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Do you have boxes and boxes of every scrap of paper your child has ever drawn on? Do your kids get upset when you accidentally write your grocery list on a random piece of paper that you thought was scrap, but was actually one of their drawings (even if it was indecipherable scribbles)?
My husband and I started to lose track of what artwork should be saved or sent to the recycle bin, so we decided to give them their own space by getting them their own special notebooks.
Other than keeping a majority of their creations in one place, another things I love about this is that it can help teach the kids about respecting other people’s property and showing them how to take care of their own things. These are their notebooks and we like to treat them with the same respect that we would expect from them if they were handling someone else’s personal things.
So that means:
- No one else gets to write or draw in the book without asking first or unless we’re invited to do so.
- They are allowed to do what they want within the confines of those pages. They want to put stickers on top of one another? They want to paint, draw, scribble, glue, make a total mess, draw the tiniest mark ever then move onto the next page? Let them have at it. The rational and adult side of me might be inclined to say things like “that’s not how you do things” or “don’t you want to finish your drawing?” or “maybe you should try drawing this or this” – but try to fight that urge and just let them do their own thing.
- And as I already mentioned, it really helps keep the memorabilia in check. Rather than saving every piece of artwork, I can let go of most of those things (unless it’s particularly sentimental, to me or them) and be happy with just having the notebooks to save. It also gives us a way to see how their mark-making evolves over time.
Here is one of my favorite pages from my son, Quil’s, first notebook:
Tip: Get something hardbound because there will be a lot of wear and tear from a whole year of continuous use. As you can see, we had to break out the duct tape on the spine of this one.
Now, just because you aren’t telling them what to do with their notebooks, doesn’t mean you can’t introduce them to new and fun things to possibly add to the book, if they are interested.
Here’s a little list of things our kids have in their art bin:
- stickers (they love any kind, even old mailing labels will do)
- washi tape or scrapbooking tape (pretty much anything in the scrapbooking aisle is fair game)
- colored pencils
- watercolor and kids paint with an assortment of different brush styles – bristle and sponge tip (here are non-toxic kids paint made from dried veggies)
- crayons (here are natural beeswax crayons or cute star crayons made with 100% recycled ingredients!)
- glitter paint (ugh! I’m not a fan of glitter. It somehow gets everywhere and is impossible to get rid of. But our son really loves it.)
- Do-A-Dot-Art paints
And you can always collaborate with your kids too! Our son was always requesting us to draw with him and to draw specific things like muffins and pirates.
Check out The Busy Mockingbird, a blog by illustrator and graphic artist Mica Angela Hendricks, whose blog post on her illustration collaborations with her daughter went viral. Pretty amazing stuff!
This is our daughter, Ellis’ first year with her own space notebook and Quil’s second. I’m excited to look back and see all the things Ellis has done over the year and to compare Quil’s notebook with last years.
How do you allow your kids to express themselves freely in their own space? I’d love to hear your ideas!