Art Box: A Great Way to Get Creative with Children

You’ve had it! If you hear, “I’m bored. What can I do? There’s nothing to do!” or one more whine you’ll surely put your head in the dryer and slam the door shut! Keeping kids occupied challenges the most stalwart of adults. Let’s face it; we’re no match for the leprechaun like stealth of the half-pint human who exhibits no shame while in pursuit of getting what they want. In this case, the want is something to do! Take a deep breath and grab the art box. Aren’t you glad you planned for just this kind of rainy, I’m bored day?

The art box is alive with fun projects for little fingers and minds. The key to creating this mother’s little helper is to keep it fresh and growing. First you’ll need a box. Find a fascinating box, either plastic, heavy cardboard, or a Rubbermaid container. Make sure it’s colorful, big and fun. After all, this is a special box, not you’re ordinary run of the mill type of box filled with just paper and crayons. The art box I pulled together is a plastic one in primary colors of red, blue and yellow with a snap on lid and a carrying handle. It cost about $5.00 at a big box store.

Once you’ve found the perfect box you can begin filling it. There’s no need to fill it all at once. The idea is to start with the basics: construction paper in lots of colors, crayons, markers, scissors, glue, and a sketchpad. These items can be varied depending on the age of the child. Washable markers are a good idea for the younger set along with small, scissors with rounded ends. Add to the box periodically so when it’s opened there’s something new inside. Play dough makes a great addition. Forget the molds and the fancy tools. Let the children just use their hands and imagination to create whimsical masterpieces. Toss in stickers from time to time, especially for upcoming holidays. Paints of all kinds can be added. Start with watercolors. Move on to tempra for the older kids, but always have finger paints for the little ones. Sidewalk chalk is a big hit in the summer and in the winter it can be used on large newspaper print. You can usually get the end rolls free or for a nominal fee from newspaper publishers.

Think out of the “box” when coming up with new ideas. Collect little treasures when out walking. Botanicals like small pinecones, straw flowers, dried grasses or try your hand at pressing flowers with your wee ones. These can be glued on to paper to make wonderful nature pictures. Tiny shells and sea glass collected from a trip to the beach will surprise and delight when the box is opened. Glitter, pieces of fabric in bright colors, ribbons and rickrack all get the creative juices flowing. At some point you’ll want to add colored pencils, stencils, and a handy dandy ruler. A compass or protractor for the older children will acquaint them with these items as well as aid in the artful creativity that makes children everywhere smile. (At least for a while.)

Keep a look out for unusual items that you can add to the art box. Purchase various colors of tissue paper for paper flowers and roses or to be used in whatever way your child comes up with. Petal paper is a very special paper that is made with bits and pieces of flower petals, grasses and other gifts from nature. It’s a bit pricey, but what a treat for the older children.

The more fascinating the items the children find in the box, the more special it becomes. Look around your home. You’ll find items that make for interesting art projects like: cotton balls, colorful pastas, sponges, buttons of every size and hue, dryer lint (?) I was just kidding on that one. Keep a good supply of stickers of all kinds on hand to add when nothing else is available

The true key to the “special” box is to have little surprises inside that were not there the last time it was brought down from it’s safe spot. This is not the everyday color jar filled with broken bits of crayons; this box is brought out when things become really dire. It’s a “special” art box. The special box is only used at the table or easel. No preschoolers are allowed to take one item from the box and walk around with it. Again, the idea is to make it so special that it brings excitement and smiles to the faces of the bored and fretting. It’s worked for me and I’m sure it will work for you as well. So get crackin’ you never know when the clouds might appear on the horizon or your child’s face. As adults, we seriously need all the help we can get. The special art box will give you a moment or if you’re lucky, two or three to take a deep cleansing breath. Just look at their cherubic faces. “NOOO don’t paint the cat!!!”

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