Making Art … While Raising Children

Kate Thomas | Artist to Artist, Faith, Reflection & Growth | May 20, 2021

Every season of life brings its own challenges and opportunities. Finding your place, making a living, serving the needs of your community, responding to loss, caring for your health.

But nothing challenges identity and independence quite like becoming a parent. Small, wonderful people suddenly depend on you for their survival. Infants and young children wake and sleep when the mood strikes; they don’t care whether you, the parent, are a morning person or a night owl. Who cares if genius is burning when the sippy cup is empty? How can you keep creating while balancing your young children’s needs?

It’s Not Easy

Artists agree: keeping an art practice alive while raising young children is not easy. Haylei Kvist won an Honorable Mention in the 2018 Engage Art Contest for her painting, Battle of the Mind. “My daughter is 19 months and she does not stop moving,” Haylei said. “Usually when my daughter goes to bed is the only time I have.”

“Battle of the Mind” by Haylei Kvist
“Battle of the Mind,” a 2018 Honorable Mention by Haylei Kvist

“Our daughter is 4 and our son is 8 months old,” say Bridget and Adolphus Scott, who won first place in the 2018 Engage Art Contest for their original song, Stand. “I’m sharing my life. I’m putting their needs before mine.”

"Stand" won First Place for Music in the 2018 Engage Art Contest.

Make It a Priority

We love our children, and we are also called to make art. During those early childhood years, how can you keep the creative fires burning?

The most important step is to give yourself permission to make art a priority. Haylei says, “You only have 24 hours in the day. If you want something, you have to make time for it. I want my daughter to see me [making art] so she is encouraged to follow her passions.”

If God has gifted and called you to create, then you should feel freedom in setting aside  time and space for your craft.

Protect a Time

Free time has a tendency to disappear when becoming a parent. Pick a time in your week and protect it! Write it in the calendar. Put a star next to it. Maybe it’s 5:30 in the morning, coffee in hand, before anyone else is stirring. Or maybe you and your spouse each take a part of the weekend—and so Saturday midday is your sacred space.

If your art is also your livelihood, a support network or quality childcare can help foster the physical and mental space to grow your business. The hours of an actor, filmmaker, or musician might be very different from a 9-5, so it might take a little extra effort to find the right support.

Bring Your Children In

Annie Murphy-Robinson included a drawing of her daughter in Emily and the Ram, a finalist in the 2019-2020 Engage Art Contest. “I have been drawing both of my daughters all of their lives,” says Annie. Over the years, her charcoal drawings have captured their growth and hers.

"Emily and the Ram," a 2020 Engage Art Finalist by Annie Murphy-Robinson
"Emily and the Ram," a 2020 Engage Art Finalist by Annie Murphy-Robinson

Antwan Witter won second place in the 2019-2020 Engage Art Contest for his short film, My Biggest Fear. His children were his inspiration and collaborators. He says “I had to have this conversation with my kids because of what was going on in the world.” They read Ephesians 6:10-20 together, reflecting on the nature of the Spiritual Battle. Then his children held the camera: “Because it was just me and my kids, and I had the vision, when I wasn’t recording, I had to direct one of them: stand right here, hold the camera there, come around this way. We had fun.”

"My Biggest Fear" won Second Place for Film in the 2020 Engage Art Contest.

Jun Gueco Cruz was a 2019-2020 Engage Art finalist for his mixed media piece Elioenai (Toward God Are My Eyes). The piece is named Elioenai in honor of his 4-year-old daughter. Jun uses art as a way to bond with his daughter. “I spend time with her by allowing her to lay the groundwork for some of my pieces,” he writes. Then Jun works based on her outline. She is credited as his collaborator on this piece.

"Elioenai," a 2020 Engage Art Finalist, by Jun Gueco Cruz
"Elioenai," a 2020 Engage Art Finalist, by Jun Gueco Cruz

There is a common thread in these stories. Teaching children to respect your craft while finding them a role within it can be wonderful for your art and your family.  Is there an age-appropriate role your children can play in your art?

Help Them Love Art

Young children love to imitate their parents. Making art with your children can be a meaningful way to play together and raise a new generation of creatives.

Orange Easel School of Art lists 10 Famous Artists to Teach Preschoolers, with wonderful activities connected to each artist. Toddler Approved also has a great list of suggestions. I especially love the idea of under-the-table painting like Michelangelo. Of course, activities with children usually make a mess and rarely go as planned. But, as in your own studio, that’s all part of the journey!

When finding new books for young children, consider the art. The Randolph Caldecott Medal publishes a list every year awarding excellence in children’s picture books. Consider the art in the children’s spiritual books you have in your home as well. Archbishop Desmond Tutu published a wonderful children’s Bible. So did Sally Lloyd-Jones. You can approach music and screen content through the same lens of artistic merit. 

It’s Worth It

When talking about the early childhood years, there is a saying: “the hours are long, but the years are short.” It can take creative thinking, and a little experimenting, to chart a path as an artist with young children. Fortunately, as a Creative, you are perfectly equipped to think creatively about your time, space, projects, and relationships. We pray the rhythms you develop in this season will be rewarding for years to come as you and your children engage art together.


Kate Thomas is the Content Manager for Engage Art and a mother of three.

Submit Your Artwork Today!

Curious? Interested in submitting artwork to our contest? Know someone who might be? Through April 14th, 2022, the Engage Art Contest is open to the whole world! Get your foot in the door by claiming your Artist Page now!