Celebrating National Art Day with Your Child

October 25 is the birthday of Pablo Picasso, a day now recognized as National Art Day in the United States. While it’s always fun to celebrate a special day, we think kids should explore the arts every day of the year!


Why Art Matters

STEM has taken center stage in education lately, but art education is important both on its own and as a complement to hard sciences by encouraging creative thinking. According to data gathered by Americans for the Arts:

  • Students who are involved in instrumental music are, on average one year ahead of their peers academically, independent of other factors like socio-economic status.

  • High schoolers who have four years of art and music classes have higher composite SAT scores than those who do not.

  • Arts education reduces the percentage of students receiving disciplinary action.

Other known benefits of the arts include improved problem-solving skills, manual dexterity, self-confidence, and teamwork. When integrated into other classes, art can foster understanding of complex subjects and give children another tool for self-expression.

Despite this, arts education remains under-funded and undervalued. GEDDES is committed to making art accessible to all children by donating supplies to kids, nonprofits, and communities throughout the world and through our support of kid-friendly arts activities like the Amazing World of Dr. Seuss Museum.


7 Big and Small Ways to Celebrate the Arts All Year Round

First, let’s take a step back: what does art mean when it comes to children and education?

Obviously, art encompasses visual arts, digital arts, music, writing, dance, and theater, but for children, what is perhaps most important about the arts is the creativity it fosters. When your child is taking music classes or a member of a dance troupe, there’s certainly a time for creativity and a time to listen to instruction, but the activities below are designed to give kids freedom by focusing on process. This is where the magic happens in art, particularly for younger children.


Self-Portrait Studies

Self-portraits are a wonderful tool that allows children to explore their identities and the visual arts. As a starting point, you may want to show your child some self-portraits from well-known artists. Include a variety of different styles and share some brief, age-appropriate information about each artist, but let your child describe the artwork themselves, using open-ended questions as a prompt.

Give your child a mirror (or use a photograph) and have them create a self-portrait in their own style. Provide a variety of materials for them to work with, including the standard markers and colored pencils, and some more creative choices like patterned paper, sequins, or washi tape.


Photo Scavenger Hunt

A photo scavenger hunt combines a fun activity that kids love—scavenger hunts!—with arts education. It can also be used to reinforce learning from other subjects. Young children can be asked to find and photograph the shapes they see around them; older children can photograph different classifications of plants that they learned in science class.

Give your child an old phone, an inexpensive digital camera, or even a disposable camera with film in it and have them take photos. Talk about photography concepts like composition and light. How do photos look different when taken from different angles or towards the sun rather than away from it?

Print the photos out and discuss them together. Have your child create a photo book with the prints or incorporate them into other pieces of art.


Collage Bin

Children love putting together collages, but it’s often something reserved for class assignments. A collage bin can transform collaging into an everyday activity, boosting your child’s problem-solving skills and encouraging creative thinking in a way that drawing and coloring just can’t replicate.

Take a shoebox and fill it with small scraps of paper. Patterned origami paper, scrapbooking paper, and cutouts from magazines are all excellent, inexpensive sources. Even fabric, ribbons, beads, wrappers, postcards, and other ephemera can be fun to incorporate into collages. For a larger group of kids, you may want to put together several shoeboxes, each with a different color of scraps.

Supply your child with paper or cardstock and glue sticks to see what they come up with. Some kids will experiment with creating abstract designs, while others will carefully piece together paper scraps to create a specific object. You can also use Mod Podge to create collages on three-dimensional objects like jars, empty mint tins, plain wooden frames, and boxes.


Daily Journaling

Kindergarteners often have composition books where they do daily journaling featuring a picture and a sentence or two responding to a provocation. This habit doesn’t have to stop with kindergarten, though—you can continue it all the way through high school and beyond.

Purchase a blank journal and let your child decorate the cover—this is a great way to put that collage bin to use! Older children may enjoy learning about bookbinding and creating their journal from scratch. Some kids want to have the freedom to write and draw whatever they’d like, but you can also find countless daily journal prompts online to spark inspiration.


DIY Musical Instruments

Who created the first guitar? What made them think to invent it? Did the violin come later or before? How did someone think to use a bow to make sound instead of a pick or fingers?

Questions like this can get kids to think differently about what it means to make music—and might just inspire them to create completely new musical instruments! Think beyond filling a plastic bottle with beans to make a maraca and let your child take the lead.

This is a project that can span several days or even weeks. Start by having them draw some instruments and write (or talk) about the sounds they make and the type of music they’re used to create. These drawings can be sculpted in clay for a three-dimensional model. Take it a step further and see if your child can build a real, working instrument and make music with it. For younger children, you may ask them to skip the drawing step and find objects at home or outside that can be used to make music.


Nature Art

One way to connect science and art is through bringing art outdoors. There are endless ideas for creating art from natural materials, but we recommend keeping things as open-ended as possible. Here are some of our favorite ideas:

  • Have your child collect leaves, grass, flowers, pinecones, and anything else that piques their interest. Give them paint and paper and let them use these materials as brushes or stamps.

  • Purchase canvas at an art supply store. On a drizzly day, bring it outside and let your child paint on it. What happens when they paint on the wet canvas? Does the painting change as more rain falls?

  • Use leaves and other materials to create self-portraits, pictures of animals, or anything else your child is interested in—either glued to paper or used in a sculpture.

  • Make pressed leaf and flower art. There’s no need to buy a flower press—a heavy object, like a large book, is all you need! Place flowers and leaves inside and after a week or two, check to see if the items have dried out. Once they’re dry, they can be glued to paper.

  • Let your child use acrylic paint to create art on rocks and sticks; use these to add color to your yard or to create a mini art garden.

  • Have your child create a small journal to take with them on hikes and nature walks. Bring pencils with you so they can sketch what they see.

Whenever you go for a walk, bring a bag with you so your child can collect material that inspires them. Keep these items in a box at home for whenever inspiration strikes!


Song of the Day

There’s no reason for kids to only listen to kids' songs; it can be enriching for even the youngest children to listen to music from a variety of genres.

Choose a different song to listen to each day. Young kids might just want to dance to it and that’s fine! Ask them what instruments they hear or have them clap to the beat. Tell older children a bit about the musician, genre, or time period that the song was created. Ask them about the lyrics or what emotions the song evokes in them, or have them draw what they feel while they listen.

There’s no right or wrong way to approach this—the goal is simply to expose children to different types of music and get them thinking about why music is created and its purpose in our lives. If, like most families, you’re perpetually short on time, make the song of the day part of breakfast or the drive to school.


Learn More About GEDDES

GEDDES supports schools, teachers, and families by providing high-quality school and art supplies at affordable prices. Request a catalog on our website or contact us at 888-431-1722 to speak with one of our team members and learn more about our services.