I had been thinking that Frida’s work space needed refreshing for a while now, but I hadn’t had a clear idea of what I wanted from it. Frida wasn’t showing a huge interest in her Montessori-inspired materials and was using them pretty sporadically, which to me was a sign that change was needed. Often when this is the case I buy a couple of new materials which tend to be just what she needs, but this time that idea didn’t feel right; she’s just not in that kind of space at the moment, and I certainly didn’t want to buy new things just for the sake of it.

At the same time, I felt that I could probably make art materials more appealing for her; we hadn’t rotated them or put out any new ones in ages, which was demonstrated by Frida’s dwindling interest in them. I’ve been really inspired by reading Art Workshop for Children which someone recommended in my Facebook group. It’s a lovely bright book, with over 25 simple ideas for process art (and a few projects) for young children, and it’s given me lots of ideas for invitations to make art that I could set up easily for Frida.

It was just the push I needed to put most of our “work” materials away and to focus on art for the time being, and I hope this will spark some exploration and joy in creating. In the short time they’ve been out, Frida has been delighted to paint, stick, use glitter, and generally get stuck in to her materials.

On top of these shelves, we are starting off some peas and sunflowers; a perfect practical lesson in botany and caring for plants. There are also plants which need watering.

Attached to the wall is our DIY weather wheel.

On the shelves Frida has:

  • Stockmar opaque paint tin (these are the absolute best in my opinion, with fantastically bright colours and strong pigmentation) and watercolour paper
  • A selection of paper and card in different colours
  • A tray with colourful paper scraps for collage, and stickers
  • A tub with eight jars of tempera paint (I bought these as they seemed to be good value)
  • A tray with loose glitter shakers and glitter glue (I won’t be replacing these when they run out due to the environmental impact of glitter)
  • Playdough (we use Okonorm as it’s natural but has bright colours), a rolling pin, and stamps

On the other set of shelves in Frida’s space, we have our weekly Spring rhythm and seven rainbow friends to help Frida know which day it is.

There is also her Montessori globe which we pull out often whilst reading, Anatomy, a beautiful book on the body, and some more plants to care for.

On the shelves, Frida has:

  • Magnetic fishing game (Frida STILL) loves this, as do other children when they come round. I had not expected it to get so much love for so long!)
  • Melissa & Doug stamp set
  • Schleich coral fish set
  • A wooden building set, borrowed from my parents-in-law
  • Modelling clay (again, we love Okonorm)
  • Magnatiles – we use these which are quite a lot cheaper than the branded Magnatiles and so far we’ve been really impressed and are planning on buying more! They’ve been an instant hit with Frida and any visiting friends (and, erm, her parents…) She likes to build an aquarium for the Schleich fish.

Attached to her table is a spice rack which holds coloured pencils (we love Lyra), a sharpener, crayons, a glue stick, liquid glue, a mini hole punch, paintbrushes, and a pair of scissors.

She also has access to water, and a little storage unit holding jars and ramekins to fill with water or to use for paint mixing, and some jars of pre-mixed liquid watercolours.

The basket to the left holds current books for morning time, and the small basket holds cards which we use during morning time and tea time (these are Usborne famous paintings, flowers, and trees, and these lovely animal fact cards which we were sent as a gift and have already fallen in love with!)

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I am planning on gradually stocking up on more art materials (washi tape springs to mind as we’ve run out, as well as maybe silver and gold paint) and I would like to gather some natural “loose parts” such as leaves and sticks for Frida to use in her art work.

Whilst this set up works well for now, I’m sure that at some point soon we are going to want more non-art materials on these shelves! When this time comes my plan is to buy one of these to create an art cart, so we can keep more art materials out whilst also having space for Montessori-inspired work materials. One of the things about living in a relatively small house is that I am constantly evaluating how to best use our space to fit Frida’s needs.

What are your children currently working on? Do you find yourself constantly rearranging to fit around your child’s growing needs? 

Read more about discussing art with young children here…

Posted by:Eloise R

10 replies on “Art shelves at 35 months

  1. Love this! I’ve just been thinking we need some art updates, too! I also just put the Art Workshop book on my library list as I would love more ideas for process art. Sometimes I’m at a loss for how to model and/or engage in art with my daughter. I don’t want her to just copy me or ask me to do it for her. Do you engage in art with Frida? Or do you just let her do it herself? Thanks!

    1. I usually just sit with her and chat, or do something creative but different like writing or working on a material xx

  2. Yes! I am always shuffling things around, changing things up, it drives my partner mad, but I love it! I love your set up, we use the Ikea trolley an art cart and it works very well.

  3. I hate to leave a critical post on your lovely blog! But I’m kind of surprised to see you recommending the knock-off Magnatiles. These kinds of companies are often pretty shady not only in terms of the intellectual property infringement, but also other aspects like safety certification, use of cheaper BPA plastics, less safe magnet encasement etc… there are such a huge number of knock-offs of the main two brands of magnetic building toy (Magnatiles and Magformers) on Amazon for a fraction of the price of the originals, and you have to wonder WHY they are so much cheaper (well, apart from the fact they didn’t have to develop the toy but just copied it in the first place).
    Sorry. This just seemed kind of jarring to me among the other products that you usually post affiliate links to. I had been ho-ing and humming about magnetic toys myself for ages, and it’s a bit of a minefield because of the rare-earth mining that is necessary for making the magnets (neodymium). In the end I went for Tegu blocks, which are super pricey but the company has an ethical business model and they do lots of environmental activities. I still feel a bit wibbly about the mining, but they say they do it as fairly as possible (although, who knows what that means).
    Again I’m really sorry if this sounds like a greener-than-thou rant! I felt like it was important to point out.

    1. Hi Elly, thanks for taking the time to comment. I always put thought and research into our purchasing decisions, and for me, buying a big plastic toy was not an easy choice! I chose this brand after some research because they are BPA-free and do have safety certification, whilst still being affordable for us as a homeschooling family. I love the look of Tegu, but I think Frida will get a lot out of this style of building block for years to come if her current response is anything to go by, and when she’s no longer using them we will pass them on. I always recommend the products we use, so it would have felt disingenuous for me to imply we were using a more expensive brand. I know my readers make thoughtful purchasing decisions and I trust that they’ll do their own research if and when it comes to buying something. Eloise xx

  4. Hi Eloise as always your posts are very inspirational. I am looking for some birthday gift options for my daughter (she will be 2 in February!). I am not sure if Magnatiles would be appropriate for her at this age. I would appreciate your input on this.

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