Start Your Summer Artist’s Date with Inspiration

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guest post by Olugbemisola Rhuday-Perkovich

I loved Melissa’s summer artist’s date post so much, I was just full to bursting with new ideas and old memories. And my mind immediately went…all over the place. I don’t know if anyone out there is at all like me, but sometimes I tend to be too much of “an ideas gal”, and can overwhelm myself with unfocused thinking and planning, and while I will never underestimate the value of that, sometimes not enough doing is going on (kind of like the progress on my fiction WIP, but tArtist Dates with Kidshat’s another story. I hope.).  So, I am going to think and plan ahead — with a mind toward doing, and wanted to share some of the resources and ideas that I’m using so that our Summer Artists’ Dates have a chance of actually happening!


For general inspiration, I highly recommend Ginger Carlson’s Child of Wonder: Nurturing Creative and Naturally Curious Children (tons of ideas, like “Thinking Outside The Kitchen), Lucy Calkins’ Raising Lifelong Learners (great chapters on “Playing Well” and “Helping Children Develop Good Work Habits”), Susan Striker’s Young At Art (includes fun ideas for groups and parties), and Amanda Blake Soule’s The Creative Family: How to Encourage Imagination and Nurture Family Connections (love, the sections on alternative resources, developing an appreciation of handmade, and the Family Drawing Time idea). Also peruse the older Partners in Play: A step-by-step guide to Imaginative Play in Children by Dorothy Singer, Mister Rogers’ Playtime or Mister Rogers’ Plan and Play Book.  Twyla Tharp’s The Creative Habit is a no-nonsense, just do it if you want to do it treasure.


  • One of my favourite sites is the amazing Crafty Crow. This amazing resource includes art and craft project and ideas from all over the Web. I loved the recent Crafts Around The World series (also check out Florence Temko’s older books, like Traditional Crafts from the Caribbean).
  • Another must-visit is Kids Craft Weekly, which delivers a big fat dose of ideas and instructions for easy-to-execute projects around myriad themes, from Bugs, Gardens, The Night Sky, and Transport.  Most projects use easy-to-find materials and are especially great for young children (also find The Little Kids Craft Book by Jackie Vermeer and Marian Lariviere).
  • A site like the The Write Start is also wonderful, especially for those interested in book arts and the joy of writing. You can add multiple artistic twists to writing activities with the help of books like Rebecca Emberley’s Drawing With Numbers and Letters, Esther K. Smith’s How To Make Books, and Magic Books and Paper Toys.


On the topic of toys, some of the most fun art activities with children can be centered around toy making. Jean Ray Laury and Ruth Law wrote one of my favourite books on the topic, Handmade Toys and Games. I’m a huge Jean Ray Laury fan, and for Summer Artists’ Dates, her Dollmaking: A Creative Approach is also a treasure.  Other great ideas can be found in Ellen and Julia Lupton’s D.I.Y Kids, and older books by Harvey Weiss (Collage and Construction, Clay, Wood, and Wire, Carving), Mary Blocksma’s (Action Contraptions: Easy To Make Toys That Really Move).  If you can get a hold of the old Ladybird little hardcovers, they are chock full of fun and easy ideas, as is the Waldorf-y Toymaking With Children by Freya Jaffke, books by Alan Dart, Jean Greenhowe, Jan Messent, Arden Newsome, and Mabs Tyler. If you want to go even further, try World of Knitted Toys by Kath Dalmeny, Sewing Tiny Toys, by Carolyn Vosburg Hall, and How To Make and Design Soft Toys by Rudi de Sarigny.


A theme! Or a few themes! Right now, (as in today), I’m thinking about bookmaking or puppetry. Or both! And more! Anyway. You can choose anything, like “birds”, the outdoors (check out Jennifer Ward’s I Love Dirt!)“water”, “the beach”,  “making musical instruments, or a particular colour, art from a particular region of the world; or a particular medium or activity you’d like to explore as a family, like felt (The Felt Book, by Clare Beaton, whose board and picture books are amazing) Felt Wee Folk by Salley Mavor, Feltcraft by Petra Berger, Felt Toymaking: Advanced Techniques, Amy Van Gilder), paper arts, puppetry (The Muppets Make Puppets by Cheryl Henson, Making Puppets Come Alive, by Larry Engler and Carol Fijian) different types of clay art, photography, types of painting,  book-related art projects, or stitchery (Jacqueline Enthoven’s Stitchery for Children, The Stitchery Book by Irene Preston Miller, African Inspirations in Embroidery, by Mary Sleigh, and Doodle Stitching by Aimee Ray).


Want to do a bunch of different things? Make a list! We all know that writing things down can help us to commit even more.  (If you’re so inclined, start a blog or keep a journal of your Summer Artists Dates.

I’m looking forward to the mother-daughter reading and crafts journal that my daughter and I are planning. In addition to accountability, I think it will be a wonderful record — maybe even an arty scrapbooky/altered book-type thing! — that we will share.)

MaryAnn F. Kohl’s amazing body of work, can make that easy, with books like Scribble Art, Science Arts, Storybook Art, and much, much, much more.  Craftypod, one of my all-time favourite podcasts and blogs, can easily be a syllabus for a summer of art exploring and beyond. (And the tutorials and ebooks are fantastic.) Visit the archives for podcasts on “Crafting Green”, “Crafting with Neckties”,  “Creating Every Day”,  “Make Your Own Clay”,  “Mosaics”…it’s an invaluable resource.

More quick ideas:

  • Visit museums, pick a particular artist to study.
  • Take walks together and then draw what you saw.
  • Collect items from nature walks, or create an art-themed scavenger hunt.
  • Sit on a bench and watch the people go by.
  • Notice the colours and shapes that frequent your home or community. Make a plan to use what you already have to create your art.
  • Get arty in the kitchen, or use kitchen-related materials (check out Kitchen Crafts, by Linda Cross), or
  • use storytelling or other books and stories for inspiration.
  • Investigate artful family traditions, and some of the artwork or art interests in your cultural or ethnic heritage.
  • Set up an art working space in your home, even if it’s temporary (the kitchen table), or tiny.
  • Display and celebrate your work, if you like — have an exhibit “opening” and party.

I could go on — yeah, I’m an ideas gal. And maybe I’m even more all over the place than when I began!But I’m looking forward to figuring out our Summer Artists Dates, and being flexible when what I’ve figured out or planned doesn’t go exactly as I imagined. And I do believe that the imagining is a vital and valuable part of the process, so I hope you and your family have fun with that as well.

Finally, go easy on yourself. Make your lists manageable, or include everything you want to do and don’t beat yourself up if you don’t get it all done in a certain time period. Enjoy the process, and the time together. Have fun!

(*Note: Many of the older books in my collection that I mention were from local library sales, thrift shops, and used booksellers. Also helpful are some of those giant old Woman’s Day and Better Homes and Gardens craft books. )

Melissa’s Note: Thank you so much, Olugbemisola and yes, you are an ideas gal! This will take me all summer to get through. Thank you for starting us out on our artist dates this summer. You’ve shared a rich variety of ideas and resources.  Wonderful!

Olugbemisola Rhuday-Perkovich was the ‘new kid’ at school many times over, in more than one country, and currently lives with her family in Brooklyn, NY, where she loves walking and working on crafts in many forms.  She holds a Master’s in Education, and a Professional Development Certificate from the Teachers College Reading and Writing Project at Columbia University, and has a great time incorporating all of her different ways of working and playing into author visits and workshops. She is a member of SCBWI, a PEN Associate Member, and a former Echoing Green Foundation Fellow.  She’s the author of the YA book, 8th Grade Super Zero. Visit her online at

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LOTS of fantastic ideas for artist dates with kids

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  1. I love lots of the resources you’ve mentioned, and I can’t wait to check out the rest! Great, informative post! We’re hoping to have a more artistic summer, so this will come in handy! Thank you!