If you’re looking to give your kids a break from your typical summer day in the sun, devote a morning to “painting-a-scene”, a fun way to merge artistic expression and storytelling (See Tip #22 for my simpler travel version of paint-a-scene). All you need is:
- Canvas of any size. Larger sizes can offer more of a “wow” factor for the kids. You should be able to find these in sets of 2-5 for quite cheap (just a few dollars per canvas).
- Acrylic or oil paints. You can save money by just purchasing primary colors and white, and letting the kids experiment with color mixing.
- A few paintbrushes and paint trays (we usually use baking/cupcake pans)
- Old tablecloths or newspapers
- Bowls or cups for water
After gathering your materials (which can be purchased at your local arts and crafts store), find a beautiful or interesting scene/view to paint. As you are getting situated, help the kids talk about what they see. Get them to notice the details, and use some sophisticated words as you participate in describing the scene. Then…paint away!
Painting a scene is a fun stand-alone summer activity, but you can also take it a step further by connecting their art with some storytelling (which is so important for building strong narrative skills, which are crucial for success with reading and writing). Encourage the kids to tell a story that uses the painted scene as a story starter, providing the setting for their story. If their scene has people or animals in it, they can become characters in the story. Guide your kids’ storytelling so that it has a beginning, middle, and ending with a problem/conflict (what goes wrong in the story) and resolution (how is the problem fixed). Kids can tell individual stories, or you all can have fun taking turns chiming in to tell a collaborative story. To add a fun twist to the storytelling, ask kids to go find an object (e.g., a pinecone, rock, shell, stick) — and challenge kids to include the found objects in their stories. If they want, they can even paint the found object into their scene! Oral stories can also be written down (by the child, or dictated if kids are younger) and attached to the back of the canvas.
In our family… We tried this out on a spring day with some friends. It was beautiful outside, the kids were not up for another beach day, and some of the kids were asking for Color Me Mine (a paint-your-own pottery studio). Five kids at Color Me Mine was easily going to be $200, which we weren’t up for spending on a non-occasion spring day. So, this idea was born! Totally spontaneous — we thought of the idea, grabbed what relevant supplies we already had, met our friends at Michaels Arts & Crafts, and headed to the beach. It was easy, the kids had a blast, and they asked if they could do it again with a different scene. This definitely has become a permanent summer to-do!