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The Collaborate Paint Game

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Make 2 Paintings Back-and-Forth With Your Child

Practice your design skills with team work and creative confidence

You will make surprising, avant-garde art together with your child -- by being quick and collaborative with this artistic game.

The more you play this game, you can fill up your wall with small canvases -- a gallery full of your family art!

How to Play

Time to awaken your own creative confidence, in partnership with your child.

Set a weekend morning aside to get painterly, in this riff off a Surrealist parlor game. We'll use it to unlock design thinking abilities, and to make beautiful and weird creations.

Step 1: Set the Space

Get your art space ready: make sure you are in a paint-friendly space, and unwrap 2 canvases -- 1 for you and 1 for your child. Get a few brushes out, and 5 different paint colors. Put the rest of the supplies away.

We will use these constraints -- limited supplies, and 2 canvases -- to get more creative.

Step 2: Do an Initial Background Wash

To set the painting off, you should do a single color background for each of the canvases. Take a big foam brush, and a light colored paint, and do some basic sweeps of the canvas. You don't want a ton of paint -- but just to start off with a canvas that isn't bright white. It will make sure your ultimate pieces look like they are part of the same series -- no matter how wild and divergent they end up.

Step 3: The Game Begins!

Now invite your child to join in: it's time to play the Collaborate Paint Game!

Explain the basic rules: each person has 1 canvas. You will squirt a few blobs of the same color on your canvas and on their canvas. You get a few minutes each to paint with it, in whatever way you want. Each person can do whatever they want with their canvas.

Any time either person wants, though, they can shout Collaborate! When they do, then there is 10 seconds when you can reach over to the other person's canvas, and do whatever you want to it. You can smear your paintbrushes across it. You can blob more of the 5 paints on it. You can scratch or punch holes in it. 10 seconds of freedom!

Also explain that you will only be using the 5 selected colors. Every 5 minutes, you'll add a new 1 of the 5 to both canvases -- a few blobs of the new color. When you've gone through all 5, you will be done!

Reinforce that the whole goal of the game is to make 2 paintings that are unique, and collaborative. It will be fun to see what turns out.

Step 4: The Creative Loop

Now you're in charge of keeping the paint blobs coming -- and in encouraging more of the Collaborate! 10 second switches.

If your child resists -- saying 'No, this is my canvas!', remind them of the rules of the game. Let them know, they can paint on your canvas, just like you can paint on their's. Sometimes they might get upset that you are changing their painting, but remind them that the collaboration will lead to more creativity. If they don't like what you painted on their's, they can change it when they get their own canvas back.

Try to encourage openness to share, and also to bring out each other's creativity. You can explain the different things you're doing: I'm putting on rain drops, because in my painting, it's stormy. Or, I see you are making something like a forest. I am going to add some flowers to your forest. Try to involve your child in the co-creation, by thinking out loud -- and having them do the same.

Step 5: Your Beautiful Creations

By the time you get to 5 colors, you should have a rich and funny canvas full of colors. It might not make much sense, especially if you've had a lot of Collaborate sprints, but it will definitely be full of colors and shapes.

Put the 2 canvases next to each other, and talk through with your child: what do they look like? Do they look similar in any ways? Do they look different? Why did they end up different, if they both used the same 5 colors? Encourage your child to reflect on how it felt to share their canvas with you, and what they liked or didn't about the team work. Tell them how you felt in having to share your canvas with them too.

Let the paintings dry, and you can also coat them in a thin layer of matte or glossy finish to keep your colors strong. We made a gallery of the Collaborate paintings in our kids' room, so they can see all our creations accumulate on their wall.

It's really cool that the limited palette keeps the multiple paintings in sync with each other -- so you end up with a painting series that is very different, but still linked together. A true avant garde gallery -- to celebrate your parent-child creative confidence together!