Index-Card-a-Day Challenge: Kid Version!

Index cards are absolutely perfect art materials for children. And the annual index-card-a-day challenge is kid-friendly! Since the challenge began in 2011, kids have created 1000s of index cards! My daughters have participated in their own way each year. 

My mantra for working on art with kids? 

Focus on the ACT of creating. Let them build curiosity. It should be about the PROCESS, the experience, but not the beauty of the FINISHED PRODUCT.

Kids are welcome to participate. 

It is the act of creating {creative thinking, creative work} that matters. So cheer on your kids, your class, your grandkids, but please relax the requirement to finish one card per day.

With my own kids, I've found that they like to work on their index card art in batches or series. Some days, they get on a creative roll and just keep going, and that's fantabulous! Other days, they are busy writing stories and designing earrings and don't want to stop. So I have always encouraged them to do the challenge in a way that motivates them to be creative.  

The best thing that you can do?
Be a creative role model.

Let the kids see you in the act of creating:) Let them see you ENJOY this simple act, the process of DOING art rather than griping or being self-critical. Put on some music, place a bowl of snacks on the table, set up an island of luscious art materials and let it happen. 

Children's art is their own art.

Let kids do what they want to do without trying to micro-manage. You don't need to fix it, critique it, alter it or change it. They don't need to create a pleasing composition or use a trendy color palette or use analogous colors or a triad or secondary triad from the color wheel. Just let them pick whatever colors they want to use. Let them develop their own unique style and voice. 

Tell them about the project, let them see YOU doing art, place a wide variety of materials within their reach.... and see what happens. 

Art Materials for Index-Card-a-Day

  1. Stacks overflowing with index cards. Mix-it-up with lined, unlined, gridded, neon, dividers, etc. 
  2. Mugs overflowing with magic markers. 
  3. Boxes of sharpened colored pencils. 
  4. Recycled jam jars with #2 pencils. 
  5. Erasers. 
  6. Pencil sharpener. 
  7. Stapler. 
  8. Glue stick. 
  9. Tape or double sided tape to adhere collage items.
  10. Washi tape. 
  11. Magazines to cut up for collage fodder.
  12. Plastic stencils, french curve, ruler & protractor for scientific & geometric pursuits. 
  13. Alphabet stamps, number stamps, rubber stamps & stamping ink.
  14. Kid scissors. 
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Tips for doing the ICAD Challenge with Kids & Teens:

  • Let kids have the freedom to do what they want on their cards. If they want to get messy, protect your table and the floor around the work space and provide old t-shirts! My kids started painting with craft acrylics when they were about two.
  • Teach kids how to clean up. When my kids were really little I would talk them through what I was doing to stay organized and clean up. I taught them to keep the brushes and paints on the table {not walk around the house with brush in hand} and to put brushes in the sink when finished.
  • Help younger kids manage messier materials. When my daughters were little they would select 2-3 colors of craft acrylics and I poured a bit into old yogurt lids. This kept them from inadvertently pouring out the entire bottle. But it also helped them be more thoughtful in selecting colors rather than using every color of paint simultaneously!
  • Remove the requirement that kids create one card each day. This is the KID VERSION of the challenge, remember? Kids like to do the challenge in batches, like a bunch today, a bunch in a few days, etc. That's cool!!! Freedom in art is a good thing!
  • Sometimes kids are hard on themselves {an errant line, an eraser mark, oh my!} so be gentle.
  • A snack and/or music can alter the mood of the day. 
  • Jelly beans go quite well with index card art. 
  • If the challenge coincides with a vacation or summer break for your family, bring along materials to draw/doodle in hotel rooms, at the beach, on a plane, etc. Many of our cards are created "on the road" each summer.
  • If the child doesn't have 61 cards at the end of July, celebrate the work no matter what! "Look at all of these cool airplane drawings! What a wide variety of colors + shapes, Liz!" Take a look at all of the cards on a dining table or large work surface.

Here's how my kids do the ICAD challenge.

  • A big-picture goal of creating 61 cards over the course of June & July has worked for my own kids, who have participated since the challenge began! They are now 14 and 17 and each year there's a different "twist" on their work. 
  • For the 2016 challenge, my older daughter worked on lined or gridded index cards and created 1-2 cards every few days. She likes to draw doodles, patterns or riddles. And she is undecided about the 2017 challenge; she may do a small series but probably commit to 61 as SATs and other "fun" college-prep activities are underway. 
  • For the 2017 challenge, my younger daughter plans to do a 4th series of hand-drawn girls.  The first two years of this series, she worked on half-sized index cards. So she did 61 x 2 = 122 half cards! Last year and the year before, she switched to full sized index cards and worked in portrait format. She likes to work on a bunch each day, often finishing before the end of the challenge because she gets immersed in her series. One card leads to another and the ideas flow. 
  • My daughters have lots of markers and colored pencils and it just sort of happens - we'll be drawing or laughing about our cards or comparing notes on what number we are at. 
  • I used to post all of my kids' cards to the blog, but it's difficult to keep up with photographing and posting them, so I have let that go; I post a few of their cards from time to time.

Our worth as a creative human is not contingent upon perfection in our artistic creations. Support rather than stifle your kids' innate & amazing creativity!

Learn more about inspiring and eroding creativity.

Project-Based Homeschooling. Wildly informative array of resources to inspire creative & independent thinking. Check out cultivating curiosity.

Marvin Vartel's Ways Not to Kill Classroom Creativity highlights the role of the teacher in building or eroding creativity, including showing examples instead of defining problems. He notes that "image flooding" or showing too many examples can be intimidating and suggestive, creating slicker work but weaker creative thinking skills and unique ideas.

Leslie Owen Wilson describes 7 ways that we impact creativity in On Killing Creativity in Children, including surveillance, evaluation, rewards, competition, control, restricting choice and pressured expectations.