For many parents, especially those in arts-loving communities, finding local art classes for kids may not be a major hurdle. After all, out-of-school painting classes, pottery classes, sculpting, and drawing classes are popular with kids and families, and new twists on traditional arts are popping up all the time.

But finding a truly great class– an art class kids will feel excited, challenged, and inspired by – that may be the real trick.

With that goal in mind, here’s a handy guide to choosing the best children’s art classes, along with a useful checklist at the end.

Don’t Look For A Great Class. Look For A Great Studio.

Kids art studio with kids painting

Art classes for kids can be amazing. And sometimes just meh. But just like the classes your child takes at school, they’re changing all the time.

But the studios are built on reputations. So it may not be the art class that you want to check out first. But the studio itself.  And you’ll want to begin with what they offer.

Find The Right Studio Fit For Your Child

If your budding Picasso is interested in a children’s pottery class, that kids canvas painting studio your friend recommended won’t be a good match, even if it’s the highest rated one in town.

And if your little artist’s passion for “pottery” means that she wants to paint figurines for an hour or two, signing her up for a fancy ceramics studio membership may end in a less than happy outcome.

You’ll find that while some kids art studios focus on just one medium, like canvas or pottery painting, others offer a variety.  You might even find kids studios that offer surprising and unique choices, like printmaking, puppetry, animation, eco-art or kite-making.

Choose An Appropriate Age Range

Age matters too. For young children or kids just starting out, studios without a specific focus will allow them to explore a variety of art mediums. Older kids on the other hand are likely to enjoy a more specialized focus, allowing them to refine their skills with one or two mediums.

Mom And Pop Studio? Or Franchise?

Another thing to consider when choosing an art class for kids is whether you prefer a franchise, an independent studio or a studio within a museum.

Art Class Tip: A franchise might be more standardized, while an independent studio is often run by a local professional artist.

With a franchise, classes might be more standardized, and you will likely be able to continue classes if you move to another city with classes from the same corporation.

An independent studio is often run by a local professional artist. Rather than locations throughout the state or country, the artist might only work within a particular city or town. Finally, art classes might be offered by local museums or parks, in conjunction with special events or exhibits.

The Space Itself Matters

Once you’ve narrowed down your studio list, it’s time to look a little deeper into what the spaces themselves are like.

Children (and adults too, right?) often feel more comfortable in a space that is spacious and bright rather than dark or cramped.

Especially when your children are younger, it’s important to seek out spaces that are designed for children. A poorly-lit and disorganized studio will not only make it difficult for kids to see, but could present a safety hazard as they work with materials and move around.

Kids Art Class Tip: A bright, cheery studio makes kids feel more relaxed, which is what we want when they're creating!

Not least of all, a bright cheery studio makes kids feel happier and more relaxed, which is what we want when they’re creating! Can there be anything better than seeing your child skipping happily into a class they love? Nope. And the quality of the space has a lot to do with that.

Organization and ergonomics are important, too. A well-designed childrens studio should have tables, chairs, and shelving that are the right height for younger guests. And the overall set up should make it easy for kids to get in and out of chairs, gather materials and clean up their space.

Evaluate The Staff And Teachers

Kids Art Class Teacher showing special attention

And here’s where the rubber really hits the road. Because the teacher can make or break a kid’s art class.

Look For Teachers Who Enjoy Working With Kids

In many childrens art studios, the teacher is a professional artist who teaches kids how to think about art and instructs them in artistic techniques. In others, s/he may be someone who just loves arts and crafts.

In either case, and regardless of any credentials you may be looking for, you’ll do your child a massive favor by putting a high bar on the way they interact with the children they teach.

Because kids respond to art teachers who enjoy working with them and  trust teachers who are both patient and calm. When children find those qualities, they begin to feel comfortable around an art teacher, and that’s when creativity can begin to shine.

Look For Teachers Who Inspire

It’s also important for a teacher to be engaging, to captivate a class, and to inspire a love of learning and art. Think those are rare qualities? Maybe. But you’ll find that many art teachers have them (Yay, art).

A good art teacher should also take the time to explain and demonstrate the techniques being learned, and be willing to work one-on-one with a struggling learner.

Look For Teachers Who Encourage Creativity

Speaking personally if I may, because I know many other parents share my opinion, when I enroll my child in an art class, it’s important to me that the teacher allow a lot of independent creativity.

Infographic: Encourage, Inspire, Teach

When one of my daughters was younger, we were at a library-based art class. My daughter was doing her craft and the teacher came by and rearranged her work, saying “I bet your mom wants you to do it the right way. This piece goes here, and this piece goes here.”

My daughter was so upset that she threw her entire project in the trash. She didn’t want to take home the teacher’s interpretation of the assignment – she was proud of what she had created!

Thus, I look for teachers who encourage independent work instead of having every child create the exact same design. Also (speaking personally), teachers should respect the child as an individual – if the teacher wants to add something to the child’s artwork, he or she should ask the child for permission and respect the child’s answer. After all, art is all about individual expression and creativity!

Extra Stuff. Consider This:

After you’ve toured the studios, met teachers, and possibly observed a class or two, you might consider the “extras” that some studios provide:

Low student/teacher ratio: When classes have a low student/teacher ratio, kids typically receive more individualized instruction and attention. They’ll feel more welcome in the class and receive more help when necessary.
Snacks and beverages: Does the studio provide snacks and drinks during class or are parents allowed to supply them? Does the studio prohibit eating in the studio?
Parking: Let’s face it: nobody wants to spend the first 10 minutes of every class fighting for a parking space! A studio should have ample parking to accommodate the students in the class, or point you to a nearby lot that does.
Disabilities accommodations: Is the studio able to accommodate the needs of children who are deaf, blind, autistic or who have a physical or developmental disability?

Art classes can be a wonderful way to help your child develop creativity and critical thinking skills. Art can also give kids a way to express feelings and learn new skills. Ones that will help them not only in school, but throughout their lives. With attention, and a little extra planning, you’re  sure to find the perfect art class to help your young artist create beautiful masterpieces and lifelong memories (for more, see our Art Classes For Kids page).

Want a quick way to evaluate a children’s art studio? Print out this handy checklist:

The Best Art Classes For Kids Checklist

Kids Art Class Checklist: studio? franchise? specialization? age range?

✓   Is the studio a franchise, independent or museum-based studio?

✓   What type of art medium does the studio specialize in or offer?

✓   What age range does the class cover?

✓   Is it a drop-off class or do parents participate with their children?

✓   Is the class taught by a professional artist?

✓   What is the cost of the class or a membership?

✓   Is the studio spacious and bright?

✓   Are the materials and space well-organized?

✓   Does the teacher encourage students to create their own artwork or does every student’s artwork look similar?

✓   Is the teacher’s personality and teaching style calm, engaging and patient?

✓   Does the teacher take the time to demonstrate and explain techniques in a kid-friendly way?

✓   Is the class engaging for the students? Do the students appear to enjoy being there?

✓   What is the student–teacher ratio?

✓   What extras are included (snacks, materials, art history lessons, etc.)?

✓   Is there ample parking?

✓   Can the studio accommodate any special needs/disabilities my child has?

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