The younger the better (to a certain point — I think I’d want to be able to communicate at least a bit while doing it!)
Back when my godson was three, he was fascinated by my rubber stamps. Although precocious, he wasn’t always careful to follow my rules, so I bought a set of inexpensive texture stamps and a set of cheap stamps and washable ink and paint just for him.
Sit down with your chosen small one , lots of colors of paints, stamp pads, crayons, and markers, and LOTS of paper. (Cover the kitchen floor and do it there — it’s a LOT easier to clean up than the dining table! and much more space to spread out in, too.)
Follow the child’s lead — at 3-5 they are generally naturally experimental – often we’ve forgotten the simple joys of making a mess by the time we hit high school. Assume the art supplies will end up trashed and purchase accordingly. They should be good fora year or so of this kind of use — weekly. You might be surprised – 10 years later I’m still using those cheap kid’s texture stamps!
What I learned from the three year old:
- Using all the paint colors on a foam stamp does NOT necessarily equate to a yucky mess.
- Mixed media is fun – I’m relearning this this year on my own…
- Colors that “clash” can create wonderful art together.
- FUN is the most important part of the creative process. Yes, there is work involved in the professional side, but even when it’s difficult, if some part of the project doesn’t trigger your sense of fun you won’t produce your best work. And yes, I do find this is just as true when I’m working with dark subject matter!
Little kids, when given permission to make a mess, create masterpieces. Borrow a friend or relative’s toddler if you need to — let them have a day off while you and the child create — just remember to warn Mom and Dad that their child will be coming home completely covered in paint (and be prepared to be just as messy yourself). Then go forth and have fun!