Thirteen different ways for children to discover and plan their own creative ideas


All art starts with an idea or intention. An idea is something you have in mind to do, or a plan of action. It may be very simple and immediate, or planned over time. Sometimes, it can be a long time. Children can be supported in finding their own ideas from preschool on. The following are ways to help children to discover their own interests, ideas, and preferences for making art. Use them all at various times, and for various reasons, to build a repertoire of ways they can use to confidently and effortlessly approach their work. The responsibility for original ideas and self-directed production of artwork is encouraged early. Over time, the role of the teacher becomes more and more of a support system for students rather than an originator of work and ideas.

The three year old and the thirty-three year old are both presented with the same challenges when faced with a blank two dimensional surface, a full palette of colors, and a selection of brushes. Art springs from the human mind, heart, imagination, and ingenuity. Therefore, trust your children. Even a famous artist’s early attempts at pushing the limits to find new ways of expressing look humble by comparison to her/his mature work (e.g. Calder’s very early mobiles).

Note: A group of children are able to plan an idea that may be beyond your abilities, and you may need to seek help from other adults to make it happen. Enjoy the stretch.


As a young woman, I found that I could solve problems, create ideas, or experience a flash of intuitive inspiration if I remained in bed after awakening and just let myself think. I also found that if I did not write down what I received, I would easily forget the details.

With my eyes closed, I have even had what looked like a video about how to easily make a straw octahedron. It happened on a Saturday morning after having given a complicated octahedron lesson to three classes on that Friday. I remember thinking that night that there must be a simpler way to make that shape, and there was. Observe yourself. See if you also have an ideal way to think creatively. When you find it, use it.

I have woven my way of getting ideas into lessons. Here is an example from the Monoprinting lesson: “I always get my best ideas in the morning just as I wake up. With my eyes closed, I decided to use both hands to make two trees and grass for today’s lesson. I wanted a simple idea I could do quickly, so you could see how to make a mono-print.” I finished the story and the painting at the same time and proceeded to the Monoprinting lesson (See: Art Forms: Finger Painting).