When the weather gets nippier and muckier, and the afternoons shorter, it’s time to retreat indoors for some serious table-bound fun. If you are worried about the state of your kitchen after a ‘session’, simply take a deep breath and think of The Greater Good. This month, we are talking about easing the tiniest tots into the fascinating, satisfying and joyful world of Art; we are encouraging little hands to explore colours, textures and, yes, make a mess; we are cheering on older children who may think they ‘can’t draw’ and applauding the ones who know they can.
Babies and little ones will probably already know about the joys of messy play, so why not encourage their artistic impulses by sticking a crayon or paintbrush in their hands rather than a spoon? What they need at this stage is space so that they can enjoy the sheer movement involved in creating a work of art. Any (safe) material will do: think chunky pencils, markers, paint, chalk (unless they’re likely to eat it), corks, sponges, etc. Colouring books are brilliant for providing an interesting landing place for all those creative impulses, with interesting pictures to look at and lots of blank space to fill. Maisy’s Placemat Doodle Book by Lucy Cousins works particularly well because of its sturdiness and the presence of a beloved character on every page. Anything by Hervé Tullet also comes to mind as he is not worried about colouring over the lines and not following instructions.
From 2 onwards, you can begin to attempt actual projects with your budding artist and add some interesting material from stickers to air-dry clay and glue. When they’re old enough, try them with scissors and be amazed at the skill and focus they put into cutting up paper into a million pieces. You will be spoilt for choice in this age group for arty books (colouring, doodling, sticker books) and project books (check out The Big Book of Things to Make and Do from Usborne). And for a combination of the two, try Sticker Shape Create by Thereza Rowe, which is a thing of beauty as well as great fun.
And now for our established artists, you can start getting technical. You will find books on collage (My Cutout Pictures by Nathalie Parrain), cutting (Cut and Colour Playbook by Anouck Boisrobert), drawing, modelling, as well as more complete guides to a mixture of artistic approaches (The Arty Book by Nikalas Catlow and David Sinden). The key is to keep it playful and positive, and to encourage experimentation. And remember that you don’t need heaps of material or conventional skill to create a masterpiece, as Ilona Molnar’s Fingerprint series shows: a pencil, some ink and a bunch of fingers will do!
0-2: Maisy’s Placemat Doodle Book by Lucy Cousins (Walker Books)
Sturdy and big, this is ideal to leave on a kitchen table or a high-chair tray with a few crayons while you are busy with chores or a cup of tea. While Maisy’s suggestions to continue patterns on jugs or add flowers in a meadow will go over the heads of the very young, the familiar face and the space left for creativity will make this a firm favourite that the artistic toddler will grow with and into.
2-4: Sticker Shape Create by Thereza Rowe (Ivy Kids)
With over 1,500 geometrical shape stickers, Rowe’s book is bound to spark hours of creative fun. Minimal text and crystal-clear visual instructions guide the reader from selecting the shapes to assembling them in order to create fantastic trains, animals, portraits or buildings. Always offering options and variants, it also encourages prolonging the experience with scenes to embellish and fill up.
5-8: Finger Print (Monsters and Dragons and 100 Other Adventurous Creatures) by Ilona Molnar (Quarry)
Finger Print is a playful, clear and comprehensive guide on how to make a variety of creatures and monsters through fingerprints. With very readable graphics showing the lines, squiggles or dots needed to complete each character, it’s an infinite source of inspiration. The layout of the book also allows the artist to work directly on the page and even to build up a mini-story with their creations.
Written by Juliette Saumande, children’s book writer, Book Doctor and Reviews Editor for Inis magazine.
For more reviews check out Inis magazine which is published by Children’s Books Ireland the national children’s books organisation whose vision is an Ireland in which books are central to every child’s life.
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