Hello! My name is Shannon Taylor. I'm a long-time writer and editor from Minnesota surprised to find myself on an island in the Pacific Northwest with my husband, three younger children (the oldest is attending college in Chicago), and two dogs.

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So what if instead of thinking about solving your whole life, you just think about adding additional good things. One at a time. Just let your pile of good things grow.
+ Rainbow Rowell

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Winter Fun

Kids’ Art Area / A Space to Create

One of the biggest challenges for me in blogging is to only post once a day! There are so many ideas to discuss, strategies to ponder, and books and projects and recipes to share. But this blog is meant to be a sketchpad for ideas and a place to organize thoughts and plans for living life a little more intentionally. After writing here, I’m supposed to be writing other things, too.

Which reminds me: I’m officially stating my intention to make a spreadsheet to track queries. It sounds simple, but you’d be surprised at how well I put it off. If you see me at the grocery store, feel free to ask if I’ve made the spreadsheet yet. And, even better, feel free to ask if I’ve actually mailed out any queries. I will look haunted and frazzled, but you’ll be doing me a kindness. (A query is a letter or email sent to an editor or agent that describes an idea for a magazine, book, or other publication. Writers send these off in hopes that an editor will love the idea and hire them to write it.)

So back to my original point. I usually know what I’m planning to write on any given day. And then I go visit other blogs and they trigger more ideas. Like today. I read this post on Design Mom and it got me thinking about how to incorporate spaces for kids into our homes.

After years spent tripping over toys, we’re pretty firm about kids keeping their stuff in their bedrooms or in the bonus room/playroom over the garage. But one thing that we let take up valuable real estate in the main living area is the art table and cabinet. I’ve shown lots of photos of kids working at the art table, but I don’t think I’ve ever officially written about how this space for creating came to be. And how glad I am that we have it.

It started when my in-laws purchased a gorgeous table and chairs from Pottery Barn Kids the year Will was born. I don’t think I could have brought myself to spend that much on a kids’ table, even if I could have afforded it. Although, if I’d had a crystal ball and had seen how much use we’d get out of it over the years, I might have taken the plunge. After the table was set up, I bought a plain, unfinished bookcase and painted it brown. Then I bought some plastic bins and gathered a few other containers to hold supplies. Finally, I filled the bins, stuck some labels on, and that was it. Not fancy, but good enough.

Even if you don’t have space for an art area (and honestly we don’t, either—the dining room table is sideways and not at all centered under the light fixture), you can designate a shelf or a cabinet or even a bin for art supplies. You can purchase an inexpensive kids’ table or let the kids go crazy at the dining room or kitchen table. The important thing is that whatever you do is accessible and as out-in-the-open as you can stand. It truly is a case of “if you build it, they will come.”

I’m almost afraid to show you this next photo because you’ll think I’m terribly irresponsible. I really did try to keep this beautiful table beautiful. But after a while, I gave up. I figured we could always refinish it later. And I do (usually) remember to cover it with a cloth when we entertain!

There have been entire years when the table was used by several children every single day. Now it’s one or two children a few times a week. It gives me a pang just writing that.

I’m in no hurry to move on from this phase. But when I get a little sad seeing the art table go unused on any given day, I cheer myself up with thoughts of a sofa and table and reading lamp (inspired by this slow-to-open-but-stick-with-it-because-it’s-amazing spread of Nancy Traversy’s Home, spotted years ago in Better Homes and Gardens) where someone can curl up to read his or her homework or guests can sit comfortably and visit while I putter just feet away in the kitchen. But I hope we’re still a few years away from that.

Do you have designated areas to keep your kids’ toys or art supplies? Could you live with all this clobber right in the middle of your main living area?

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  1. Tim says:

    I still think I should cut the top off of the art table, and hang it on the wall as “art”. Maybe even in a frame…

  2. Shannon says:

    Spoken like a true dad…

  3. grampa jeff says:

    Tim has got that right, I was thinking of volunteering to sand and refinish the top of the table but that would be like erasing 100 stories of how the sticky, glittery, colorful stuff got there. Not that u remember each story but, you know, taken as a collective. The tabletop probably isn’t fancy enough to hang over the fireplace but it is deserving of some prominent spot. Very unusual but fabulous artwork. The top could easily be replaced on the table!!

  4. Lisa Fyfe says:

    i love the organized shelves! and yes. My house does not really have a good separate space for art and playing. So it is going to end up being right across from our dining room.

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