Maintaining your child’s schooling on the road is a challenge sometimes, but never more so than when you consider some of the less academic subjects. Art is one of those topics that is hard enough to do when you are at home, let alone when you are travelling or in a foreign environment. However, it needn’t be neglected – there are lots of ways to help your kids express themselves on vacation.
Sketching is one of the simplest things you can do, and requires very little in the way of resources. For little ones, a plastic DVD case can hold a small sketchbook and pencils, and provide something to press on while they draw. Older kids can cope with larger books, and may be more inclined to use pastels, chalks or charcoal as well as pencils. Make sure they have a sharpener and a zip-lock bag to put the shavings into so that your vehicle or workspace doesn’t get coated in them!
Painting is a messy affair, and not something many would be willing to experiment with. However it can yield fantastic results and is a real joy to explore. Watercolours are particularly travel friendly, as the paint tablets last a considerable time and are very compact, as well as being quick to dry and not as messy as other paint types. If you invest in a small plastic sheet for placing under your budding artist there should be no danger of the wrong things getting painted and they can try to capture some of the colour and form of the world they are enjoying.
There are, of course, numerous other art fields that won’t be so easy while travelling. Still, you might be able to experiment with the concepts even if you can’t fully explore them. Sculpture could be done with air-drying modelling clay – much cleaner and more manageable than traditional clay. Likewise, print making is a complex process, but something as simple as making leaf rubbings or using the same technique to capture impressions of frescoes and interesting textures can teach the basic principles.
Photography is of course almost an essential art to practice when travelling. To give it added value consider setting a theme or topic for a day or particular visit. Try making one colour the focus of an expedition, or an emotion like ‘delight’ or ‘hope.’ Encourage the kids to find new angles and framings to examine familiar landmarks or objects, and discuss later how the different images suggest different feelings or ideas about the subject. For older children, dare to take the camera off the basic ‘green’ mode, where everything is simplified and automated. Have them experiment with aperture and shutter settings, exposure and film speed. There is a surprising amount even some of the basic point-and-click digital cameras can do!
When it comes to learning technique, there are hundreds of great free tutorials online that cover just about any art discipline for all ages. If internet access is uncertain, a good art techniques book will keep a student occupied for months and can be shared between students at different levels. There are some art curriculums available but bear in mind the materials they may require and your capacity to explore the breadth of the course in your context. If you plan to use an app-based programme or tutorial, make sure you update it before you leave home.
Don’t discount the opportunities you may discover on the road too. Keep an eye out for local galleries or artist’s studios that might offer workshops or short-term classes. Some museums or libraries host artists or special events where children can come for a day to experiment with a particular style or type of art. Ask at information centres about local artists and where you might be able to visit to see an artist at work or some local exhibits.
Most importantly, encourage the children to have fun. Art is about expression; capturing something of the essence of an experience or place in a way it resonates with the artist. While the final result may not grace the walls of a gallery just yet, it will still be a valuable reminder of your trip, and who knows? They might just surprise you!