Lessons from Home: How to teach Art when you aren’t an Artist

June 2018

Lessons from Home: How to teach Art when you aren’t an Artist


Art can play a large role in academia, and studies have shown that children who have regular access to art do better in their more academic studies. But art is one of those subjects where arguably talent plays a greater role than perseverance and teaching may feel as if it requires real-world know-how.

Let’s face it, if you as a parent are not artistically inclined, teaching your children about artistic technique may feel a million miles away from what you are capable of. The typical art curriculum on the K12 syllabus that we follow here at iCademy Middle East covers art in a very in-depth way, focusing on art history, global art styles, and overarching artistic theory. It does touch on practical exploration but this can be encouraged at any age, off syllabus.

At the preschool and elementary age, you can draw on resources such as drawing and colouring books – even dot-to-dot drawing tasks will help kids develop strong penmanship skills. There are also your typical glitter, glue, and crayon tasks which, while incredibly messy (perhaps encouraging you to take your art lesson outside), are amazing ways for youngsters to explore the arts and develop their imagination.

Essential arts and crafts supplies include:

  • Tape
  • Glue
  • Safety scissors
  • Ribbons
  • Sequins
  • Beads
  • Colouring pencils
  • Pens
  • Paint brushes
  • Child-safe poster paint
  • Paper and foil
  • Stickers

With these supplies you can have them paint, draw, and craft anything that springs to mind.  These exercises help foster imaginative thinking, as well develop hand-eye co-ordination.

If you want to get a bit more practical and work on their sculpture technique, you can take them to the kitchen where they can help you make playdough. Playdough is a practical and cheap resource for kids and with it they can create numbers, letters, shapes – or just free-sculpt to their hearts’ content.  This recipe is really simple to do, and the dough lasts six months!

To make homemade play dough you will need:

  • 2 cups of all-purpose flour
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 1/2 cup salt
  • 2 tablespoons cream of tartar
  • Up to 1.5 cups boiling water (adding in increments until it feels just right)
  • Food colouring (optional)
  • Few drops glycerine (optional, adds more shine!)


Mix the flour, salt, cream of tartar, and oil in a large mixing bowl. Once done, add whichever food colouring you choose to the boiling water (be very careful to do this yourself if you are making this with your children). Safety first!

Once the dry ingredients and oil are mixed, add the hot water to the rest of the ingredients. Stir continuously until they become a sticky, combined dough.

Add the glycerine if you want your dough extra shiny, but this is optional. Allow the dough to cool to the point where you can safely take it out of the bowl.

Knead vigorously for a couple of minutes until all of the stickiness has gone. This is the most important part of the process, so keep at it until it’s the perfect consistency. If after prolonged kneading the dough is still sticky, add a touch more flour until it feels just right.

There are also techniques you can adopt to foster a love of art through passive means. Books and pictures of art can be used to decorate the learning space, and children can get used to looking at and appreciating art. If you have the space to do so, perhaps set up a dedicated art station where all the crafting supplies live. This will help keep the clutter to a minimum while your kids can feel that they are being encouraged to be creative.

At the high-school level, you may want to think about investing a little extra time and money in formal art and craft classes. If your limited artistic ability is standing in the way of your kids having artistic talent nurtured, don’t be afraid to look outside the classroom. There are art clubs, cooking courses, sewing and knitting workshops – whatever your kids’ talents may be. Within the curriculum they will be asked to produce art work, but an after-school programme may be the best way to encourage artistic talent.

But even if your kids aren’t artistic, even if you can barely draw a straight line, an understanding and appreciation of art will stand your kids in great stead for the future. It encourages articulation of ideas, debate, and interpretation of concepts and emotions. This way of thinking will support multiple other academic disciplines and should be encouraged.

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