After school was out for the Summer, I received an email from a parent. She was hoping to get some handwriting ideas for her future first grader, since they had decided that improving handwriting would make a goal for the Summer. I was on vacation at the time, but my mind started racing with ideas.
I decided that the first post in this series on writing should be about creating a space for writing and art. I truly believe that writing and art go hand in hand in the early grades. We teach kids to draw basic shapes when they are drawing. We really s..l..o..w down the shapes we are modeling as we draw. We consistently start our shapes at the top, just like we would if we were making letters. Little things, like this, help kids transition into writing. So, first off, I like to have kids spend time drawing, playing with art materials, and just exploring. If you are going to encourage your child to write and draw, it’s important to create a space for writing and art.
When my kids were little, we set up our writing and drawing area in the kitchen. As they grew, they no longer needed the writing space we had set up, but even as a senior in high school my son (and his friends) still used the art materials on a regular basis. I was kind of surprised by how many projects they had to do that involved coloring things! Of course, they also used the art supplies for making their signs to ask girls to homecoming. (Pro tip: If you have a middle school or high school student, always keep a supply of white poster board on hand. This will prevent you having to run to Bartell Drug Store at 9:30 at night. I know from experience.)
We have a cupboard on the back side of our kitchen counters that was just unused space. I was storing a few appliances in there, but I knew it could be used for something better. I bought some plastic drawers for things like stickers, paints, hole punches, tape, and other random art materials. Those went to the back of the cupboard.
In the front of the cupboard, I placed caddies full of crayons, pencils, and makers.
In the beginning, I started with art materials that were all washable and I even had a plastic table cloth, from the dollar store, to put on our kitchen table when we started doing art. Even markers and crayons can get messy when you are exploring. As the kids got older, I started getting permanent markers, artist quality colored pencils, and special drawing pencils. You can also see our slime making kit on the bottom of the shelf. The whole idea behind portable caddies is that kids can take them anywhere. We loved drawing outside on Summer days, and my daughter would often sit on the floor of the family room with her sketch books and coloring caddy in the evenings when we were winding down.
Another portable art area is one of these three tiered carts. These are great because you can easily move your entire art center to another room and they don’t take up much space. I love canning jars, so I used those to separate different types of supplies.
I have even used craft totes to create a portable scrapbooking/story writing center. We would take this with us on trips so the kids could write and draw about our vacation adventures.
When adding a writing component to our kitchen area, I was out of space. I had to think vertically. I bought a piece of pegboard and cut a few pieces of trim to add to the back so it would stand out from the wall a bit. There was an entire section, at Lowe’s, with pegboard accessories, so I bought a few hooks and baskets to get me started. This was the perfect place to store blank paper, watercolor paper, blank books, envelopes, greeting cards, and tools like sight words or alphabet charts. This served us well for many years, and eventually went above my daughter’s desk to store her homework supplies.
Hope this helps give you some ideas for creating writing and art spaces for your kids! Happy writing!