Top10 Tips for Getting Arty and Crafty with your Kids by Sarah Doelby

Here are my top ten tips for incorporating a little art, craft and sensory play into your childrens schedules.

[1] Find a source of inspiration

If like me you are not a naturally arty person (I can barely draw a stick man) then find yourself a source of inspiration. Pinterest is always a great place to start; As well as that I follow a number of people on Instagram and Facebook who provide inspiration for our art activities at home. Art books from the library are another great way to get ideas.


1 sarah
Two of our favourite and most regularly used books plus the latest one we have borrowed from the library

[2] Think about how to store your art materials

At home we have our ‘art cart’ well actually our supplies have now spread to two art carts. Here I put out all the materials and resources that I am happy for the kids to have free access to. (There is more stuff out of reach in a cupboard) This works for us as the carts can be wheeled around to wherever the kids want to do their art. These art carts are from IKEA.

2 S

 [3] Don’t worry about the end result

Our time spent doing arty stuff is rarely about creating a finished product, it’s more about the process of exploring different materials and the ways they can be used.

3 sarah
Gold paint on mirrors
4 S
Painting on bubble wrap
5 s
Rolling balls around a foil container with some paint dripped in 

[4] Find your favourite materials

Experiment with different things until you find what works best for your set up. Personally my favourite items are those that can be used fairly independently and don’t make too much mess. Washi tape, pens, pencils and crayons, watercolour paints and stickers of all different descriptions fall into this category along with all sorts of sparkly bits and pieces, pom poms, pipe cleaners and feathers – to name a few.

Some of our favourite resources

[5] Make time for it and get involved

I was talking to my daughter about this blog post and she said the best thing about art at our house is when I do it with her. One thing that has worked well for us was creating daily five minute “Lauren and Mummy drawing time” We use an Instagram challenge by Tinkersketch (Aka Rachelle Doorley who wrote the book Tinkerlab – A Hands On Guide For Little Inventors), this challenge gives you a daily prompt of just one word to get you creating art. If I want to do slightly bigger messier and more involved arty stuff I tend to do this at the weekend when there’s more time and often the husband is also around to get involved in the clean up. Don’t be afraid to say no (but suggest an alternative) when the kids want to get the paints out 15 minutes before you have to be out the door.

An example of one months Tinkersketch challenge


These are the sketchbooks that we do our “Lauren and mummy drawing time” The daily prompt for the one at the top (mine) was magnify and the one at the bottom (Lauren’s) was circle.

[6] Take it out and about

Chalks on the pavement outside, sketchbooks at the park, leaf or bark rubbings in Autumn; sketching the shadows cast by trees or other objects in the Summer, freezing balloons full of coloured water in the water in the Winter. The options are endless for taking arts, crafts and sensory play out and about. I have a mobile art cart – a tool box – filled with bits and bobs which we take away on holiday and always pack some pens paper and stickers in a bag if I ever think I may need to entertain the small people in a café or restaurant.


Our mobile ‘art carts’

Playing with chalk outside

[7] Stock up on non obvious art supplies

Non art materials that we use frequently include salt, shaving cream, bicarbonate of soda, rice, pasta, food colouring, flour, glycerin and most recently even contact lens solution! Once you start to try out some different activities a trip to one of the local supermarket, Chinese shop or hardware store will never be the same again as you start imagining how you could use things you find there like mirrors, coloured electrical tape or sheets of Perspex.

Writing and drawing in a tray covered in salt.
Cooked pasta in paint.


Using a syringe to drip coloured water onto sheets of kitchen roll
Painting flowers with the discarded ends of celery
Painting Perspex sheets and spraying it with water.

[8] Keep your recyclables

My husband calls me a hoarder and he’s not wrong really. I have a basket full of toilet rolls, egg boxes, cardboard packaging and styrofoam in the guestroom and a cupboard full of bubble wrap in the kitchen – although he doesn’t know about that one, yet! When we had our sofa delivered I asked the men from IKEA to leave the box and we lived with it taking up half our living room for a week or more but in that time my kids draw on it, painted it, turned it into a boat and a rocket and insisted on eating dinner in it most nights.

A small selection of my recyclables
The box that lived in my living room for a week
Lucas making art with bottle tops in a cardboard box
Printing hearts for Valentines Day with a toilet roll.
Painting with bubble wrap strapped to their feet.

[9] Plan your clean up

I am a bit of a neat freak so although I love art and messy play I need to be able to clean up quickly and easily when it’s all over. When we can, we do our art stuff out on our balcony (thank goodness for a warmish climate). I put down newspaper or plastic mats and have accepted that after one session with gold paint our outdoor furniture may never be quite the same again. I try to keep the kids in as few clothes as possible so they can be hosed down and have wet wipes and a bucket of water to hand. There are some art supplies which my kids will never have open access to – hello glitter and permanent sharpie pens 🙂 Also, I am a big fan of activities that can be done in the bath which leads to a super easy clean up!

Shaving foam and food colouring to ‘paint’ in the bath.

[10] Record what you do

I’m never going to have boxes of art work to pass on to my kids when they leave home and I’m not sure they’d thank me if I did, but I do keep the really special things (first time pen was put to paper and first stick man etc). I’m terrible at doing this myself but do write the date and their age on those things. You think you’ll never forget, but you do!! I have a shocking memory and don’t remember anything unless I have a photo of it so I tend to take pictures of art work, especially the mountain of stuff that comes home from school (then you can throw it away or … another top tip, use it to write on and send to the granparents as letters) I fully intend to make a photo book one day of all their art but … in all honesty I doubt I ever will.

IMG_4813Sarah Doelby is the Crafty Diva behind many of the great creative ideas done with the children at Porto Playgroup, she is also a mother of 2 British/ Danish TCKs born in Singapore and raised in Porto. She is a fantastic Top10Mom full of international experience as a mom, wife, woman and professional. She is preparing their relocations to Denmark and we already miss her so much. Thank you Sarah!

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