Erin Donohues 4-year-old daughter Lenas 4-year-old daughter Lena
Erin Donohues 4-year-old daughter Lenas 4-year-old daughter Lena Credit: Courtesy of Erin Donohue

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After nearly three months of at-home living, D.C.-area parents are tired. Schools have been closed through the end of the school year, with questions bubbling about re-opening in the fall. People continue to juggle teaching, caregiving, work, and anxieties about the future. 

Now more than ever, art can be a source of strength and connection for families, and D.C.-area parents have found some incredible ways to incorporate art into their kids’ lives. From online art classes to living room dance parties, from self-portraits to flower pot painting, local families are showcasing their creativity and commitment to community.

Younger kids need parent-supervised activities that can be completed in small pockets of time to maintain their interest. Stephanie Regler, a Northern Virginia mother and preschool teacher, recommends simple activities that let kids get both creative and messy: She has her kids draw on black paper with a bottle of school glue, then sprinkle salt on it for a sparkly effect. Other parents keep their young children busy and learning with activities like beading necklaces, doing origami, building models with marshmallows and tooth picks, and making castles and sculptures out of glass bottles, cardboard boxes, and other recyclables. Arlington mom Erin Donohue keeps her two young daughters’ creativity flowing with “Art with Alex” videos, including this incredible Picasso-style self-portrait lesson.

District mother LaJoy Johnson-Law solo-parents while working full-time, and her third-grader Abria needs extra support because of several disabilities. But Johnson-Law is making the best of this time with her daughter. They’ve re-made the dining room into an enormous learning and arts space, and she works next to her daughter during the day. In the evenings, they focus on story time and sing-alongs, which has evolved into a popular Facebook Live on Thursday nights, with families tuning in for their lively stories and music.

Abria’s medical and learning needs are not insignificant, but Johnson-Law knows that all kids can create and express themselves.

“Parents can build, draw, and paint with their kids,” Johnson-Law says. “This is an amazing time for parents to meet children with disabilities where they are, to focus on their capabilities. For example, some children love working with their hands. One idea would be to tape up some newspaper on the wall and make a finger painting with your child.”

Tweens and teens can handle more complicated, independent projects that last anywhere from 30 minutes to an entire morning. Local older children are working on a huge range of projects, from making comic books to fashion designing. Silver Spring mom Bethany Keener’s two adolescent sons created a stop-motion video about social distancing, including scriptwriting, story boarding, and setting up a light box. 

As they live through unprecedented times, D.C.-area parents are taking the power of creativity to heart during quarantine—and keeping their kids busy and smiling. 

Here are websites that local parents are visiting for arts inspiration:

Here are some fun all-ages arts activities to try:

  • Draw a self-portrait each week and see how they change over time.
  • Paint flower pots for a window garden.
  • Try butterfly models: Doodle on a coffee filter with markers, then spray it with water. Once dry, scrunch it up, tie it in place, make antennae with pipe cleaners, and clip on a clothespin body.
  • Try rain art: Use markers on sheets of watercolor paper and leave the pieces out in light rain.
  • Paint rocks and write kind messages on them, and then place them in various parks and green areas.
  • Make creative thank you cards for essential workers.