Pencil, paper… bright ideas!

Welcome to the November 2014 Carnival of Natural Parenting: Indoor Play

This post was written for inclusion in the monthly Carnival of Natural Parenting hosted by Code Name: Mama and Hobo Mama. This month our participants have shared ideas and inspiration to keep families happy and healthy while cooped up indoors.


Like many other mothers I love to create. I enjoy baking, painting, drawing, sewing, knitting, writing and gardening. The list is endless! However, since I gave birth to my first child seven years ago I’ve realized that many of those creative pursuits seem to be (or are) incompatible with the actual business of mothering.

Yet over the years I’ve also learnt how important it is for my own wellbeing to have a creative hobby. So, like many other mothers I’ve learnt how to find pockets of time for my own creativity. Some mothers find that they need quiet, solitary time to create. Naptimes and evening times work best for them. I certainly appreciate quiet for drawing and writing, but I can no longer always rely on sleep times now for my own creative pursuits. Which is why I like to get creative alongside my children during the day. By doing this, I can guarantee that I get a little time for creativity each day.

As painting and drawing is something that we all enjoy this is something that we all tend to do if we have one of those days when it’s so cold or windy outside that no one feels like braving the weather.

Two things I’ve learnt from my ‘art sessions’ (as I like to call them) is this:

1) ‘Messy’ art that has the potential to stain clothes, carpets and surfaces are probably best avoided if I don’t feel I have the patience (or energy) on that particular day to be philosophical about the mess. (And by the way, I’ve tried various covers, table cloths, floor covers etc. but my son is too much of a genius of the random splash to fall for any of my cunning protective paint traps!)

Likewise, an art activity that uses very expensive materials is most likely to cause me to worry about how much of that material each child is using, and so again, perhaps making the experience less fun for everyone!

2) Having too high expectations of how much I can get done alongside my children is almost always a recipe for an unhappy mother. I’ve found that starting the art session with a ‘let’s see what happens’ attitude is much better than an ‘I’m going to get at least this done, and then this, and this…’ attitude.

So what do we like to do? LOTS!

At the moment, we’re very much into simple pencil (or pen) and paper fun.

  • One of the easiest things to do is the (what we call) ‘one line’ game. Each person has an A4 (or A3) piece of paper which they draw just the one line on. The line can be curvy, or squiggly, or spiky, though it’s best if it goes right across the paper, from one end to the other. When each person has drawn their line they pass it to their partner who draws something incorporating that very first line. It can be a landscape, or a portrait, or a funny doodle, or a something else — just use your imagination! Once you’re both finished, show each other your works of art. You’ll be amazed at what’s been created from just one line!
RB 'One line art' mountain range

RB ‘One line art’ mountain range


MS 'One line art' face

MS ‘One line art’ face


  • Another family favourite is the ‘crazy dudes’ game. Again, each person has a piece of paper (portrait orientation works best for this) and you each draw a head in the top quarter of the piece of paper. You then fold the piece of paper over the head (so that your partner can’t see the head, but only the base of the neck) and then swap pieces of paper. Each person then adds a torso below the neck in what is, roughly, the second quarter of the piece of paper. Once you’ve drawn the torso, fold the piece of paper over the torso (so that no one can see what has been drawn before) and then swap again and then draw the legs from the base of the torso. Fold the piece of paper over the legs once you’re done with the leg drawing, swap pieces of paper and then finally, draw the feet. Once you’ve both done the feet, swap and open up each folded piece of paper so that you can admire the ‘crazy dude’ you’ve drawn!

[WARNING: this game can get addictive.]


Three 'crazy' dudes (drawn by all the family)

Three ‘crazy’ dudes (drawn by all the family)


  • Which brings me on to more collaborative fun. As I particularly like to draw faces I can quickly sketch a something which I then pass on to one of my children. They add the body and the surroundings and voila! a new being has been created.
'Swimming teacher in the garden' collaborative art by MS and 6 year old daughter RB

‘Swimming teacher in the garden’ collaborative art by MS and 6 year old daughter RB


MS + JB collaborative art

Collaborative art by MS and 4 year old son JB

For more inspiration on this theme, do check out this incredible post:


  • Origami fortune tellers are also a lot of fun.
Origami fortune teller

Origami fortune teller

Here’s a good link for how to make one:

But again, a warning — they can get rather addictive!

  • Then there’s the time-honoured ‘guess what I’m drawing’ game. Both kids like to snuggle up on either side of me and try to guess what I’m drawing. The first person to guess correctly what I’m drawing gets a point. And the first person to get to 5 points gets to be the next one who does the drawing. As we’re all quite attune to what we each like to draw from our imaginations (or surroundings) both guessers often guess the correct answer at the same time!
The drawing guessing game

The drawing guessing game. The object on the bottom right is a very old and deformed candle!

Willy Wonka's chocolate factory board game, by TCB

Willy Wonka’s chocolate factory board game, by TCB


So that’s just a small sample of the fun we have with pencil and paper (or magnetic sketching pad). However, once you bring in just one or two other items e.g. scissors and glue then you can start on all kinds of other fun arty paper crafts such as paper cutting or making collages from random bits of paper. (Cutting heads and bodies out of magazines and then adding your own drawings to them is really good fun too!).

  • I really like the idea of using up all the old paint swatches I have hanging around. I think this would make for a really fun project:

(By the way — as you’d expect — my seven year old is more into paper crafts than my four year old who’s most happy with paper and pen, or paint. Actually, he loves glue, but the main game then becomes ‘what can I smear this on’!).

Of course we have days when we don’t just want to draw. Then we have lots of fun with paints or printing or marbling — all sorts! I’ve also gleaned a lot of ideas from the wonderful Amy over at Amy Hood Arts. Her e-zine ‘Art Together’ is inspirational!

The main thing is to have fun. I’ve been so inspired by just watching my children, and doodling alongside them. Their creations and their limitless imaginations feed mine; I always take away a whole bundle of ideas for future drawings/paintings after we’ve been having arty fun together. I’m sure that this stems from the fact that we have no great expectations, no fixed ideas on ‘how things should look’. The main emphasis is on play. And that’s how it should be.

Do let me know if you have any of your own favourite paper and pencil games — I’m always on the lookout for more!

“The creation of something new is not accomplished by the intellect, but by the play instinct arising from inner necessity. The creative mind plays with the object it loves.” — Carl Jung


Carnival of Natural Parenting -- Hobo Mama and Code Name: MamaVisit Code Name: Mama and Hobo Mama to find out how you can participate in the next Carnival of Natural Parenting!
Please take time to read the submissions by the other carnival participants:

(This list will be updated by afternoon November 11 with all the carnival links.)

21 comments on “Pencil, paper… bright ideas!

  1. Life Breath Present says:

    What beautiful beautiful fun! I’ll have to keep these ideas in mind as Baby Boy grows so we can do more art together. Right now, him drawing or writing essentially consists of random lines/circles on paper (or anything else actually) lol. 🙂


  2. […] Pencil, paper… bright ideas! — Marija Smits shares some ideas on how to make family ‘art and craft time’ inexpensive and fun. […]


  3. janeygingerboy says:

    Some really great ideas Marija and some I tried with my son when he was smaller. He is nearly 15 now, so craft sessions are a thing of the past these days : ( I have many happy memories of creating with him though! Although we may try some Christmas crafts soon, sure he will take part! Happy creating to you and happy Friday xx


    • Marija Smits says:

      Lovely to hear that you have many happy memories of creating with your son 🙂 I’m looking forward to doing some Christmas crafts soon…

      Happy creating to you too & of course happy Friday. xx


  4. I want to try the dudes game with my kids. My seven-year-old’s hard to tempt into doing art nowadays, but I’m hoping the silliness will disguise it. 🙂 And I know my three-year-old would get a kick out of it! Thanks for the fabulous artistic ideas again!


  5. I LOVE the idea of a personalized board game based on a favorite book! Can’t wait to try that out.
    We also love mazes right now and draw mazes based on our favorite stories and characters.
    These are all lovely ideas! So collaborative and fun! Thanks for the inspiration!


  6. Holly S says:

    I love these ideas! I really want to try the crazy dude game, but my 3-year-old’s artistic skills aren’t quite there yet. (Meaning, he doesn’t really draw much of anything yet. He scribbles. And asks me to draw him things. But someday!) I love how creative your entire family is.


    • Marija Smits says:

      Thanks Holly for stopping by 🙂

      Most of the time my 4 year old scribbles, so I must admit I was pleasantly surprised when he came up with a recognizable body and legs. But scribbles are fun too! Seriously… you can add a pair of eyes, a mouth and a couple of legs to a scribble and suddenly it’s a new comic creation 😉 Thanks for the kind words about our creativity, but really, it’s all just ‘play’… 🙂


  7. lhollman says:

    These are great ideas for all kinds of art stuff activities which I love to do. Thanks for the imaginative plans. Can’t wait to try them.
    Laurie Hollman at Parental Intelligence


  8. […] Pencil, paper… bright ideas! — Marija Smits shares some ideas on how to make family ‘art and craft time’ inexpensive and fun. […]


  9. Charlie Peel says:

    I’ve been really inspired by you today – just what I needed!

    I’m a fellow creative-bod and I’m of that ilk who tend to shoe-horn my own creativity into increasingly small spaces. Hearing about how you and your children get creative together is wonderful, and you have got me thinking about how I could take that simple but fun shared element and apply it to my, far younger, audience! Thank-you for highlighting that creativity as a family can be just as fulfilling as it is solo – maybe more so?!

    The Jung quote is just perfect to reinforce that message. I’ll be borrowing it for a while to keep me encouraged in finding creative pursuits that both me and my girl can enjoy together


    • Marija Smits says:

      Hey Charlie, I’m so glad that I provided you with some inspiration today 🙂 My two are now 7 and 4 years old so they have the ability to spend longer amounts of time focussing on arty activities. It’s definitely possible to still get creative alongside a very little one; it just needs a little more flexibility and a little more creativity… 😉 Keep on playing… keep on creating! Best wishes X


  10. codenamemama says:

    Oh Marija, I am so excited to try some of these with my son! He has recently caught the drawing bug, and he will get SUCH a kick out of collaborative drawing games! Your blog theme goes along perfectly with my post today 😉
    Thank you so much.


  11. Ellie says:

    I love the idea of collaborative art with the children and this would be a great Christmas break pastime for our family this year. My two girls are quite creative types so I’m sure being all grown up now wont deter them from giving it a go! :))


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.