Putting on an outdoor puppet theater show, making a large-scale water painting on the back deck, belting out the lyrics to a favorite song—the possibilities for summer arts activities are endless. Children love expressing themselves through the arts, and summer break provides a great opportunity for parents to add the arts into their daily routine.

It’s nearly effortless to mix up the day with a few arts activities, and it’s even easier to entice children to participate in these activities. Children relish the chance to sing, listen to music, dance, or create with their hands.

And what a perfect way for parents to connect with their children! Children love watching mom sing into a hairbrush microphone or dad get silly as he takes on different voices or accents. The visual arts, music, drama, and dance allow parents and their kids the freedom to lose themselves in the moment as they create and explore.

Kira Raffel, Director of Public Engagement for the Center for Arts Education , says the arts play an important role in fostering critical thinking skills—skills that are necessary for children to develop early reading strategies. Raffel also says that artistic expression can help children develop emotionally and socially. “Artistic experiences,” she says, “give children confidence in their ability to create and interact with others.”

Richard J. Deasy, Director of the Art Education Partnership , agrees that the arts can contribute to children’s understanding of themselves in relation to others. He says, “The arts demand and nurture the imagination, generating in young people a sense of self, an appreciation of others, and an ability to distinguish good from bad—values that every parent seeks to develop in their children.”

What kinds of arts activities are appropriate? Indoor activities, outdoor activities, activities in the car—even taking field trips to local arts organizations or inviting artist guests over for a glass of lemonade and a bit of talk can help to nudge children in the right direction.

Summer arts activities can be simple, require little or no money, and most importantly, little or no prep time. Kids don’t need expert art teachers to explore their creative selves. A little prompting and encouragement from mom or dad can go a long way toward developing young artists. The Center for Arts Education offers these ideas to develop your child’s artistic side this summer:

Surface Rubbing Exploration – Try having a surface-rubbing scavenger hunt to see what interesting textures exist in your own home. Place a white or colored piece of paper over a household surface, rub firmly with a crayon or pencil, and watch the texture design appear! Notice how different the designs look when you use a light colored crayon on a dark piece of paper.

Play House – from an architect’s point of view! After you try a surface-rubbing exploration with your child, get out some paper and a ruler (anything with a straight edge will do – even a book), and draw a floor plan of your house or apartment including all the furniture. Graph paper works well if you have some on hand. Be sure to include the locations of all your surface rubbing spots – you can even add in a texture sample!

  • Imagine what your house or apartment would look like if someone else – or something else— lived there. Redesign your home for your favorite character in a book or movie—a monster, a dog, or even the seven dwarfs!
  • Design a new rug for a room that needs one. What colors, shapes, and sizes will you choose to use?
  • What’s your favorite chair? Make a drawing of it. Make 10 more drawings to transform the chair for imaginary locations. How would you change the chair if it was in a castle? In a baby’s nursery? In a sports hall of fame? In a log cabin?

Found-object Stamp Sets – Try dipping small, household objects (blocks, Legos, buttons, thread spools, etc.) in an inkpad or a shallow tray of child-safe paint to create a found-object stamp.

  • Print the stamp on a piece of paper to see what kind of image is created.
  • Repeat the stamps to make designs and patterns on big sheets of paper to create your own home-made wrapping paper.
  • Together with your child, put together the best items to build a found-object stamp set that can be saved in a box for future projects.

Thank You Cards – When your child receives birthday gifts, try making your own thank-you cards instead of buying them.

  • Cut out pictures from magazines and use a glue stick to add the pictures to a simple paper-fold card.
  • Use a simple alphabet stamp set or your found-object stamp set to make designs, pictures, and messages on your card.
  • Use child-proof paint instead of an ink-pad to brighten up colors. This is a practical way to get creative and a fun way to mark something off the “to-do” list.
  • “Seal” the envelope of your card by putting one special stamp on the back. You can even use a thumbprint as a seal to show the hand of the artist.

Collect Art Materials —Recycle envelopes, cut pictures out of magazines and junk mail, and save used wrapping paper to build a low-cost collection of creative papers for collages or cards. Child-safe found objects for stampings and rubbings are often things you have in your home already – such as kitchen utensils, sewing supplies, or desk items. You just don’t have them collected in a place that’s easily accessible to small children!

Get Organized – A cabinet or shelf that is low to the ground and easy for kids to reach is a good place to begin storing child-safe art supplies. It’s great to start a collection of paper scraps and images, which can be kept in a “paper drawer” that can be added to over time. Found objects can be kept in a shoebox or a Tupperware container that your child can access and add to on his or her own.

For great summer activities specific to your child's grade, visit our Games and Activities Portal.