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Art Play Review by Julie Kieras

Marion Deuchars
Laurence King Publishing Ltd.
+44 (0)20 7841 6900
Laurence King Publishing Ltd
361–373 City Road
London EC1V 1LR
United Kingdom

You can teach your kids to discover art with Art Play, by Marion Deuchars, an activity book that details art techniques, materials, concepts, and projects. Retailing for $19.95 (USD), Art Play offers a wide-ranging introduction to exciting hands-on art skills that encourage a sense of exploration and learning in children. The book is divided into seven sections covering: drawing, color, shapes, paint, paper, printing, and pattern-making. Each section has roughly seven to ten activities to learn and practice. The book has the look and feel of an artist’s sketchbook with hand-written fonts, doodles, and diagrams. Users need to provide their own pencils, markers, paint, extra paper, tape, and a few other art supplies, detailed in the first part of the book.

Art Play is primarily intended as a fun activity book and would make a wonderful gift for an art-loving child. It is not written as a textbook or lesson plan and contains no assessments. However, because of its step-by-step approach to illustrating basic concepts and techniques, homeschooling parents could use Art Play as a guide and resource to include art in a gentle and playful way. Most of the activities build on each other. For example, in the Colors section, the first activity is to look at the example of the color wheel, then to create your own color wheel. The next activity builds on that concept to have children mix primary colors. Further along, children use fingerprint with ink pads to explore complimentary colors while decorating tree sketches with fingerprint “leaves.”

If used as a homeschool resource, Art Play would fit into a range of schooling methods from unschooling (let kids pick and choose the pages they complete) to more structured learning (complete an activity daily or weekly with parent supervision). Ideally, this book as a whole is a great fit for grades 3-8. However, children old enough to hold a crayon or pencil could enjoy some activities in the first half of the book, like shading and pattern-making. The second half of the book covering painting, paper, and printing requires adult assistance or upper-elementary motor skills to use inks, rollers, and scissors. Most of the activities can be completed inside the book with minimal supplies, while a few of later activities require additional paper and paints to complete.

I used Art Play as a casual introduction to basic art techniques during the summer months with my two boys, ages six and eight. We would take about ten to fifteen minutes to pick an activity, and with minimal guidance from me, my children would complete a few pages. For instance, one morning we worked on creating pictographs in the Shapes section. The incremental activities first had my oldest son simply add onto the pictographs already started, then move on to creating pictograph signage similar to what he might see on street signs. I really liked how Art Play connected art-making to real-life concepts or examples my children would see in daily life.

Overall, I feel Art Play is a wonderfully illustrated and laid out book that encourages art exploration for young learners. We enjoyed using it as part of our summer hands-on learning activities. My children were drawn immediately to the paint-spattered, hand-drawn cover and doodle-like pages inside and wanted to dive into the projects and activities. I will also use this book as an extension activity and resource alongside our study of drawing and great artists in our Classical Conversations program this coming year.

As an art technique and practice activity book, there are little-to-no references to actual artists. I saw one mention of Giotto, and it might have been nice to see other artists mentioned as techniques were learned. However, Art Play is more focused on the child/user as the artist, so this is not detrimental to the book in any way. The art mediums and techniques, which are usually named and defined briefly, provide a valuable foundation for discussing the works of great artists in the future.

I am happy we have this book in our collection of activity books. I recommend Art Play for any child who loves art, for gifting purposes, and for parents who want to introduce art to their children while keeping a sense of imagination and wonder as they teach basic art techniques.

-Product review by Julie Kieras, The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine, LLC, August, 2018