How to organize a child's art room

I have been Googling “How to organize a child’s art studio” for days and days and I just haven’t found anything that will work for me.  But hey, I am a Montessori teacher (and a darn good one) so this is what I came up with on my own with a little bit of help from Maria.  Ok, a lot of help from Maria.

My goals are to change out the work and to put together a system that will work well for children in both the first and second planes of development.  I must make sure to keep a control of error while at the same time, allow for freedom, long work cycles, and mixed media opportunities (aka maximum creativity). 

First, let me say that there is plenty of work space in the art studio.  Seating for one or seating for two.  Seating on the floor or stand at an easel.

somewhere to sitseating for twotoo sunny in hereIMAG0221

Nothing has really changed about these seating options but I do now cover the tables with paper each day as part of the “prepared environment”.  This allows for maximum expression in their art pieces… a simple solution.

I DID add a peg board for aprons (but actually, my 7 year old son did that).  He got an awesome Montessori tool kit with REAL tools from his best friend at Christmas time and made and installed the apron rack.  Awesome, huh?  Take a look:

Drill the pegboardinstall the apron rackIMAG0190IMAG0228

On our main art shelves I have sculpture (clay and play-dough), paint, fabric, wood, and glitter gluing.  Along with pipe cleaners, masks, stamping, and stencils, which I consider more crafty than arty.  I also have an area for cleaning supplies, broom, hand sweeper, water pitchers and so on.  

color coded shelves

The key is that each shelf is color coded for control of error.  This means that they can glitter their wood sculpture or paint their clay if they choose.  You won’t hear me say “You can’t mix the green set with the red set!”.  They absolutely can, but the control is where you can find the materials you want and where the material goes when you are done.  No general bin or crate but clear and concise visual order. 

What is “Control of Error” you ask?

It is auto-correction from the materials instead of correction from me, or any other adult for that matter.  All Montessori materials possess this control of error because the goal is for auto-education.  In other words, so that the child can notice by himself when he is moving outside of his goals and allows him to recognize his own mistakes.  Furthermore, it allows him to not be afraid of mistakes and to embrace them. 

Here is an excerpt from Montessori A Modern Approach by Paula Polk (a favorite read of mine):

"Control of error" is any kind of indicator which tells us whether we are going toward our goal, or away from it…. We must provide this as well as instruction and materials on which to work. The power to make progress comes in large measure from having freedom and an assured path along which to go; but to this must also be added some way of knowing if, and when, we have left the path.

One of the many ways a Control of Error can be take out of context is when art materials are presented to a child. 

I can remember my 1st grade teacher passing out an “art project” for our class which was a ditto (copy) of a drawing that an adult made, kind of like a coloring book page, and we were asked to color it and stay inside of the lines.  Her instructions were specific and she walked around watching us and corrected us when we finished.  She even picked out the one she liked the best.  This may not seem like much to you but for me it was a major blow to my self esteem. 

It is in our young childhood when we start to plant the seeds of fear of making mistakes.  Never prepare an example of what the art piece should look like in the end.  Never tell your child he is doing it wrong.  Never take their hand and say, “let me show you”.  That is not what art is about.

I will step off my art soap box now.

Over the next several days, I will be posting more about the work in our art studio along with the control of error and the photos of some of the projects that have been stirring around in my boys’ imaginative heads and hearts.  I have already written them and have set them for auto-posting so enjoy!

art bucketsArt room 2everyone at workglitter work 2 

You know you love it!


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