With a few long weekends and holidays looming on the horizon, what better time to stock up on art-related activities, aka fun and games?
And by stocking up, I don’t mean going shopping for them. All you need to do for these activities is to gather some supplies you probably have around your home (or your classroom). With a little preparation (really minimal), you’ll be all set for those times when you need to keep assorted children occupied – and for creative and enjoyable family fun that will engage both young and old (and older).
Bonus: all of these activities are portable and/or reproducible with minimal effort whether you’re going to granny’s house or the restaurant.
Here are three of my favourite, tried-and-true artful games and activities:
1 . The unbeatable colouring pages:
Who doesn’t love colouring pages? There’s a reason why adult colouring books kind of exploded in popularity recently. Colouring is such a calming and enjoyable activity for all ages – and a godsend when you need a quiet activity.
I’m constantly on the look-out both for well-designed colouring books in bookstores and for interesting illustrations online. There are tons of free colouring pages on the web – not all of them good, and many not really worth the paper you’ll print them on. But with patience and a little digging, you can certainly find a few gems.
Incidentally, children love intricate designs to colour. Don’t hesitate to give them something a little challenging to work on, they will surprise you with what they can do.
I have a few favourite sources for printing out beautiful illustrations. One of them is Dover publications. If you sign up for their free printables, you’ll get access to a treasure trove of beautiful illustrations to download, print and colour. Here’s a freebie they sent me this week, I’m certain they won’t mind if I share it with you.
Another favourite of mine is looking for public domain illustrations. You can find vintage images that are old enough to have become copyright-free, like this gem of an illustration by Helen Stratton from a 1899 collection of Anderson’s Fairy tales. (Newsletter subscriber bonus this month: 2 additional free colouring pages)
2. Play a collaborative game: Exquisite Monster™:
- Drawing instruments: pencils, crayons, pens or even ball-point pens – anything that won’t bleed through to the other side of the paper (so no Sharpies or markers). You can use colours or not, it’s really up to you.
3. When all else fails, play a game of Pictionary – or a home-made variation
I’m just kidding, you don’t need to put this game at the bottom of your fun and games list, it’s a great family game. I still have the first Pictionary I bought many moons ago – but you don’t actually need to purchase the official product. You can easily create a fun and interactive version yourself.
What is it? Essentially a word-guessing game with drawings. As easy or as difficult that you care to make it.
Who can play?
- Kids as young as 5 can play (provided the other players remember to be patient and kind), and everyone else will want to join in. The more players, the more fun it is.
- The game can be played with teams or as one group – depending on the number of players, the dynamics involved, age differentials, etc. (a reasonable adult gets to decide that part).
- Paper and markers (pencils and crayons, even pens works fine too) or a dry erase board with dry erase markers if you have them lying around (and something to wipe the drawings off with). Or a chalkboard with chalk. You get the idea, you need something to draw with and something to draw on.
- A timer (human or otherwise) to be used for each turn. Not absolutely necessary, but helpful.
- A set of prepared words, divided into easy, not-so-easy, and not-easy-at-all categories. You’ll need at least 10 of each to begin but I advise to have a lot more for each category.
How to play:
First: What to draw:
- Prepare pieces of paper (or small cards) ahead of time with words on one side and level of difficulty on the other (easy, medium, hard). Cards are preferable to paper in my opinion, because you can store and re-use them more readily.
- Easy words would be something like: lady bug, butterfly, glasses, paintbrush, fireworks, pony tail, ice cream – simple enough for the little ones to draw and guess.
- Medium words may include: schoolbus, teacher, ballet slippers, puppy, pinwheel, hot air balloon, blanket, pirate – a little harder to draw but still easy to guess.
- Harder words would be a good challenge for teens and adults, and might be items like: sumo wrestler, bicycle, hotel, vacation, WiFi, soft boiled egg, download.
- Try to have a couple dozen words for each category at least. If you run out of ideas (you will), you can find lots of free word lists online – just Google “Pictionary words”.
- Players can also pick their own words, of course. It adds to the fun to see how inventive and imaginative everyone can be.
Next: Time to draw!
- The first player picks a word from one of the sets (easy, medium, hard) – it’s best to start with the easy ones, especially with a younger crowd. Armed with their drawing tool, the player has to illustrate the word while the others come up with guesses. The first person to guess correctly takes the next turn.
- The playing group can be divided in teams of at least 3 members who will compete against each other, by drawing the same word at the same time. The team that guesses first wins. Word to the wise: if you don’t enjoy tears and meltdowns, don’t divide younger players into competing teams.
- You can use a timer for each turn, but it’s not absolutely necessary if a kind and fair adult volunteers to be the time monitor. Some kids don’t do well with being rushed, and the whole point is for everyone to have fun.
I hope you’ll enjoy trying out all these fun art activities – let me know what you think!