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.

DIY Comic Storage Bin

I have to admit, I had a small heart attack in the storage bin aisle at the store recently.  I have been trying to find ways to wrangle in all of my daughter’s things in her room and playroom.  Bins and tubs just make sense – she is already to trained to put items away at school based on the photo on the end of the bin.  Yet, I am always amazed at how much a cheaply made box from India or the Philippines really is.  So I decided to make my own (it’s a disease you know, thinking you can make everything you see).  I was happy with the final products, seen above in  my daughter’s room.  Read on for the easy DIY steps.

1. Gather supplies needed:

  • Box
  • Mod Podge
  • Scissors
  • Paint brush
  • Comics page (or any other paper you would like to cover your box in)
2. Cut box to desired size.  For my first box, I cut the top flaps off.  For my second box, I decided to try leaving the shoe box flap on.

3.  Cut size of paper you plan on gluing down first.

4. Brush Mod Podge over the area you are planning on covering first (about the size of the paper you just cut).  I worked on one side at a time so that the Mod Podge would not glue too quickly.  That paperclip, seen above, is holding a flap down, since one side was coming loose.

4. Carefully smooth cut paper over the entire area of Mod Podge.  Smooth with hands and whenever possible, wrap edges with at least 1/2 inch of paper to prevent curling and rough edges later.

5. Brush a layer of Mod Podge over paper.  Use smooth brush strokes and use just enough to cover the paper.  Thick brush strokes will dry with ridges and texture (unless that is the look you are going for).  Allow 15-20 minutes and then add a second coat.   Allow to dry completely before using.

Things I learned:

  • Due to the nature of newspaper, the finished product will have some wrinkles and bubbles.  Embrace it.
  • The open box, right, is much easier to use than the box with a lid, left.  Boxes with lids tend to stick together a bit due to Mod Podge’s slightly tacky finish.

The finished product was a hit with my toddler – she loves to read the comics, or coupons as she calls them.  Who knows why?  They are now being used to corral her favorite bedtime books and doll clothing in  her room.  More on  her finished big girl room later.