine field! Not exactly what I pictured when I was helping them decorate their rooms in the first place!

In fact this ‘messy room’ issue is so common there are huge industries devoted to dealing with this very problem.

There are TV shows, designers, magazines and books dedicated to organizing and decorating kid’s rooms. And there are countless storage products to make this job a little easier.

There is even a contest running in Chicago "Looking for the messiest kids’ rooms" that will give the winner the opportunity to have their child’s room tackled by a professional organizer.

But where is the real problem?

Have we not properly trained our children to pick up after themselves? Do they have logical places to store things? Is the ‘system’ we’ve designed for them too hard to do? i.e. Racks and hooks too high, drawers too sticky, toy box so big they have to empty it to find things.

Do they just have too much stuff, which makes organizing it a nightmare?

Are our own standards too high that they are impossible for them to achieve? Or maybe so low ,that things get way beyond what our child can tackle, before we do anything about it?

So what do you think? Should we as parents do a better job of training our kids or should we resign to a messy room being part of the parenting experience?

Tell me your messy kids’ room stories.

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