Provide Material for Young Artists


by Mary Reed Newland, How to Raise Good Catholic Children

All a two-year-old needs to have a great time drawing is the want-ad section of the Sunday paper, opened out six or eight sheets thick in the playpen, and a fat, bright crayon. He’ll scribble and crumple for maybe half an hour, and that’s a long time for a two-year-old.

When he’s outdoors, all he needs is a pan of water, a spoon, an old pie plate, and the inevitable dirt, and he will sculpture and model and bake and pour in an orgy of creation.

When he’s older, he needs big paper, lots of room to swing his arms, bright crayons, and big jars of bright paint.

Suitable smocks, aprons, and something for wiping hands on are very important. No one can have any fun trying to splash around with paint if he has to worry about getting dirty — and this applies especially to finger paints. Easels are good if they’re big and sturdy and don’t tip over.

Low, flat tables to which paper can be thumbtacked (low enough to let a child paint standing up) are often better than easels because paint doesn’t drip down so persistently and turn sunny-day pictures into rainy-day pictures. (What else could one do with the blue drips from a cloudless blue sky?)

Powdered poster paints can be bought in bulk in the primary colors — red, yellow, and blue — and mixed for painting sessions in old jars with screw tops. They’re a better investment than children’s paint sets, and all the colors but black can be mixed from the three primaries.

Good brushes, instead of the waggle-ended monstrosities included in paint sets, are important and not very expensive. For little children (or older ones painting mural projects on large paper, wallboard, or wall surfaces) sash brushes from the five-and-ten do very well. They’re narrow enough, they stroke the paint well, and they’re supple, yet stiff enough to hold up under the scrubbing with soap and water afterward.

It’s good to have mats for framing, as everybody knows what glorious things a frame does for a good picture. These are easy to cut from illustration board with a mat knife. Matted, family art can be displayed seriously on any wall, singly or in groups, or on a bulletin board.

A large bulletin board can be the focal point for all these creative activities, as well as for relating displays with school work, catechism lessons, exciting family events, and the continually changing message of the liturgical seasons.

A large blackboard is an equally valuable feature of a house with children and the best incentive of all to get children to “draw big.” Nailed to the wall, it’s an invitation to draw, print, write, number, play games, or scribble for the joy of scribbling — which few children can resist. If there’s a smooth, paintable wall, the whole wall may be covered with blackboard paint, which comes in colors, as well as in black.

Brown wrapping paper, shelving paper, newspaper stock, the backs of old wallpaper rolls, large pads of manila, and even tissue paper (which we print with potato block print and use for gift wrappings) lend themselves to experiment with crayon, paint, hard chalks, pastels, colored inks, India ink and lettering pens, and leftover paint from home decorating projects.

It’s just a step to doing variations of these with pastings, montage techniques, glitter, sequins, tiny beads and buttons, and all sorts of odds and ends families save because “there must be something we can use it for.”

Colored construction paper for cutting and pasting projects, gilt papers, aluminum foil, lace paper doilies, designs or multiple figures cut in folded paper, colored felts to cut and appliqué, fabrics to cut and paste and sew — all such treasures as these can be used to illustrate the mysteries and the feast days, to serve as valentines, Christmas and Easter greetings, gifts, to explain lessons in schoolbooks, in catechism.

We’re working right now on the catechism lesson about the three theological virtues and the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit — such meaningless mouthfuls when encountered the first time, but easy to learn when the three theological virtues are three yellow knights, cut on a threefold piece of paper so that they stand hand in hand, each one decorated with a symbol of faith or hope or charity (charity has a gold crown because St. Paul said, “and the greatest of these is charity”).

The gifts are sevenfold doves cut out the same way, flying wing to wing. A child who carefully letters on one dove after the other the words wisdom, understanding, counsel, fortitude, knowledge, piety, and fear of the Lord can hardly avoid learning them.

Then, if the figures are posted on the bulletin board, they’re easier to remember and to explain: “Do you know what those men are? Well, they’re three theological virtues — see?”

Then there are the modeling and carving materials. Plasticine, water clays, and soap to carve, salt blocks to sculpture, dough to twist and weave and tie into shapes, plaster of paris and plastic materials to pour into homemade molds, papier-mâché for masks and puppets (made with shredded newspaper and flour paste, wet buckram, gummed brown paper tape), soft woods to whittle, animals to make from vegetables, cookies to cut freehand and decorate — all these and more suggest the variety of media with which children should experiment in order to find which one is particularly theirs and says the best the things they want to say.

The local library is full of books on how to do all these things. As the children learn how to use their heads and hands, slowly they begin to understand that it’s proper and fitting to make rather than merely to buy.

The little boy who once said, “When I grow up, I’m going to buy a statue factory, so I can give my mother all the nice statues she wants,” discovers that making statues requires time, and thought, and love, and that you can do better at this than factories can.

“Children must not feel that because of their littleness, their prayers lack power. Because of their stunning purity and their childlike love, their prayers are probably far more powerful than our own. We should encourage them to pray boldly and should point out all they can accomplish by uniting their prayers to Christ’s prayers for all men. This gives them the soundest, most mature, and most inspiring reason for acquiring habits of prayer.”
-Mary Reed Newland, How to Raise Good Catholic Children http://amzn.to/2p51Nsz (afflink)

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Author Mary Reed Newland here draws on her own experiences as the mother of seven to show how the classic Christian principles of sanctity can be translated into terms easily applied to children even to the very young.

Because it’s rooted in experience, not in theory, nothing that Mrs. Newland suggests is impossible or extraordinary. In fact, as you reflect on your experiences with your own children, you’ll quickly agree that hers is an excellent commonsense approach to raising good Catholic children.

Fr. Lawrence Lovasik, the renowned author of The Hidden Power of Kindness, gives faithful Catholics all the essential ingredients of a stable and loving Catholic marriage and family — ingredients that are in danger of being lost in our turbulent age.

Using Scripture and Church teachings in an easy-to-follow, step-by-step format, Fr. Lovasik helps you understand the proper role of the Catholic father and mother and the blessings of family. He shows you how you can secure happiness in marriage, develop the virtues necessary for a successful marriage, raise children in a truly Catholic way, and much more.

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