4 Fun and Inspiring Art Projects for Kids
We are officially halfway through summer vacation.
You know exactly what this means – the novelty of free time has worn off for the kids and they’re getting bored and antsy. For us parents, we’ve entered the complicated and confusing stage of “Oh my god, there’s still a whole month left” and “Oh my god, there’s only one month left!”
It’s right about now that we start searching for ways to fill the days with fun, meaningful activities. Well, you can stop searching because I’ve got this one covered.
Here at the NFB, we’ve got this great little series of films for kids called I Can Make Art. There are 6 titles in the series, and 4 of them are available free online. Each film focuses on a different artist and provides both biographical information and some great background on the style of art depicted. The best part about these films is that they feature elementary school children, so you really get a kid’s-eye view of the art world.
As an added bonus, each film comes with an art project you can easily do at home with your kids.
I Can Make Art… Like Emily Carr
Emily Carr is one of our national treasures. Born in BC in 1871, it took her a while to find her place in the art world, but she has since become one of Canada’s most famous artists.
There is a lot one can study in Carr’s work, but in this film, the group of students focus on her love of trees. They go through a series of her paintings and discuss them from a truly accessible point of view – perfect for your pint-sized artists to understand and relate to.
My favourite thing about this film is the way the kids really go into Carr’s history – both personal and professional. They talk about Carr’s meeting with the Group of Seven, what she learned from them and how she then began incorporating movement into her paintings. They also discuss Carr’s as a trailblazer – her single-woman status, her habit of wearing pants, and her insistence on riding horses properly instead of sidesaddle.
Art Project: Give your kid(s) some paper and some paint (or even coloured pencils) and have them draw a tree from memory. After, take them outside and have them study some trees. Once they’ve done so, have them pick one tree and draw or paint it from observation. It’s a great exercise in perception, and the difference in their two works will be mind-blowing.
I Can Make Art… Like Kai Chan
A circle, a triangle and a square.
Three simple shapes is all it takes for sculptor Kai Chan to inspire a group of young artists to build a series of wondrous, fantastical sculptures out of bamboo sticks and tape.
But more than this, Chan teaches these children about finding beauty in everyday objects. He stares, incredulous, at the children when they tell him they ate eggs for breakfast without first acknowledging the beauty of the egg.
But by the end of their session with Chan, it’s clear that their eyes have been opened.
Art Project: Using straws, pipe cleaners or flexible bamboo sticks and tape, have your kids create three-dimensional circles, squares and triangles and use them to create sculptures of their own. For added fun, throw in some coloured tape, feathers, etc.
I Can Make Art… Like Maud Lewis
Kyle Jackson, a folk artist from Halifax, visits a group of elementary school children to teach them about the joys of folk art and the legacy of Maud Lewis.
Lewis, as many of you know, is one of Canada’s best-known primitive artists who managed to find a way to paint through crippling arthritis. If you don’t know her story, take 10 minutes to watch Maud Lewis: A World Without Shadows. You’re welcome.
Art Project: One of the great things about the project the kids did in this doc was the collaborative aspect, so if you have more than one child (or your kid has friends over), I would totally replicate the exercise they did in the film. Have each child paint one part of a cityscape on cut-out foam core and then let them work as a team to put it all together.
If you’ve only got one child on hand, hand him a paint brush, some brightly coloured paint, plant him in front of some old furniture and let him go crazy.
I Can Make Art… Like Ron Noganosh
Ron Noganosh, sculptor and installation artist, visits with a group of kids from Southern Ontario and shows them how to turn junk into art by introducing them to found-art sculptures.
In the process of creating art, Noganosh talks to the kids about how art can be a cultural commentary. He gives the kids, and the viewers, a quick and difficult history lesson when he marvels at how their works celebrate Indigenous life, while when he was in school he’d have been brutally punished for even speaking about his culture.
This was a truly heartwarming film. Ron connects with these kids, and they take their projects very seriously. Some of the work they produce is astounding, and the little vernissage at the end is perfect.
Art Project: Take your kid(s) to the local recycling centre, or even for a walk down the block on recycling pick-up day, and have them select 7 – 10 interesting objects. Bring them all home, provide them with some glue, tape and perhaps a little help and see what your little ones come up with. You’ll be surprised.