by Gail Goldspiel

“It is the artists of the world, the feelers and the thinkers who will ultimately save us; who can articulate, educate, defy, insist, sing and shout the big dreams” Leonard Bernstein, American conductor (1918-1990) 

When I was in college, there was one weekend in spring each year completely devoted to a community-wide Festival of the Arts. Between concerts, art showings, and museum events, there were also collaborative murals painted with colorful sidewalk chalk across the main campus. Kids, parents, students, teachers – everyone participated and made their creative mark. Passionate about early childhood even then, I helped run a bustling children’s pavilion filled with art and storytelling activities. Outdoors and indoors, the campus radiated with art and creativity. It was my absolute favorite time of year.

Now that it is spring, I can’t help but notice all the creative sidewalk chalk art that has popped up outside. Often, I capture a photo of a child’s art (above) but sometimes, I find art and messages made by adults too (also above). In noticing this, I could not help but wonder how sidewalk chalk is innately a collaborative creative activity for parents and children alike, and a way of allowing us to share our stories. So how can we encourage this classic outdoor art activity while also fostering creativity, literacy, motor skills and even math?


Here are some fun tips to try!

1. Encourage movement through activities like hopscotch! Have children sketch and draw the board on the sidewalk and afterward, they will be thrilled to jump through it for hours.


2. Foster make-believe and storytelling: left to their own devices children often create the most fantastical worlds with images of animals and unicorns and even their own inspirational messages (above.) Encourage counting and literacy, but also let their imagination run wild.


3. Inspire social-emotional growth and bonding: Because it’s a collaborative activity when children come together and create any kind of art, they practice communication, sharing and growing their interpersonal skills. Through festivals, sidewalk block parties, or even just during a normal day outside, creating with sidewalk chalk can help catapult this important developmental milestone.


4. Encourage the practice of handwriting! Sidewalk chalk is the perfect tool to encourage young children to practice writing the alphabet, words, and numbers. It’s also a great way to get them familiar with drawing simple shapes and identifying and naming them. You can make it a game and challenge your young child to see how many different letters or shapes they can sketch!


5. Foster matching, categorizing and sorting. There are dozens of games to try that encourage simple word and number matching while at the same time are fun, active and creative.


When it comes to the opportunities that the great outdoors allows for art-making, I find myself inspired to close with the words of actor Danny Kaye, “life is a great big canvas, throw all the paint you can on it!”

A Children and Art course is available in the Advanced childcare program if you are a nanny interested in being certified as a nanny by the Nanny Institute.