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The Art of Summer

How to create, play and explore with your kids


  • Maria Fernandez

Summer break can be a source of anxiety for many parents and caregivers of young children. Visions of bickering siblings, tantrums and constant outcries of "I'm bored!" can give even the most experienced parent cold sweats. Have no fear, even if you're not a so-called "crafty" person, I've got your back here. Taking as many ideas as you can find from Pinterest, other parents and bloggers, you'll be able to put your own spin on ideas and have fun creating a memorable artsy summer with your own family.

Start with a To-Do List

Make a Summer Fun To-Do List as a family. Using a big piece of paper or poster board and a stack of colorful Sharpies, get the whole family involved and post it where you can see it. Here are a few ideas to get you started: roast marshmallows, grow sunflowers, make juice popsicles, make homemade play dough or slime, build a fort, play squirt bottle tag or create a family sidewalk chalk mural on the driveway.

An Invitation to Create

Encourage your children to experiment with various art materials and recyclables, mixed with their own ideas. Set up an art prompt (also known as an "invitation to create") at the kitchen table. This simply involves a thoughtfully arranged selection of art materials set up while your child is out of the room, making it fun for them to discover on their own. A great time to do this is at night while they are asleep, as it offers an instant morning activity; alternately, you can set one up in the middle of the day for some creative downtime. There are tons of resources and ideas for this online: try The Art Pantry, The Imagination Tree and Tinkerlab blogs.

Art Outing

Bend has a very accessible local art scene. Take the kids to see works by artists at local galleries, the High Desert Museum, First Fridays or Art in the High Desert. Talk about the art, then go home and make your own project inspired by what you saw.

Art Supplies

Invest in some fun art supplies from locally owned Layor Art Supply or any craft store. One of our family favorites are paint pens from POSCA. They're great for drawing on leaves, sticks, and rocks (we take ours camping and to the coast). We also love Sharpies, watercolors, oil pastels on black construction paper, felt and embroidery floss, sidewalk chalk and inexpensive craft paint.


Ebooks are a great resource for summer caregivers, as they provide endless ideas for art and sensory projects for kids. I've authored 10 myself, including Exploring Great Artists, Rainbow Fun, Backyard Fun, and "Mom Would Never Let Me Do This at Home." I also love The Nurture Store's ebooks for younger children (ages 3 to 5) and The Artful Parent online courses.

  • Maria Fernandez

Art and Movement Classes

If you need to occupy your kids outside of the home, sign them up for an art class or two at the Art Station, Base Camp Studio, Bend Parks and Rec, or the Bend Art Center. Central Oregon Community College offers great summer culinary classes and coding camps for kids, too. Get the kids moving with yoga classes at Wren and Wild, aerial and acroyoga at Tula Movement Arts, climbing at Bend Rock Gym or dance classes at Vibe and Terpsichorean.

Trips to the Library

Visit our library and get lost in the children's section or check out a stack of books to take home. Expose your kids to the many different styles of illustration, color and art forms.

Kids learn in so many different ways. Try to find things your kids are into – a simple key word search on Google or Pinterest is the gateway to getting fresh ideas. Engaging your children in activities that are multi-sensory and creative in nature is so memorable and fun. Here's what to look for: if something is fun, or messy, or beautiful, they'll remember it. It doesn't have to be perfect or break the bank. The best investment you can make in your children's childhood is your time and attention.

MaryLea Harris is a parent, educator, author and founder of Pink and Green Mama, an award-winning arts and crafts website for caregivers of young children.

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