Does your little Rembrandt look for every opportunity to color on the furniture? Has your teeny Michelangelo taken to decorating your walls like the Sistine Chapel? This activity will help channel your mini Picasso's talent into art you can keep - and not have to clean up or paint over!

Taking the opportunity to do art together will allow your child to enjoy the creative process and relish in your attention at the same time! 

Supplies needed:

  • Poster Paints, Water Colors, or Tempera Paints and paintbrushes, markers, crayons, or chalks

  • An inexpensive canvas or art paper for each person that is participating (easily found at a craft store)

  • A snack, comfortable, weather appropriate clothes, and a portable music player

  • Check your own self-consciousness and expectations/worries about your artistic ability at the door!

  • Your love and your imaginations!

Get started:

Each of you will interpret the scene into your own piece of art on your own canvas. Tell your child that as you each draw and paint you will get the opportunity to see the subject through each other's eyes. Participating in the project together is so much fun and it gives you the chance to engage in the process without trying to direct your child's piece too closely (a problem I always have!).

Find a lovely spot in your courtyard, in a nearby park or even in your home with a focal point rich in color and interest which you and your child can paint (or draw) together. Each of you will have your own canvas. Look around and survey the surroundings. Ask your child to choose the subject of the paintings; whether it is the flower arrangement on your table, a garden statue or a fountain in the park.

Once your child has chosen the subject, dive in! Don't be afraid to put that first brush stroke or pencil line down on the paper, just do it! This project gives you the opportunity to demonstrate, for your child, how much fun and abandon you can have when creating art. Whether or not you are an artist yourself does not matter - art is about the process and the enjoyment as much as the result.

At the end, take a photo of the completed projects lined up together in front of the real subject. The varied result between your and your child's piece and the real-life subject is a huge part of the fun! When we did this project, three of us painted the same fountain from the same perspective. My nephew, an art major, painted a pink and purple oil abstract. I painted a picturesque naturalistic oil representation. My seven year old daughter painted an expressive watercolor. The line-up of the paintings was beautiful art in itself!

Even young children have fun interpreting a scene into art, we may not see a literal representation of the petals of a flower, but we can ask them to describe what they are drawing or painting as they go, or explain what we are looking at afterward. Children delight in explaining their art to their parents – they love to share their passion, pointing out the intricacies of what they drew and all the details they put into their work. Your delight in their work will make them feel so special in return! And who knows, you may just spark a lifetime passion for art!

I would love to see photos of your projects. Please email them to me at info@withmychildseries.com.

Originally printed in Nurture: Australia’s Natural Parenting Magazine, (2013). All Rights Reserved.