Ten Tips for teaching Art to your child-for the non-artist parent

If you are a parent who sees artistic potential in your child or children but are at a loss as to how to help them develop their artistic skills further, then this is the article for you.

Tip 1:Believe that it is a basic part of human nature to be creative and that you and your children have every right to be creative because Art is not exclusive. (If you do not believe this yet, then pretend to for your children’s sake!)


Tip 2:If you have very little formal artistic skills yourself, it’s not a problem. Find one of many great online tutorials that can teach you and your children how to draw. Here are just a few: How to draw a nose, How to draw a Spinosaurus, How to draw a butterfly, How to draw a dragon’s eye

Tip 3: When your child does a piece of art work train yourself not to automatically say ‘Wow, that’s so amazing darling’. Take a look at this fantastic clip called Austin’s butterfly and try giving feedback that actually means something and shows you’ve taken the time to really look at their art.

Tip 4: Keep sketchbooks and date work. There’s nothing quite so satisfying as looking back over art work and seeing how much you’ve improved since the first drawing.

Tip 5: Let children follow their own inspiration! If Jonny loves snakes and you have a snake phobia, you’ll still have to support Jonny when he draws snakes because you don’t want to pass on your fear of snakes. Remember, it’s passion that gets artists through difficult times.

Muhyi snake

Tip 6: Encourage your children to embrace mistakes. So frustrating when they know what they want a drawing to look like and their hands just won’t do it! Learn about Carol Dweck’s Growth Mindset and the power of using the word ‘yet’. Mistakes are not a catastrophe, they are part of an essential process towards a goal. Your brain develops most when you make a mistake and learn from it, so teach your child to be pleased when they make a marvellous mistake and explain that they are just not quite there yet.

Tip 7: For ways to create fun opportunities for Art linked to story books read this article.

Tip 8: Let your children take photos. Imagine you go to the zoo on a family trip but they’re just too excited to sit and draw any of the animals there. Well that’s where many artists would take several photographs of their favourite animal for later use. On a rainy day you can get the photos up on a computer or ipad and draw from them. Here are some photos my son took when we went to Crocodile world.


Tip 9: If you have an ipad or tablet then download Photoeditor. Let your children experiment with editing a photo they took. Art can be digital as well as drawn with pencil and paper. Here are some digitally edited photos done by 7 year olds I’ve worked with.

Tip 10: Get children out and about and do some Art outdoorsLand Art or at a museum.

Here are some pics of Land Art I’ve done with my children.

I hope this gives you some helpful advice to get started and perhaps once you get going you’ll have some inspiring ideas yourself that you’d like me to put up on this post for others to see.

If you have photos you’d like me to share then please send them to a.henckel@hotmail.com and add any short notes or tips you’d like me to add alongside them.


Inspired by nature



Here are some preliminary photos of my latest art jewellery commissions. I have sculpted these flowers out of polymer clay and have based them on a bell flower. I would like to give more details about this commission, but am not able to yet as it’s a big secret.

Bell flower

Sterling silver chain, Swarovski crystal, hand sculpted polymer clay flower with Sterling silver stamens.bell flower Bell flower necklace

Gold plated chain, Swarovski pearls and crystals, hand made polymer clay buds and flowers.

I spent a week practicing the bell flowers and you can see that the ones at the back are far too big, bulky and naive in their execution. However, toward the end of the week I honed my skills and this shows up in the front three flowers. I must have done about fifty flowers before I began to produce them with speed, skill and effectiveness.

Mindful Creativity – an exploration

True creativity does not merely take the form of art, drawing, dance and all the other general creative activities that we associate with the word. In fact I have discovered that true creativity and creative thinking can happen daily to every person at any time regardless of their activity. Most activities in life can be a creative act provided that we are living at that moment in the present and not in the past or the future.

I should have been absolutely relaxed and at my full creative potential during this two week Christmas break, but instead I spent it in quiet turmoil worrying about my first day back at work, my up coming interview, what I would cook for the family tomorrow, what uniforms I should buy for the children, how short my holiday was, how I would definitely do absolutely nothing tomorrow so I’d feel like I was on holiday, and so much more. I spent much time in the future and actually missed most of the present. As a result the holiday flashed by, I hardly enjoyed it, and I feel no more prepared for my first day at work or my interview than if I had actually really done nothing but at least enjoyed it.

On top of this I have realized that this holiday was an opportunity to give my two boys some  special attention, some mindful attention, and yet that rarely happened at all. Mindful parenting, I have discovered is where a parent practices living in the present moment whilst dealing with the child in front of them. Being present at that moment with the child (without the previous ideas and criticisms held), and sustaining that attention in the present will then allow the necessary creativity to come through and the parent to deal with the situation in the best way possible.

Creativity and parenting definitely go hand in hand, I know this through experience as I think back to the few times when I was actually present in the moment. Times when I  suggested a tantalizing distraction to engage my fighting sons, or when I’ve been aware enough to sense that their excitable energies were leading to destruction and mayhem and found a creative outlet for that energy through music/percussion/art.  But the big challenge is to uphold this creative parenting and therefore this living in the present through the more stressful and tired days of my life.  I’ve come across an amazing piece of writing about mindful parenting and it suggests twelve top tips. These are taken from an interview where ‘Sarah van Gelder talks with Jon and Myla Kabat-Zinn about how the Buddhist concept of mindfulness can help us to see the wholeness and beauty of our children in each moment.’

Twelve Exercises for Mindful Parenting

  1. Try to imagine the world from your child’s point of view, purposefully letting go of your own. Do this every day for at least a few moments to remind you of who this child is and what he or she faces in the world.

  2. Imagine how you appear and sound from your child’s point of view; imagine having you as a parent today, in this moment. How might this modify how you carry yourself in your body and in space, how you speak, what you say? How do you want to relate to your child in this moment?

  3. Practice seeing your children as perfect just the way they are. Work at accepting them as they are when it is hardest for you to do so.

  4. Be mindful of your expectations of your children, and consider whether they are truly in your children’s best interests. Also, be aware of how you communicate those expectations and how they affect your children.

  5. Practice altruism, putting the needs of your children above your own whenever possible. Then see if there isn’t some common ground where your needs can also be met. You may be surprised at how much overlap is possible, especially if you are patient and strive for balance.

  6. When you feel lost, or at a loss, remember to stand still. Meditate on the whole by bringing your full attention to the situation, to your child, to yourself, to the family. In doing so, you may go beyond thinking and perceive intuitively, with the whole of your being, what really needs to be done.

  7. Try embodying silent presence. Listen carefully.

  8. Learn to live with tension without losing your own balance. Practice moving into any moment, however difficult, without trying to change anything and without having to have a particular outcome occur. See what is “workable” if you are willing to trust your intuition and best instincts.

  9. Apologize to your child when you have betrayed a trust in even a little way. Apologies are healing, and they demonstrate that you see a situation more clearly, or more from your child’s point of view. But “I’m sorry” loses its meaning if we are always saying it, or if we make regret a habit.

  10. Every child is special, and every child has special needs. Each sees in an entirely unique way. Hold an image of each child in your heart. Drink in their being, wishing them well.

  11. There are very important times when we need to practice being clear and strong and unequivocal with our children. Let this come as much as possible out of awareness and generosity and discernment, rather than out of fear, self-righteousness, or the desire to control. Mindful parenting does not mean being overindulgent, neglectful, or weak; nor does it mean being rigid and controlling.

  12. The greatest gift you can give your child is your self. This means that part of your work as a parent is to keep growing in self-knowledge and in awareness. We have to be grounded in the present moment to share what is deepest and best in ourselves.

The above twelve steps are taken from here, they were written by Jon and Myla Kabat-Zinn and are part of their book called Everyday Blessings: The Inner Work of Mindful Parenting.

Well I’ve spent the last day of my holiday practicing mindfulness, really listening to my children instead of hearing their words but with my mind on other things. It was not always easy to break the habit but it was made easier by the energy of the strong intention I made to practice it. And despite an ill child with a roaring temperature, preparation of school uniforms, making packed lunches, the prospect of the school run and an early morning start I did actually enjoy the day and am not suffering from Sunday blues.

Living in the moment allowed me the space to see certain negative things that I do with the children which I was previously unaware of, I also saw how I treat them differently and how in this particular case it put a lot of pressure upon one of their little shoulders.  To see this and create a new behavior pattern within myself is an important aspect of True creativity. I have come to understand that the urge to create has many more positive uses than simply to make a piece of art work. The creative force can be used throughout every day life whether it be making and presenting beautiful food, redecorating the house, creative parenting, creativity with one’s partner, creativity at work, or creating new and better behaviors.

So why do I avoid living in the now, the present moment. Fear of boredom, the idea that if I don’t think about all the things I need to do then I will forget them, resentment at having to do something constantly for others-where’s time for ME? The idea that I’ll do this thing for you physically but at least I’ve still got my mind to think about whatever I want. Weather all these ideas are foolish I have yet to explore but I’m determined to find out over the next few months. Exactly how I will improve my terrible memory I do not know but perhaps being mindful will help, a big challenge will be to combat boredom.  As for ‘Me’ time, well Exercise no 5 ( above) has put me in my place!

The re discovery of mindfulness is quite exciting for me as it puts creativity at the centre of everything I do resulting in less resentfulness at all the other daily chores and activities that take me away from my art work. How easy will it be to be mindful when the exhaustion of the school term is at its hight I cannot say but I can only try to me mindful even if it is of my own tiredness.

A painting, dance, sculpture, music are all evidence of a creative act but they are only part of the process of creativity. True Creativity has infinite expressions and can be used and expressed at any moment in a person’s life and is accessible when they are living in the moment. Therefore Mindful Creativity is a way of life, a way of being and doing that is far beyond the small remit of a visual or performing artist. I wish to conclude with my favorite  quote, the words of the wise old tortoise in Kung Fu Panda who says

‘You are too concerned about what was and what will be. There is a saying: yesterday is history, tomorrow is a mystery, but today is a gift. That is why it is called the “present.” Share this quote

The Artist’s Lament

A fool I was to pin my happiness on you.

When now I see you’ve been untrue.

Leaving me at times of dire need

My hapless whisperings, took no heed.

Where were you at the dead of night?

Those precious hours, at down, took flight:

Whilst I alone remain in sorry state

Longing for my ill matched mate.

A fool I was to pin my hopes on you

But now I see you’ve been untrue.

Beguiling me with your dazzling feeling.

Then from me, in the darkness stealing.

Where did you go? Which undeserving soul did you see?

Bestowing your ecstasy on them, not me.

A fool I was to give my self to you

As now, I see you’ve been untrue.

I ask of myself, Is it something I’ve done?

As I watch you, carelessly go and come.

Can I last yet another night?

When will Destiny and Time put this wrong to right?

Writings on the source of creativity


Snippets from the Radio, sound waves with meaning,

A smell and the memory of some past feeling.

The heart rate quickens, thoughts start racing,

Images and flashes from the depths come rushing.

Parts of your voice come filtering through, a tapestry of threads,

The warp and weft of your voice and my Muse weaving in and between,

This energy, a force from the deep unseen.

I cannot escape these creative jaws,

Like the mouse in a cat’s playful paws,

I am taken and captured,

Tossed, yet enraptured

At this beauteous state, so instinctive and free

A drop from the ocean of True creativity.

What then will become of it when the moment is gone?

Will it become sullied, tainted with ego?

Who’s idea was it? Not mine, I’m sure

As it was I who waited and watched it mature.

From inspiration to imagination,

Thought form to manifestation,

The process changes as I now take part

In the physical making of what they call Art.

But in fact it is all and act,

A masquerade acted by a fool

Who’s caught up by artistic drool.

A creator who has lost their purpose

And remains trapped upon the surface.

Snippets from the radio, sound waves with meaning

A smell, and the memory of some past feeling.

The heart rate quickens, thoughts start racing

Images and flashes from the depths come rushing.



How can my Muse want subject to invent,

While thou dost breathe, that pour’st into my verse

Thine own sweet argument, too excellent

For every vulgar paper to rehearse?

O! give thyself the thanks, if aught in me

Worthy perusal stand against thy sight;

For who’s so dumb that cannot write to thee,

When thou thyself dost give invention light?

Be thou the tenth Muse, ten times more in worth

Than those old nine which rhymers invocate;

And he that calls on thee, let him bring forth

Eternal numbers to outlive long date.

If my slight Muse do please these curious days,

The pain be mine, but thine shall be the praise.

William Shakespeare


Tinker Tailer Soldier Sailer…Doctor: Get kids sewing!

My friend related a story to me once of her husband returning from a trip abroad to find his three children sewing. His youngest, a boy and the apple of his eye, had begged his mother to be allowed to join his elder sisters in sewing their own pencil cases, to which she agreed. Upon the father’s arrival, mayhem and madness broke out as devastated, he swiftly removed the needle and thread from his son’s hands and then turned enraged upon his wife.

‘Why is my son sewing?’ he demanded, adding something along the lines of ‘sewing is for girls’!

My friend then gently and respectfully reminded him that if he wanted his son to be a surgeon then sewing skills would come in quite handy. As they would for a sailor mending the sails of his ship, an army officer sewing the badge of his latest promotion onto his uniform and a cobbler mending antique leather goods.

Needless to say the half finished pencil case was quietly returned at a later date when father’s ego felt a little less bruised, and is now a fully functional pencil case to this day.

Sewing is actually a very practical and useful skill that all children regardless of gender should practice not only for the reasons above but also to improve those fine motor skills and hand eye coordination that all help towards good writing. It also extends concentration skills, and teaches children to think practically. It is a transferable skill which can be used to help reduce reuse and recycle-how often have you thrown away a pair of trousers, shirt or socks because of a missing button or a little hole?

Here are some ideas to try of varying degrees of difficulty and adult supervision.

  • Make a P.E. bag for your son/daughter’s school p.e. kit. You could use an old pillow case, cut it down a little and decorate it with fabric paints/pens. Add a simple draw string at the top to keep it closed. Here are some easy tutorials. Alternatively make it from a bit of old cloth, bed sheet, recycled t shirt, pin it together so it is easier for your child and start them off with not too long a bit of thread as they’ll annoy you by getting it into a tangle. Add simple patch pockets, add beads, buttons, poppers, sequins if you like. Felt is very easy to sew and you can pick it up in fabric/craft shops for less than a pound for a little bag-sized square of it. Image
  • Here’s a bag my son is working on. He was so proud of it, especially as his sketch book fits inside perfectly.Image
  • Here he’s sewing on a long pocket for pencils and pens.
  • Keep it simple and decorate a little square of felt with different colour embroidery thread. Use a simple running stitch. My boys started with this and were so so proud of it.
  • Make a glasses case or pencil case. You could fasten it with a little zip if you ‘re feeling brave or else what about some velcro-I’m sure you can find velcro in super stores from the little sewing sections.
  • Try some cross stitch-you’ll have to get the squared cross stitch fabric and some embroidery thread though. (You may find that some cross stitch magazines from WHSmiths may actually have a free sample when you buy the magazine). It’s fun to decorate a little piece of fabric or write a name/message and then cut it out and stick it onto a card for Gran maybe.
  • If you want to go fancy then get t-shirt or skirt and sew on decorations such as ribbons, bows, home made buttons out of fimo, sequins, roses etc. If your in Oxford then here’s the place to get all this haberdashery. This is also a great way to customize a gift for a baby, toddler or anyone really.
  • Make a teddy, for those feeling brave. First cut out the shape of the teddy in felt, then find something soft to stuff inside it-old pillow stuffing, feathers,dry beans/peas. Sew round the outside not too close to the edges with thinned embroidery thread (take out some threads so its only two or three strands thick), but leave a gap to stuff the stuffing into the teddy and then sew up the hole. Decorate teddy and give him bead/googley eyes, a little bow tie out or spotty ribbon and sew his paw pads. Cute idea huh?
  • Easy sock caterpillar. Stuff sock with plastic bags/stuffing and tie the end with rubber band or string. Sew or glue eyes on, sew on felt spots/sequins. Make little felt feet if you want. Embellish as you desire.
  • Sew an easy cape. Obviously this could be a Little Red Riding Hood cape a halloween beast’s cape or what you will. Get a piece of square cloth long enough for a cape and a bit of ribbon (1m). Sew the ribbon on the inside of the cloth about an inch and a half from the top of one of the edges of the square cloth making sure the ribbon sticks out either end so you can tie it round your shoulders. Decorate your cape with fabric pens, paint, sequins, glow in dark paint, plastic spiders etc.ImageImage
  • Here’s a cape we made and decorated.
  • Sew an easy bean bag. Bean bags have gone out of fashion a bit but they’re great for toddlers to learn how to throw and catch (before the frustrating move to a ball where you spend more time fetching the ball than actually playing with it). All you need are squares of scrap cloth. even flannels,    so you need two matching sized squares per bean bag, some dry beans, and sewing materials. sew four sides of the bean bag, turn it inside out (so think about the colours of the fabric so your nicest colours will be on the outside) stuff it with beans-not too many as it should be floppy, and sew up your last side of the square. This lady has an excellent tutorial if you’re still confused. For some good bean bag games visit here.
  • Sew some felt flowers, cut out the petals and the central bit out of different colour felt cloth and sew them together. Make wire stems and arrange them into a little bouquet. (You can find ways of sewing the base of the petals so that they hold in their positions). Or sew them to a bag you’ve made. Or sew them to a piece of backing felt, add a ribbon and tie as a necklace.
  • Sew a felt necklace pendent. Cut out a bib shaped pendent that is the correct size for your child and decorate it with anything you want, beads, sequins, painted pasta, fimo shapes, varnished card shapes. Then sew ribbon to either end of the bib part and tie round the neck.

Hope this article provides some exciting ideas, please feel free to drop me a line.