That small window of time between dinner and bedtime can sometimes feel like an eternity. Everyone is beginning to wind down, the exhaustion is setting in, and the clock moves at a creeping pace. One evening, as I cleared the table, I tried to figure out what the entire family could do before the start of our evening routine of bath and bed time. I could tell that the inspiration was waning for all of us, but I wanted to take this time to connect with each other. To find a bit of peace at the end of the day. On a whim, I deemed it Family Art Night.
I quickly grabbed a large piece of white paper and any art supplies that I thought would spark interest in my 3 year old this evening. As a child, I always loved making handprint turkeys during the month of November, so that became our theme for the evening. With the supplies spread out over the dining room table (along with a few more that were requested throughout the activity) we sat down and began experimenting with our own mixed-media creations.
We traced, painted, glued, colored, and cut feathers for these winged animals for almost an hour. This activity was just what we needed to settle in for the night, but also take advantage of some quality time together.
As we created I observed so many things unfold before me. We discussed the parts of a turkey together as we decorated our own handprints. I noticed the way that my son watched closely and attempted different techniques that his father and I were applying to our designs. At the age of three, he is also beginning to become his own guide, asking for several materials that were not supplied at the beginning of the prompt.
What I love about activities like this is that they allow for a kind of freedom of artistic expression. My son may not have produced the type of turkey that I had in mind, but his design was all his own. We did not try to sway him into creating a cookie-cutter construction, but encouraged him to do work at his own level and to use his imagination. In fact, after filling up one page with turkeys, we pulled out another and really let our creativity run wild. By doing that, I was met with a pleasant surprise. While taking the time to sit, to listen, and to be present with my family, I saw my son begin his first attempt of storytelling through art. It was magical.
After all was said and done, this time spent with my family was probably the most memorable of this past weekend. I decided to institute a Family Art Night at least once a week to fill the time between clearing up the dinner plates and running the bath to signal the start of our bedtime routine. The prompts may vary from seasonal to creating with items found in nature. They could even be shared as a way to set family intentions or bring a bit of color to our home. But most importantly, they will be a time when we can slow down and be present as a family. Allowing the last few moments of the evening to bring us together and allow us to learn from each other.