If you follow me on Instagram, you know that I have a tiny studio mate. She is my business parter, best buddy, and an actually really fun person to paint with. When I tell people that we paint together I typically get two reactions: 1) "Oh my, I would not know where to begin letting my toddler paint with me, that must be so messy" or 2) "Wow, that sounds so amazing (while skeptically wondering if I am telling the whole truth)".
So, here it is, the raw, unfiltered version of what it really is like to share a studio with a little one.
The Art by Megan general rules for painting with little ones:
1. Set limits. I cannot expect to get a full day's worth of work done in a day with a kid. It is not fair, nor reasonable. I can expect that we can work for about 1-2 hours, with maybe a break for snacks (for me, obviously).
2. Set rules + dedicate a space to mess. There is only painting happening in our art room. I don't want to wipe it off of our nice Ikea kitchen (:)) table or the TV or the shower walls, so it needs to happen in a confined, well-planned out space. I find that if I can relax while painting with her, we both have more fun.
3. Dress for success. So, if you have ever eaten with a person under the age of 10, you know that things happen that don't seem reasonable or expected. The same rule applies to painting together. Wear an old shirt, old pants, paint barefoot and let your kid wear a smock, or paint Au Naturale (I am serious, it seems crazy but they totally love it!).
4. Schedule. So, you have a fancy lunch with grandma at 12 noon? Don't paint in the morning. My favorite time for painting with my little is late afternoon or evening, right before bath time. It's soothing, calming, funny and silly to paint together, and then can be cleaned right up in a vigorous scrubbing-bubbles bath immediately after. Picture this: I literally carry her by the armpits to the tub after a painting session and say "go to town, little lady". Avoid angry post-painting scrubbing or stressing. You just had tons of messy fun, after all.
5. "Let it go". My 2nd favorite Disney princess says it best. If you decide to give it a stab and let painting happen in your home, accept the fact that THERE WILL BE A MESS. If you can't wrap your mind around it, take them to the park and paint. If your house is super gorgeous and expensive, let them paint in the backyard. If you feel brave enough to let it happen indoors, be prepared to wipe some things down afterwards. (*magic eraser did not sponsor this post!)
6. Lesson plan. I love the website / blog "Modern Parents, Messy Kids". They have awesome lesson plans dedicated to age appropriate activities that make it more fun. Also, art museum websites and Pinterest have a million great ideas. Just accept that your work will not look like Pinterest, and go on with your bad self. Here is an article I wrote for Capital Style magazine that has a fun, SUPER EASY idea for painting with a little one.
7. Keep 'em separated. I plan a little space for my little and then show her what I am going to be working on. I tell her up front, "You can work on your art for a little while while I work on mine. Then you can help me". I always let her help me, though, because it seems so much cooler to a little person to help with the "REAL" art that is happening.
Now, you can do it. Take baby steps. Learn to love the mess. It's a beautiful mess, indeed.