Q&A: Keeping Active Boys Engaged In Art

Reader Question:

“I have two and four year old boys. The little one is quite into being creative but the big one has never really gotten into it – do you have any resources/ideas for keeping active, thrill seeking, superhero loving boys who can’t sit still for long engaged?”

Active Boys and Art5

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My Answer:

I have heard and seen this same situation with so many kids and I just want to say it’s totally fine for a child to not want to sit still. Some kids just need to move their bodies. We can teach them over time to sit when it’s important, but we can also honor their energy and try to work with it. I have a couple of ideas for you to get him more involved in art, but it doesn’t always have to be at a table or sitting down.

Active Art

When I taught art classes, it was important to me to come up with projects that all of the kids would really enjoy- including the ones who couldn’t sit still. We did some big movement art that got the kids to stand up and move their bodies. We also did some active projects at the table that included hammering or rolling things. Even though we were sitting down, these activities were still really engaging.
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Here are a few links to some of their favorite movement art activities:
A few favorite active art projects while sitting at a table:
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Other favorite resources for gross-motor art:

Action Art by MaryAnn F. Kohl.

This round up of activities by Hands On As We Grow.

Making Toys For Play

Another suggestion is to incorporate art/making things into his play. If he is playing superheros you could set up a few supplies on a table like toilet paper rolls, paper, scissors, rubber bands, tape, etc. and start making a super hero car or rocket ship, or something else and invite him to make one with you that is directly related to his play. As your child gets more used to making things for his play, you can begin to introduce new materials that he may have been resistant to before. This can often get an active kid to focus for a bit! It works best if you are super excited about his play and let him lead the way in the making of the object.
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Eventually, if these supplies are easily accessible, your child will rush over to them any time he needs something for his play.
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Any other suggestions from readers are welcome! I’d love to hear what you do to keep active boys engaged in art?
This post is part of our Q&A series. Do you have a question about kids and art or creative spaces? Send me a message here or post in the comments below.

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  • Crystal April 4, 2016  

    These are some great ideas!! For us, although our son is active and never showed much of an interest in art like his younger sister, he does like the “creative” art spaces we have here locally (Portland, OR – Art Ala Cart, The Craft Factory…etc.) where he gets to see other creations and art projects and gets to choose his own crafts (robots are something he’s liked to make and will sit still for). They have such a large selection of art supplies and offers a different atmosphere than home I think he’s drawn to. :)

    • Megan Schiller April 4, 2016  

      Great suggestion, Crystal! It’s true that some active kids are more likely to engage in art when they are with peers and can see all of the awesome possibilities. Of course, this only works when you have great art studios that allow for different types of learners. You are lucky to have that in your community. Have to tried to offer similar activities at home? Does he respond differently?

  • Lisa April 4, 2016  

    My youngest daughter is like this. She is 4 and has never shown much interest in art like her two older sisters. At preschool she totally half-a$$es the art projects. She is done in about 5 minutes. I have found hands on things like play doh, moon sand and rice play are more up her alley for now. She also loves to help me cook, so I am cultivating her creativity in those areas and hoping as her maturity grows, her interest in art will, too.

    • Megan Schiller April 4, 2016  

      Thanks for sharing some of your activities, Lisa. Some kids really prefer sensory-based activities over other art projects so it’s great that you are providing her with those opportunities.