Under the Bed Kid Curated Art

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Elaborate Lego imaginative play made by my daughter.

I have been reading a fascinating book called, How Children Make Art: Lessons in Creativity from Home to School by George Szekely. There is a fascinating section in the book about pre-service teachers making home visits to document and discuss their students’ collections in their bedrooms, as a way to help future teachers balance the study of adult and child art.

The author points out that all young children start off as artists and collectors, and that their bedrooms are the home to rich and varied, yet carefully curated collections. The author argues that children lose this passion and love of art when they come to school and find no connections between their home art and school art. So, as art educators, what do we do to encourage the connections? How do we as adults honor their playful and un-adult eye for design?

I started by looking at my own two children’s rooms for ideas on what I can do to encourage their collections.

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Objects from my childhood treasures.

This book has been a timely read, as I recently helped to take apart a childhood collection site of my own – a glass case shelf where many priceless treasures were stored.  I did not photograph this lovingly curated shelf, before taking it apart.  Items had been in certain locations for so long that I can still close my eyes and see the arrangements.

My children sat with me, in absolute amazement, picking up each object one by one, treating each thing as sacred and precious.  They asked question after question, cataloging my responses as insights to my own childhood experiences, making connections that their adult mother was once just as imaginative as they are are now.  Revelations to my little humans!

My 8-year old daughter has a more elaborate system of set-ups, comprised of animal figurines, dolls, dollhouses linked together, scarves, washi tape, rocks, glass beads, shells, wrappers, and prize bin items. There are constantly items all over the floor, which at first appearance may seem random and messy, but upon closer inspection, they are set up in a deliberate and playful manner. She HATES the weekly floor clean up, in order to avoid her precious collection from being vacuumed up.

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My son’s collections are housed in old cigar boxes.

My 5-year old son, on the other hand, likes to keep his collections stored in a series of boxes, which are then in turn put inside his nightstand drawers and on his book shelf. If given the opportunity, he will pass on letting friends play in his room, because he likes the floor clean and free of items.

Enter a solution that comes from my hybrid roles of mother and art teacher – under bed platforms for each child’s room.  They can hold train tracks, cars, Legos, fairies, ponies, dolls, furniture, or whatever is being curated at the time.

We just so happened to have two nice pieces of plywood in the garage, casters in the basement, and kids who wanted to help in this process.

Eric had both kids help him to measure, mark, and screw in caster wheels to the bottom.  We left the wood natural, knowing that at some point they may paint them, tape paper on, or layer their own playful surfaces.  Now their curated collections can be safely stowed away to be returned to again and again.

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Two recent thank you notes made by my children.

This book has been an on-going source of ah-has for me and has helped me to honor the creative ideas and art making of my own two children.  My next step is to find more authentic ways to bridge the home art and school art of my students.

Kids’ Art Center 

Summer break for a teacher means rest and relaxation, right?  Well, some of the time, yes.  This summer I am taking a couple of classes for my master’s degree, one of which will wrap up at the end of July.  In the meantime, I am finding ways to procrastinate doing the work.  Hence last night, totally reorganizing my kids’ art center, which just so happens to share space with our dining room. Up until now, it has been a disorganized mess, just like my own art room.  Gee wonder where they get that from?  However, this disorganization prevents them from making art on a whim, which is what I need more of, in order to get some of my own work done.


I made a curricular switch a few years back to Teaching for Artistic Behaviors, which necessitated a complete overhaul of the way I teach and the space in which I teach in.  I have also been in two different elementary classrooms in the past 4 years.  Thus, I have done two total reorganizations, akin to reorganizing a small house or apartment.  So, reorganizing my own house should come naturally, no?  Actually, I have found it is hard to come home and do just that.


Anyways, here is the almost done art center, located near their table in one of our wonderful built-ins.  I forgot to take before pictures, but trust me it was overflowing with things.  My almost 3-year old loves that he can get out his play dough, tools and mats all on his own.  Before, it was a hassle and he complained about lifting the box down, to get off the lid, and get access to the supplies.  Now, the bin stays put since it is open and well-organized.

Smaller items were organized into a 3-drawer plastic organizer.

Other items were organized into shoe box plastic tubs, open bins, and a large hanging file system for the paper.  By the way, all of these bins were either repurposed from other places in the house, or found in thrift shops.
The art center is ready to use, and the kids couldn’t be happier!  Now they can find everything, reach it themselves, and hopefully put it back on their own as well. I’ll keep you posted on their ability to put things away…

I added picture labels to make it even easier for my non-reader, something I have all over my own classroom.  Now it really feels like a corner of my classroom at home.

Living Room Built-ins

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Just as the trees sap starts to flow as spring nears, my creative juices start flowing and my right brain warms up at the thought of spring break and the ever-nearing summer off. For me, break from work brings the joy of less-interrupted project time.

Today we got out the PANTONE Moroccan Blue paint and touched up the bands of bare walls above the windows on either side of our fireplace. These have been bothering me since we had the windows replaced a couple years ago.

I have also been working on finishing my papier-mâché jackelope from a few years back. I’m torn on the face. I think it looks cheesy (kinda creepy, too) and will most likely collage over it before I mount it on my wall.

I broke out my black Sharpies and added textural lines on the insides of the built-ins on either side of the fireplace. The results are a fun fiber-inspired design.

I also reorganized the books by color. It makes a weird order to the topics but pleasing to the eye. This is the left side all done – aside from the bottom shelf which I left alone since it is on floor level and filled with children’s books.  I will post the right side at another time.