Working with kids can be joyous or stressful depending a lot on how you approach them. Sure, kids have their bad days (and sometimes it's the parents that are the worst to deal with), but I'm going to offer my top tips for managing children and getting the most out of working with them!
5. Indulge their curiosity (within limits).
What's that? How's that work? What's that for? Be ready for questions! When children start asking questions of me, I first tell them, "Those are good questions!" A kids who wants to know more is the best thing ever. I try to focus on one of their questions, for example if a kid asks me, "What's that for?" and points to my sponges, I reply, "I use those like big brushes to cover more area quickly." I then may ask them if they like art or if they draw. Kids always like talking about themselves! When the questions keep coming, I may have to change the kid's focus by asking them a question. Sometimes after I'm done painting a kid, they'll stick around and watch me paint someone else-- which I am always happy for! By indulging the child's natural curiosity, you set a tone for learning and exploring in a safe environment.
4. Get out the giggles!!
Laughter is the best medicine, but it can make it really hard to paint someone who can't stop giggling. If a child is in a particularly silly mood when they sit in my chair, I pause and say, "Alright, we're going to get out all the giggles now, ok? You ready?" and then I may tickle them or just wiggle and laugh with them for a moment. Then I'll ask, "Are you ready to be my model?" And they sit perfectly! This is a great way to be playful with them and also get them to reset and sit still for you. This tip works wonders!
3. Keep the mirror hidden.
I made a mistake once by having a stand-up mirror next to the chair I sit kids in. Due to natural curiosity, a child can't help but try and sneak glances at themselves the entire time you paint. This can lead to messed up paintings and frustration. Hide your mirrors! I keep my handheld mirror behind me now. If a kid asks to see themselves while I am painting, I explain, "You don't want to ruin the surprise; I promise to show you when we're done!" I also made the mistake once of leaving a second mirror on my table. Other kids who were either waiting or with the child though it was a great idea to interrupt every few seconds and show them how their painting was coming along. I finally had to ask for the mirror back and lesson learned-- I now keep the mirrors to myself! Plus, the reveal moment when a kid finally sees themselves for the first time and smile so hard it hurts, that's the best moment ever!
2. Gentle touches and small warnings.
Many kids squirm, wiggle, look away, and can't sit still while you paint them. A gentle hand on the top of their head will help you steady your painting and keep them from moving. You don't have to squeeze or jerk them around! Just talk them through it! Say, "I'm going to help guide you, ok?" or "I need you to look at me." If they are squinting their eyes to hard, I ask them to open their eyes and look at me, and I show them how I want them to close their eyes. I also give them small warnings before I start painting them: this is going to feel cold, this might tickle, I'm going around your eyes now. Usually, these small warnings help them not be scared or shocked when those things happen.
1. Treat them like little adults, not babies.
Talking down to kids makes them feel like they have to prove themselves or get your attention. If you treat them like little adults instead, they will generally rise to the occasion. I always call my clients sir and madame. I introduce myself, I ask their name, and how they are doing. Those ten seconds I spend investing in treating them well makes them feel welcome, comfortable, and creates a setting of reciprocity. Talking down to to anyone makes them react negatively, so remember kids are just little adults; they are way more intelligent, curious, and aware than most people give them credit for. If they ask for something unusual, just go with it! Treat it as a challenge and an opportunity! If you can't do what they ask for, tell them that it's a great idea and you'll have to practice for next time.
Here are some fun pictures from my times working with kids! I hope these tips are helpful for the next time you get the chance to work with some of the awesome little adults of the world!
Hope you enjoyed this post!
<3 Painted Mistress
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