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Fantastic for Families 2021 awards nominee shares their top tips for family arts...


This year, Dundee Contemporary Arts (DCA) have been shortlisted for a Fantastic For Families Awards. They are an internationally renowned centre for contemporary art with two beautiful large-scale gallery spaces, two thriving cinema screens, a busy print studio, an award-winning learning programme, and a packed programme of events, workshops, classes and activities aimed at all ages and abilities.

DCA is shortlisted for a Fantastic for Families Impact Award for their Art at the Start collaboration, encouraging early art making and supporting families over the pandemic. Their team shares how they adapted Art at the Start to the pandemic: “We look at the benefits of art making for 0-3s and their grown-ups. Over the pandemic we’ve had to adapt by sending families art materials and ideas to try at home. Families told us about lovely benefits they experienced from using the art materials, like feeling better, playing more together, and seeing their little ones respond positively.” 

“She just liked painting and the chance to get your hands in and she liked the feeling of it. And I noticed by the end she's more confident to put it onto the paper and she'd be moving it about with her hands. I think she just really likes that feeling” Parent

The DCA team also actively work together with families and were happy to share some tips for making art at home with children: “Families also told us that they had wanted to try art before but hadn’t known if their children were old enough or where to start. So as soon as we could see families in person again, we started working with a group of parents and their little ones to develop a new book of ideas for parents to get started getting creative with their little ones. We’d like to share some suggestions with you here. Always supervise young children using art materials.”

Here are the DCA’s top tips for making art with little ones:

1) “Our top tip for trying art making with very young children is to forget about the final art-work and think of it as a process of exploration together – you are giving them an invitation to test out different materials. Your role as the grown up is to follow their lead and see what happens.  For babies you can start with a couple of blobs of paint straight onto the paper surface and let them reach out to touch it and start moving it around on the page. They will enjoy seeing the impact their actions can have on the world around them. Toddlers will like to test out the different marks they can create and the colours they can mix, and they might like to use brushes as well as their hands.”

2) “If you’d like to experiment with colour mixing with less mess, try putting some paint into a ziplock bag. Add a couple of colours, squeeze out the air and seal up (add tape if your worried it might burst). Children can then explore drawing into the paint with a finger or squishing the colours together. “

3) “If you don’t have art materials at home don’t worry. Open out recycled boxes or use newspaper to paint on to, and try our home-made paint recipe. You can use things around the house to apply the paint, like toy animals, lego bricks, cardboard tubes, potato mashers... Gather an interesting collection and explore dipping them into the paint and seeing what kind of mark they make. One of our favourites is to roll toy cars and trucks through a blob of paint to make patterns with their wheels.”

4) “Try printing from interesting surfaces. Lay out something with an interesting texture like bubble wrap or the corrugated card from a parcel. Help little ones to spread paint over this with hands or a brush. Bubble wrap especially has a lovely slippery feeling under the paint that will give a nice sensory dimension to the play. Now they can press a sheet of paper down on top and lift off to reveal a wonderful pattern.”

5) “How about playing with scale and going really big? Try using a roll of lining paper from a DIY store or open out a large box. That will let them use their whole body for painting, crawl around on it, use their feet, and really make their mark!”

Wherever you are at, there is one thing to remember when making art at home with your family: “Most importantly, enjoy the experience with them! The fun from these activities comes from the time spent together with you, exploring, communicating and being playful together.”

Family Arts Campaign are delighted to be hearing more from Dundee Contemporary Arts as speakers at this year’s Family Arts Conference taking place online 16-17 November. Sarah Derrick, Head of Learning at Dundee Contemporary Arts will be joining the panel discussion on ‘What is the post-lockdown “direction of travel” in delivering creative arts activities for early years children?’
Conference Tickets are available until Midnight Tuesday 9 November.

You can find out more about Dundee Contemporary Arts on the DCA website and discover the full list of Fantastic For Families Awards 2021 shortlisted organisations, and attend the free awards ceremony on Tuesday 16 November 2021 to discover the winners.

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