Art Lab: A Perfect Winter Escape

Art Lab: The Perfect Winter Escape

Becky from a Sweet Hot Mess is with us today with some great resources and inspiration  for exploring art with the children in our lives…

I have found that as the days shorten and the temperatures fall, my children’s instincts are to slow down, get cozy and become creative.  Sure, they are normally pretty creative kids during the warmer months – but they really step up their game when it gets cold.  I think it has to do with the fact that there are not hours and hours of glorious sunshine beckoning them to come play outside.  And without this diversion, they become more focused and more introspective.  Well, that and they want hot chocolate a lot more.

Art Lab: The Perfect Winter Escape

This year I decided to meet this seasonal shift head on and picked up a set of journals and pulled out one of our favorite books, Art Lab.  The lessons in these books are succinct and full of many examples and ideas – with lots of possible variations on the theme.  To see other Art Lab books, go here.

Art Lab: The Perfect Winter Escape

I chose the Art Lab, For Mixed Media Artists because I tend to lean towards using adult materials with my children.  I do this for a number of reasons; 1) as their skill-sets develop, the material will grow with them and be relevant for years,  2) your children’s ability to interpret adult materials will surprise you, and 3) I like to do the art with them and don’t want to be bored.

Art Lab: The Perfect Winter Escape

The reason I chose to use Journals this year was to try to create a formal place to do art and to cut down on the paper waste – my children like to do rough draft after rough draft after rough draft.  I wanted them to become more invested in their initial process and to learn to work with their mistakes and make art that doesn’t have to be perfect.  We like nice big XL journals with thick paper that is conducive to many mediums.

Art Lab: The Perfect Winter Escape

Now is where we need to talk about kid’s natural skills and predispositions.  My son Luke is not a natural artist and does not aspire to be one – at this time, that is.  I try to keep in mind that a boy’s dexterity and pen/pencil/brush skills will generally develop later than girls.  As a mom, I have to make a big effort to not pass judgment or criticize his process – which could best be described as “slapdash”.  While my daughter will spend hours working on a single piece or project, my son will devote ten minutes to the same project and will be just as happy and satisfied at the process and end product as his sister is with hers.

Art Lab: The Perfect Winter Escape

It is hard at times, but as parents we have work diligently to create an environment that is what I would call “expectation neutralized”; ie: we need to make sure we don’t pass messages of disappointment or perfectionism on to our children.  While we may give them adult brushes, paints and lessons – they are children and their process and end product will most likely be “childlike”.

Art Lab: The Perfect Winter Escape

Speaking of adults, I think it is really important to do art with your children.  For those that are artistic or crafty, this allows for children to see art lessons in real life with dimensions and variations.  As you draw, you can talk your children through your process and actually grow as an artist yourself.  I find that my children are far more engaged in an art lesson when I get down at their level and do the art lesson with them, be vulnerable with them.  And for those that are not as incline to artistry – do it, grow new skills, let your children know that you don’t always have to be perfect and that you are willing to grow as much as you expect them to grow.  So, go get a journal.  And then draw in it.  You won’t regret it and it can eventually almost feel therapeutic or meditative, as you focus and relax in that specific moment of putting pen/brush/chalk to paper and pushing all the world out of your mind as you create.

Art Lab: The Perfect Winter Escape

And because my kids will sometimes do two or three lessons in a day, and because winter days can seem soooo much longer than a normal summer day – I have found that we can endlessly redo lessons.  How I do this and maintain a sense of variation and fun, is to turn to chalkboards and windows a lot.  I like the idea of temporary art, letting the kids draw on our glass doors and windows all over the house and cleaning them just as fast as they go up (who am I kidding, they are just as likely to adorn our windows for months as they are days?!).

Art Lab: The Perfect Winter Escape

Our favorite window markers are typically from Crayola.  You have to use a little bit more elbow grease to clean up the crayon ones, but all in all – they make good, bright markers that the kids love and are familiar with.  And that way I know they are using safe materials – unlike all the dry erase markers in my office that look like Sharpies.  I switched to Crayola after too many near misses.

Art Lab: The Perfect Winter Escape

Collaborative art is my favorite.  We all take part in the piece as we take turns drawing line by line or as we did last week, we each chose an element of the drawing to work on.  Because it is the Holiday season, we chose to create a fun Christmas tree together.  I like when art doesn’t have to take itself seriously and we can have a lot of fun with it.  The kids plan on tackling our other chalkboard later this week and adding a fireplace with stockings.  Working together with a common purpose helps to build their bonds and I am continually shocked at how they don’t fight when they have to compromise over art – nearly everything else, that is a different story.

Art Lab: The Perfect Winter Escape

Art is personal.  Art is fun.  But Art does so much more than that as well.  Art grows your child’s worldview, allows them to interpret reality with more fluidity and create pieces that reflect emotions that they cannot always share anywhere else.

For more inspiration, visit my Art Page on Pinterest.  My children love to sit and scroll down the page until they find the perfect project for the day.  There are so many amazing educators and artists who have created wonderful content for parents to utilize and gain inspiration from.

So, go gather your tools, gather your wits and get ready to have fun.  Wintertime art is always my favorite kind of art – mostly because we get to share a hot chocolate afterwards while we talk about what we did.  Stay warm and be creative.  Have fun and most of all – make sure you do it, too!


With a background in Screenwriting and Business Management, Becky Brown also has a passion for homeschooling her son and daughter, Luke and Charlie. Becky’s passion for teaching her children runs the gamut from introducing them to the visual arts to exploring the natural world all around them. Becky strongly believes that her passions will fuel her children’s passions, and she actively works to further her knowledge as both a parent and an educator—while learning more every day about the importance of playful learning. With a BFA in Film Direction and her MA in Screenwriting from UCLA, Becky’s passion for writing and storytelling runs throughout her work and her life, as seen in her eclectic family blog, Sweet Hot Mess, about her life in Tulare, California.



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  1. We love these books! We borrowed a few from the library and now own Drawing Lab, which we love, and are looking at picking up Art Lab for Kids and Paint Lab. Great post!

  2. I really need to get those books, I’ve had pictures of them in my phone forever in my “books to buy” file. Obviously I love any posts on art…I could even use these books in class. I find what you were saying about doing art with kids holds true with my students as well, its a great way to inspire and bond! I wanted to tell you that a little Windex a dry erase crayons works great, I’ve even tried painting with them, they are god for shading etc. but such a pain to erase sometimes! Also, expo window markers are really cool, very opaque, we’ve drawn all over the house with them. (side note: if you didn’t know, dry-erase markers erase Sharpie, just color over and voila, magic! Life saver!) Check out Peter Han on you tube/comes he does chalk art and talks about art as a process, really cool!

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