Advice for art enrichment for elementary aged kid

My daughter loves art and her preschool was amazing at introducing her to different art styles and mediums, and let her both be creative with the various mediums of art and introduced the kids to famous painters and art styles.  She is going to K next year in public school and even though the school is generally good it has no (or very minimal) art program (also no music, but it is less of an issue for me than art).  I knew that when I chose public over private and told myself that the public school has a good math and reading program and we will supplement at home any shortcomings the public school will have in terms of the arts and PE, but now I'm at a loss as to how to supplement.  We bought a membership to the art museums in SF (de Young and Legion of Honors) and I plan to take her regularly to visit the main collection and the various special exhibitions they have and to discuss the paintings and painters, but I'm not an artistic person and don't know much about it myself (and she gets bored when I try to read the signs to her).  Are there any apps, tv shows, websites, etc. that I can show her or use myself to get ideas as to how to present art to her at an age appropriate level so it is interesting and understandable to her? She has an art table at home that is full of various art supplies and spends a lot of time "working" there by creating with paint, pastel, crayons, watercolors, clay, etc but I'm running out of ideas as to cool projects to suggest to her and I know she will miss all the cool stuff she got to do at preschool since the home art table won't make up for it without me guiding her and giving her different projects to work on.  Any books or kits or other resources of that type to help with that so I can make her "art time" at home more similar to her art class in preschool.  I already considered signing her up to an art class after school but she already has 4 activities she is not willing to give up and I don't want to over schedule an already very busy kid especially at this age.  Thanks for any advice and ideas. 

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I hear you about not wanting to over schedule your daughter, but you might try the "Open Lab" on Saturdays at Sticky Art Lab. I have a son who is too young for it, but my co-worker sends her 5 year-old to the after school program a few days a week and she loves it.

I'm an architect now, but I remember when I was younger (though older than your daughter) going to the sketching camps at the Metropolitan Museum in NYC. We had little stools and sketch pads and would sit and sketch any piece of art that we wanted. I think that could be something you could re-create on your own when she is a bit older.

MOCHA offers free afterschool art classes at various libraries in Oakland and Albany throughout the year.  The teachers are really exceptional.

Our now-19-year old daughter has always loved art. One great project that we had fun with, that works for a wide range of ages, was making flower fairies.  You use the petals of fake flowers (for the dress), pipe cleaners (for the body), a wooden bead (for the head), yarn or embroidery floss (hair), and ribbon for decoration.  They sell kits, which is what we used the first time, and then I just bought the separate supplies so we could make more.  Here's an example of a kit (this one doesn't seem to have the prettiest of materials, but it is the only one I found in a quick google):

Here is one online tutorial that shows some prettier fairies (there are many youtube tutorials also, which often use wire, which they then wrap, instead of a pipe cleaner):

Shrinky Dinks, and window sticker art ( were also big hits.

Have fun! 

The best resource for public school parents as you and your child make your way through the next 13 years is the California Content Standards, These provide detail into what students throughout the state are taught in each subject at each grade level. Art and PE are in there; students will be taught to at least the level listed in the standards, along with everything else. If you would like to do more, these Content Standards will let you know what is age/grade appropriate.

As a parent of an artistic 14 year old who spends ALL her spare time drawing, painting, and doing digital art projects, I think that providing plenty of unstructured, unscheduled time to create is much more important to nurturing an artistic personality than taking an instructive class - especially at age 5.  I've signed my daughter up for various classes here and there, but I think the hours she spends experimenting and working on her own projects has helped her improve and grow as an artist WAY more than any class that she took.  It sounds like you are doing a great job exposing your daughter to art through museum memberships and by providing her with materials and a space to work.  I would just relax and let her mess around for now - if she wants specific instruction in something or wants support with a particular interest she will let you know  


How wonderful that you are prioritizing art for your daughter. We have the opposite situation -- my daughter's preschool does minimal art and we do more structured projects at home -- but I've also made it a focus of enrichment. She is not quite four, whereas your daughter is likely making at least some transition from purely process art to a greater interest in results, but these are my recommendation. 

If it fits your budget I strongly recommend a membership to the Bay Area Discovery Museum in Sausalito. Among all the other attractions there are three art rooms with rotating projects and a helpful staff. They focus on different artists (recent examples are Gaudi and Kusama) and create kid-level projects borrowing from the artists' techniques. 

I use Pinterest a lot to find art projects but I love books and a few on our shelves are The Artful Parent (Van't Hul), Art for the Fun of It (Jenkins), Doing Art Together (Silberstein-Storfer), Making Things (Wiseman), Stitchery for Children (Enthoven), Making Make-Believe (Kohl) as well as every book I see about printing because I like prints. Art for the Fun of It is my all-time favorite in terms of being supremely confident, child-focused and process-oriented. Half the book details types of art and examples of activities while the other half places art within the overall context of creativity and gives some straight talk about how children's creativity and independence may be at variance with other common child-rearing goals like following direction and conforming to get good grades. The book is out of print but I bought it on Amazon. We also have a lot of exhibit catalogues and other large format art books and periodically my daughter will pull one down and flip through it (all those big color pages are probably very alluring to a non-reader), which I hope is the precursor to a genuine interest down the road. 

Some places I'm keen to try but haven't yet are the drop-in programs at the Museum of Children's Art (Oakland) and Hands-On and Sticky Art Lab in Berkeley. It sounds like you are already over-scheduled for weekly activities but an occasional extra might fit in. Finally, I am trying to extend the creative approach to cooking, gardening and sewing to teach that we can create art with many media in our daily lives. Stitching is the toughest since I can't sew, but it's fun to learn something together and probably heartening to her that our skill levels are roughly similar. 

All the best!

This may be a stretch but as an artist and art teacher I hope you will become an advocate and help create an art program at your child's school. Get involved with the PTA and see if they have any goals for including art. Many schools have PTA funded art. Find other parents that agree with your goal and make a plan. Try contacting an organization like MOCHA (museum of children's art) to see if they have any programs that could come to your school. Talk to the principal and look at the Alameda County office of Education art website if you are in Alameda county.  Every child should have art as part of the school curriculum! 

Why not totally ditch art classes, museum visits, project-based crafts enrichment, attempting to teach art at all? Just give it all up and let her do what she wants at her well-stocked art table. She knows what she's doing, she doesn't need to be taught to create. Watch her and don't say anything unless she asks for your input. 

It may take some effort, but I think you'll enjoy exploring art with her (and letting her explore on her own is fine, too - time to experiment is good)! Remember that at this age (and any age, really), art is about the process rather than the product, so explore a method or medium and don't worry too much about the end result - you don't have to be "artistic" or perfect. A few resources to start with: has tons of art and craft project ideas, along with recommendations for supplies and how to set up an art space for kids (sign up for her newsletter); check with your local librarian for book recommendations - both how-to-make-art books and picture books about specific artists that might inspire projects and discussion, especially if paired with a museum visit - there's a good starter list here but there are so many options out there: if you don't have time for another after school class (I hear you!), keep an eye out for one-time kids' projects/classes at the library, Flax, Mocha and other art spaces; lastly, Pinterest is your friend - I led art projects with a 1st grade class this year and here's our inspiration board, which will lead you down a rabbit hole of fun ideas:  Have fun!

Most public schools have an art teacher- someone who operates the art cart. You might check in with them for ideas.  Online is helpful too- lots of teachers share ideas on materials. Google (or Duck-Duck Go, if you don't want to be surveilled) is your friend. There's the Oakland MOCA (Museum of Children's Art), and they have open studio from time to time. A great play date.  If you haven't seen it, LHS has a neat design center where you create different paper objects to build for various experiments (making a parachute, making a rocket driven by a puff of air), etc.

One thing I'd like to offer as you figure this out is boredom.  A lot has been written about the need for more down time in our lives, and that boredom in particular has shown to be a an engine of creativity. My son, finishing kinder, seems to be a precocious reader and writer. And I went through the same search as you're going through: how to find things to keep his obvious interest in lettering and writing, etc.  And while I did get some good ideas from friends (people in FB that I didn't know were educators, e.g.), and online (pinterest etc.), I notice that recently, he's been coming up with his own stories, and vignettes to draw and write about, despite our not going to the library recently to get our customary truckload of books.  So we just make sure he has a nice supply of writing materials (you have an art table), and that he always feels that he can and should put something down on paper. It's really more about the ideation and creation I think that we're trying to foster. And frankly, I think having downtime and not too much stimulation gives his brain the space to do that.  Just my 2c.

My second son is artistic. I am not. I wish I had tried some of these great suggestions! What did work was art camps on summer or school breaks. He seemed to like the smaller ones, with a small group of kids and a teacher and maybe an aid. Just spending a week hanging with other artists, doing lots of different art was meaningful.

At home, we had lots of supplies and I didn't intervene much. Some of the popular things was a roll of newsprint (I think from Ikea?). I'd tape a long strip down on the floor or a wall and he'd draw all over it. Also popular on playdates. Sometimes, tracing themselves or creating massive scenes.

We carried a sketch pad almost everywhere. If he was bored, he could draw.

Lastly, youtube! It turns out there's loads of videos on how to draw almost everything. I discovered this late (he was trying to draw a Black person's nose and his art teacher was white and didn't have a good answer). Anime, manga, animals, cartoons, everything he wanted to dabble in. He would take the skills and extend them beyond the initial lesson.

Good luck!

Monart on MLK at Dwight is a fabulous place for kids to learn traditional art techniques, and make amazing pictures.  My daughter wished she'd gone their earlier, and eventually graduated to the adult drawing class.  Mona is wonderful and it was a great experience.