Family Art Projects…
Over the past several years, I’ve introduced a new feature to our large gatherings: family art projects. This idea stemmed from my recent efforts to include frequent and diverse sensory activities into our family life. Art activities like drawing are joyfully stimulating for our eyes and fingers. This sensory stimulation is associated with health benefits like improving mood and attention to detail.
Studies have also shown that making art releases endorphins in the brain and promotes relaxation. And this doesn’t have to be high art! These effects are found in regular folks doing art just for fun. The mental benefits are very similar to meditation, which helps explain why adult coloring books have become so popular. (For more on the cognitive benefits of art: 1, 2, 3.)
In the past, art for our family was mainly an activity to keep the kids occupied and bonding with each other. But why should the adults miss out on all the wonderful benefits of making art? I started thinking of art as the perfect activity for family gatherings of all generations. If you can get past thinking of art as just a kids or girls activity, you can open up your family to a joyful pastime of creating together.
The Artist in All of Us
My daughter adores seeing the grown-ups (especially Granddad) doing art together with the kids. It brings the adults to her level and gives her an instant connection to them. It’s been a delight to see our family’s creations, especially by those folks who supposedly don’t “do” art.
It doesn’t matter that there are some more artistically skilled than others in our family, because the mood is not one of competition, but of connecting. There’s something about having everyone participate that opens the minds of those not normally turned on by artistic endeavors. Whatever the end product, everyone’s efforts are encouraged!
Family Art vs Family Games
I noticed a different vibe around the art table than the game or puzzle table, two other activities we enjoy during our family visits. While I feel the closeness and fun of both games and puzzles, the family art table adds something different. I love seeing the “kid” brought out in everyone while drawing, painting, cutting and pasting. Making art offers much room for the imagination to run wild, and there’s a great pleasure to putting your own personality on a project. What a surprise to see the classy, crazy, clever creations that come out of my own kin!
And best of all, I’ve felt time stand still making art with family. I think it must be those meditative brain waves that kick in and slow me down so I can enjoy each moment.
Probably because there is more freedom of attention than when playing games, I’ve also noticed more interesting conversations stirred up around the art table than the game table. Focusing on art is like getting a complete change in scenery and seems to open up the mind to unusual and fresh topics of conversation.
And unlike games or puzzles, everyone has their own unique “product” at the end. A souvenir of our family gathering. Even if these art projects don’t stick around very long, we take pictures. These pictures are great reminders of the time spent together and of each person’s artistic spark at that point in time.
Art as a Family Ritual
June asks for family art time now on weekends even without extended family around. It seems that nothing says “I love spending time with you” more than mom and dad sitting with her, art-ing.
It surprises me that she asks for this even more than family games now, another favorite activity. I think it’s because it fulfills a need to create and appreciate something of beauty and originality. In my overall efforts to simplify our life, it’s nice to know that we need nothing more than pencil and paper to have quality family time together.
I’m featuring three of the simplest, no-sweat/no-mess family art projects we’ve enjoyed. No matter if you try these activities, or come up with your own, I hope you consider group art with your family!
1. Cardstock Cut-Out Placemats
One of our favorite family art projects is cardstock placemats. Both the guys and gals in our family were equally attracted to it, and it resulted in art we can use! I get the joy of using the placemats year-round and harboring these creative works from each family member.
It’s a pretty painless set-up and all ages and abilities can participate. As you can see from the pictures, we all had something to say! I recommend high quality cardstock. Sturdy, colorful cardstock feels good to the touch and will trigger the imagination. Also, with high quality cardstock, any type of cut-out will look good against the white background. Younger artists can simply cut interesting shapes, arrange them creatively on the white mat, and glue. Modern art, right?
11-12″ X 17-18″ white cardstock paper
Color Cardstock (I prefer textured)
Protective cover for table if needed
1. Pass out one white cardstock placemat to each artist.
2. Separate color cardstock into individual sheets and spread across table so everyone can see all color options.
3. Cut out figures, shapes, and designs from color cardstock. Before gluing, arrange on placemat for best positioning.
4. Glue color cardstock to white placemat.
5. Once glue has dried, laminate placemats (Office Depot/Staples). Be sure to extend the lamination at least 1/4 inch beyond the border of the placemat.
2. Wax Craft Sticks:
Wax sticks are a great craft because all ages can participate, and there is no set-up or mess. This was another project that both male and female family members enjoyed. Younger kids can let their imaginations run wild to create crazy patterns and “modern art” with the colorful bendable sticks, and older kids and adults can sculpt fun 3-D creatures. The booklet that comes with the Bendaroos box gives some good suggestions to get you started.
3. Color By Numbers:
Although color by numbers is not as creative as other art projects, it’s a very soothing activity that simply allows fingers to be moving to bring all family members to the table. It has the same kind of feel as doing a puzzle, the same calm focus and growing appreciation of the final product.
I can feel life’s pace slow down when we sit together and color. It really does feel relaxing, like a group meditation. I love the conversations stirred up while coloring, and the finished drawings drew oohs and aahs from around the table..
For us, this was an activity more attractive to the gals. The guys preferred free drawing or the extreme dot-to-dot books out there.
Color by Numbers Books for Adults
Color By Numbers for Kids
Gel Pens (optional, but a whole lot of fun!)
Reading Glasses (for the over-40 set!)
Set aside space and time, and enjoy your coloring meditation time!
See More on sensory experiences as family ritual…