Parents Creatively Teaching Kids About Art: Going Where Snowman Has Gone Before

Parents Creatively Teaching Kids About Art: Going Where Snowman Has Gone Before

Parents Creatively Teaching Kids About Art: Going Where Snowman Has Gone Before


For seven years, I was on the planning committee of a wonderful art appreciation program in my sons’ school called Art Parent, which designed one-hour-a-month classroom visits from parents to teach students about specific artists or art styles. Unfortunately, this program is now defunct, having been voted out by teachers who currently find themselves scrambling for time to cover all of the basics required for the insane number of standardized tests that the kids have to take each year.

Frankly, while I understand the teachers’ plights, I think it’s such a shame that a valuable program like this has been dismissed. I know the students’ minds and hearts were enhanced by it, and have even witnessed my son, Logan, buzzing in and answering Scholastic Bowl questions correctly based on his knowledge from past Art Parent lessons that he otherwise wouldn’t have known.

Every summer, as Art Parent committee members, we’d get together and toss ideas around about what new artists or art techniques we wanted to share with the students during the school year along with the corresponding art projects.

I so enjoyed the creativity of those meetings. Very little was off limits, which is incredibly rare in a world full of excessive rules and regulations.

One year we decided to have the kids drip and splatter their way to creating colorful Jackson Pollock canvasses that we then mounted to the cafeteria wall: a daunting proposition to be sure! Since we were working under a really tight budget, we saved money wherever we could, including constructing the frames and stretching/painting the base coat of the canvasses on my basement floor. We then laid the canvasses down in a schoolroom and let the kids have at it with paint sticks, turkey basters, and even eggbeaters to create unique patterns. They were enthralled, and frankly, so were we.

Pictured below is my friend, Mary Edda, giving the artist overview to the kids: relaying information bytes such as where Pollock lived, what he was like as a child, what inspired him, the techniques he used, what he saw in his art and various ways of interpreting it. When she spoke, everyone listened!


Parents Creatively Teaching Kids About Art: Jackson Pollock overview


Here’s a young Pollock wannabe in action.


Parents Creatively Teaching Kids About Art: A young Jackson Pollock wannabe in action


At this point, the canvasses were completed, and were drying. No major paint spills – PHEW! Each canvass represented a different grade in the K-5 grade school.


Parents Creatively Teaching Kids About Art: Completed Jackson Pollock paintings made by elementary school students.


To give you an idea of the size of these suckers, those are someone’s legs sticking out of the bottom in the photo below. The older the class, the larger the frame. This was the 5th graders’ work of art.


Parents Creatively Teaching Kids About Art: Very large Jackson Pollock canvass completed by 5th graders


Here’s an actual Pollock painting.



Photo courtesy of:


We also did a lesson plan on Dale Chihuly, the famous blown glass artist from Washington state, and had the kids blow up balloons to replicate one of Chihuly’s works of art. This massive balloon waterfall sculpture, that was hung from a second story balcony, greeted parents as they walked in for Open House along with a sign informing them about the sculpture as well as about Chihuly. You may have seen some of his work on the ceiling of the Bellagio Hotel in Las Vegas or in other venues.


Parents Creatively Teaching Kids About Art: Dale Chihuly sculpture with balloons created by elementary school students.


And here’s the real deal: a blown blue glass Chihuly masterpiece.



Photo courtesy of: Halcyon Gallery


Because I participated in Art Parent program development for so many years, it’s second nature to me now to start scoping out new art forms or interesting artists during the summer. I tend to file a list of would-be lesson plans away in a personal corner of my brain, with no place to share it.

Until now, that is!

Despite the fact that you most likely weren’t sitting around over coffee yesterday lamenting that your life has been bereft of new artists and art forms, you’re going to get a small dose of them right now!

One of the things we liked to introduce, as you can see by the examples above, was art that employed various media. Typically, when we think of art, a mental image of a static, framed painting on a wall comes to mind. And while that type of art is fantastic, and we covered plenty of it in the Art Parent program, there are so many other fringe media that we don’t usually even consider.

For example . . .

What about flower art? Isn’t this cool?

Parents Creatively Teaching Kids About Art: Flower art

Parents Creatively Teaching Kids About Art: Flower art

Photos courtesy of 3-D First Aid Visual Architecture


Giving the kids a pile of silk flowers to arrange in a vase of their choice and setting them off in groups of four, letting their little imaginations run wild would be way cool! What turns an ordinary flower arrangement like this . . .




. . . into extraordinary works of art, like these?


Parents Creatively Teaching Kids About Art: Flower art

Parents Creatively Teaching Kids About Art: Flower art

Photo courtesy of:


Or how about introducing them to amped up balloon animal art?

I mean, this is what we were used to as kids when it came to balloon animals. Your basic, lame-o wiener dog that wasn’t really even worth the ear-splitting, eye-squinting squeaks involved in fashioning it, yet we thought it was magical.




The latex masterpieces below take balloon squeaking to a whole new level. Like the tip of the Sears tower antenna level.

This “American Gothic” interpretation has been labeled “airigami” by the artist, or “the art of folding air.”


Parents Creatively Teaching Kids About Art: Balloon art

Parents Creatively Teaching Kids About Art: Balloon art

Parents Creatively Teaching Kids About Art: Balloon art

Parents Creatively Teaching Kids About Art: Balloon art

Photos courtesy of:


How much fun would the kids have watching a video of the artist at work making one of these and then trying their hand at it as well? Sure, they’d probably end up with the wiener dog, but at least they’d know that a lot of practice could one day yield a gorgeous goat.


Then there’s this new, unique art from Alexa Meade, where she paints live people’s bodies to look like they’re paintings.



Photo courtesy of:


And let’s not forget about sand sculpting marvels . . .


Parents Creatively Teaching Kids About Art: Sand sculpture art

Parents Creatively Teaching Kids About Art: Sand sculpture art

Parents Creatively Teaching Kids About Art: Sand sculpture art

Photos courtesy of:


. . . the art of calligraphy . . .


Parents Creatively Teaching Kids About Art: Caligraphy as an art form


. . . and origami handiwork from Spencer’s homemade creations that I love to glance up at in my office, to pieces artfully displayed at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. . .


Parents Creatively Teaching Kids About Art: Spencer's origami.

Parents Creatively Teaching Kids About Art: Origami at MOMA


. . . the artistry required to develop magical fairie gardens solely out of repurposed and recycled materials . . .


Parents Creatively Teaching Kids About Art: Fairie gardens made from recycled materials

Parents Creatively Teaching Kids About Art: Fairie gardens made from recycled materials

Photos courtesy of:


. . . or maybe even Lego art.



Photo courtesy of:


. . . including these Lego masterpieces currently on display at Chicagoland’s Morton Arboretum.


Parents Creatively Teaching Kids About Art: Lego art at the Morton arboretum.

Parents Creatively Teaching Kids About Art: Lego art at the Morton arboretum.

Photo courtesy of:


Frankly, the running list I’m unwittingly gathering in my head goes on and on.

Artists are exploring new media all of the time, new artists are emerging as the latest and greatest talents of our time, and my mind is continually dazzled.

Thanks for standing in as my surrogate class today.

I feel so much lighter now that some of my cerebral artistic storage units have been temporarily purged!


Written by Becky


  • Catherine says:

    Loved this post! What a visual feast for the eyes from beginning to end! And what creativity on your part (and the other parents) in teaching about the artists and finding ways for the students to try practical applications. I actually liked the 5th grader’s painting better than Pollack’s (better choice of colors and the technique looked just as good) and was so surprised at how the giant balloon sculpture echoed Chihuly’s work so well. All of it is amazing, truly amazing. Art can be so wonderful and uplifting.

  • Arlene says:

    Becky, What a beautiful array of artwork. I love it all. Lee and I actually saw some Chiluly pieces mixed in with the plants at an arboretum in Arizona a few years ago. This year for a graduation gift our granddaughter in Michigan got a canvas that had crayons glued vertically close together at the top. Then her friend used a hair dryer to melt the crayons which then formed a pretty pattern as they dripped down. Then she put some pictures over the drippings. Have you seen that craft?

    • Becky says:

      Thanks, Arlene! You’re so fortunate to have seen some of his work. We were planning a visit to his studio this summer, but didn’t make it to the Pacific Northwest. Someday! He also displayed quite a few pieces in Chicago a few years back, but we missed it. Yes, I’ve seen the crayon craft. Actually, Spence created one for Jame for Christmas a couple of years ago. He mounted it in a black shadow box, and it looks so pretty.

  • Patty from MMC says:

    Where I taught, it was called Art Awareness. I used to love it as a teacher – so much so that, when I was on a year maternity leave with son Dan, I volunteered to do it for one of my good friend’s classroom. Now, with the and event of real, certified art teacher is many districts, the art teacher weaves this into the curriculum. I am amazed at the projects you and fellow art moms did. We did nothing to that degree – bet the kids loved it!

    • Patty from MMC says:

      And “and event” should be “advent” – gotta love auto correct – or maybe it’s my creative typing!

      • Becky says:

        That’s so nice that you volunteered during maternity leave, Patty! And, yes, the kids did love it. Logan said that, other than the Jackson Pollock project, he best remembers when we taught his class about Michelangelo painting the Sistine Chapel and how we had the kids lay on their backs to draw a picture on a piece of paper taped underneath their desks. Fun memories!

  • Mary Lou Sandvik says:

    What a fantastic posting today! As you know, I am NOT a creative art person but that doesn’t mean I don’t appreciate fully what is involved in all the above examples! I wish you had included the gorgeous tiled table and chair you and your group created that stands in the foyer of the Spencer School. Too too beautiful! Thanks, Becky, for sharing your love of creativity with us! YLM

    • Becky says:

      Well, I know you like to profess that you’re not a creative person, Mom, but anyone who plays piano by ear like you do has to have a lot creativity. Don’t you think? Oh, and stop and consider those “surprise casseroles” you used to feed us! It takes a creative mind to consider mixing left over rice, mashed potatoes, spam cubes, round steak bits and cream of mushroom soup!

  • Lisa says:

    It’s really a shame that the Art Parent program is no longer enriching the minds of both students and parents. I fondly remember my days as an Art Parent, learning about artists and their styles along with the kids. It was probably one of the most memorable and worthwhile volunteer programs provided by the PTO at our school. All of my kids still make references to things they learned through that program, and I have saved many of their wonderful creations. In these times of financial struggle in our state when so many important learning resources are being cut, I cannnot understand how anyone could have thought that discontinuing this enriching program was a good idea. Thank you for all the time you put into creating this fabulous program during the time that my kids were in school and fortunately touched by your efforts.

    • Becky says:

      Oh, you’re welcome, Lisa! I imagine we got just as much pleasure out of the program as the kids did. And, yeah, given we worked on a shoestring budget that was donated by parents, there was ZERO financial input from the district, only free lessons and art projects.

      I’ve often thought about starting an Art Parent program in the summer. Wouldn’t that be neat?

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About Me:

Hi! My name is Becky. I’m a mom, a wife, a friend, a writer, and a compulsive thinker. Don't invite me to a spa or to shop the day away, but rather, make me laugh, engage me in interesting conversation, play a game with me, or give me a cappuccino and homemade vanilla bean flan and I’m yours ‘til the cows come home.

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