4 Talented Kids You Need To Follow On Instagram

These 4 incredible kids (along with their parents) are using social media in creative ways and inspiring others to do the same. They're all talented, smart and kind. And P.S. They're all girls. Want to meet them?

Meet Mayhem

NaavaKatz_MayhemPaperDresses

Mayhem is a 6-year old with endless creativity. When she was four, she started designing beautiful dresses for herself out of paper. Her mother took photographs of her wearing them and shared them on Instagram. Soon everyone was talking about Mayhem and her paper dresses. She was featured by Vogue and was asked to design real clothing with J. Crew. Through it all, her parents have supported her passion with humor, love, and guidance. Mayhem continues to inspire creativity on Instagram daily. She and her parents partnered with @nothingbutnetsofficial to raise funds to protect kids from malaria. To get the word out, Mayhem designed a dress (see my portrait above) made out of blue bed-netting that can protect kids from deadly mosquitoes.

Meet Rayssa

Naava Katz - Rayssa Leal Skatergirl

Rayssa is an 8-year old skateboarder from Brazil. In 2015 a video was shared on social media of Rayssa doing a trick while wearing a blue tutu made by her grandmother. She fell a few times, but when she put on her fairy wings, she nailed it. The video went viral and Rayssa was hailed as the new symbol of girl power. Rayssa recently helped carry the Rio Olympic torch and was able to raise funds to renovate her local skate park. She still shares videos of herself doing tricks with her skateboard and inspires kids to believe in their dreams. Rayssa hopes to one day compete in the Olympics.

Meet Josephine

Josephine is a 7-year old artist with a prolific talent. She LOVES to draw. Her images are filled with ball gowns, royal crowns, and always a girl with a smile. Josephine was also born with EDS, a disorder that often makes it very painful for her to move her joints. For weeks on end, sometimes drawing is the only thing she has the strength to do. But Josephine is a shining example of how art can empower even in the face of unyielding struggle. Ever since her mother started sharing her art on Instagram, Josephine has become an inspiration to everyone who follows her. She is an artist-in-residence at Arizona Young Arts Foundation and her art has been in galleries throughout Phoenix. When you buy prints of her art all proceeds go towards helping her family care for her long-term health needs.

Heaven is a dancer. We know this because she told us so when she was on Ellen. We also know this because when the music starts, Heaven's smile widens, her eyes light up, and her talent takes off well beyond her years. When she was two, her mother Tianne, a professional dancer, filmed the two of them dancing to Beyoncé. Their video went viral and the world was captivated by this little girl's natural ability. Heaven is now 5-years old and she still shares her joy for dance on Instagram with her mother by her side. The inspiring duo choreograph music videos, film national commercials and teach dance classes to kids around New York City. Tianne's words echo true for every mom: "Find what it is that your kids enjoy and encourage them to be great at it!"

Do you know a talented kid using social media in a positive way? Let us know in the comments.

An Illustrated Guide: "Must Have's For Baby #2"

When it's time to have your second baby, you naturally reflect on what you learned from your first. Some things you will be eager to do again. But other things you already know you want to avoid. 

Here are three great items I picked out for my second baby, thanks to what I learned from my first:

HATS WITH CHIN TIES

My first child had baskets of hats I bought for her before she was even born. How could I resist? Little bunny ears, fluffy pom poms. All adorable. All impossible to keep on her head, I soon learned. I put them on, she pulled them off. Little old ladies on the street would yell at me, "Your baby is cold!" 

Lesson learned: For my second child, I only used hats that closed around her chin and wrapped over her ears. I saved the cutie-pie hats for her dolls, and the functional hats for our walks outside. They stayed on, they kept her warm, and little old ladies stopped yelling at me.

Baby hats with chin ties save the day

Baby hats with chin ties save the day

BOOSTER SEATS

It was very exciting when my first baby sat in her big, fluffy high chair ready to eat her first solids. It was also very messy. I'd haul the high chair into the shower after a meal and spray it down, scraping all the dry cereal out of the tiny corners. And then I'd drag it back into the kitchen, where it sat, taking up tons of valuable kitchen real estate.

Lesson Learned: For my second baby I used the Fisher-Price Booster Seat. It straps onto our dining room chairs, which means Baby can eat at the table with us (family time!). It's entirely plastic so I just wipe it down with a paper towel after meals. Best of all, I don't have a bulky "baby throne" in the middle of the kitchen anymore. 

Peas for dinner in our favorite Fisher Price Booster Seat 

Peas for dinner in our favorite Fisher Price Booster Seat 

ONESIES

I had two winter babies, so I was always looking for easy way to keep them warm. But hats fell off. Socks disappeared. Sweaters rolled up their bellies. My first baby was in a rotating fashion show because I wanted her to wear all the cute (but kind of impractical) outfits I bought for her.

Lesson Learned: Long sleeve, long pant onesies, with zippers were my everything for the second baby. Many onesies leave their legs bare, or have dozens of buttons (not good for 1 am diaper changes). So when I found onesies that were warm and practical, I collected them in every color. 

Warm arms and legs = Longer naps

Warm arms and legs = Longer naps

Lesson Learned: Solutions that make life easier and Baby happier are the secrets to a mother's sanity.

What tricks did you learn with your second that you wish you had known with your first? 

Making Time For Art When You're A New Mom (4 simple tips)

Packing up the art supplies and spreading out the baby supplies.

Packing up the art supplies and spreading out the baby supplies.

Before I had children, if I had an idea for an illustration, I could dash into my home office and start working on it right away. I could stay up until two in the morning if I wanted, just to work on my art.

Then I had children. My office turned into the nursery. I couldn’t stay awake past 10 pm if I wanted to. There was no time for art just for art's sake, and I questioned whether it was something I should be making time for anyway. But here's what I learned:

If you are an artist, and you remove art-making from your routine entirely, you may be neglecting a big part of your best self.

I realized my approach to art-making was going to have to shift. I set out to find solutions to balance my creative life with this new, wonderful (also hectic, messy, sleepless) life that I had as a mother.

Wherever nap happened, art happened. 

Wherever nap happened, art happened. 

Here are some suggestions:

1. Make a traveling studio

I filled a small backpack with my most essential drawing supplies. Wherever my infant fell asleep for a nap, I pulled out the backpack and spread out next to her. Some days I threw my backpack in the front seat of the car. If the kids fell asleep in their car seats after a fun day in the park, instead of sitting in the car and waiting until they woke up, I opened my travel notebook and began drawing.

2. Set quick timelines and limited colors

I started working smaller and faster. I set my alarm so I knew what time to put down the pencil no matter what. Narrowing down supplies and pre-picking a small palette of colors actually made me more focused.

Sketching out ideas for an illustration on a post-it in the car.

Sketching out ideas for an illustration on a post-it in the car.

3. Create an Art To-Do list

Just because I had morphed into a busy new mom didn't mean creative ideas stopped coming to me. So in addition to my shopping list, I started an “Art To-Do List”. Any time I had an idea for a new drawing, I added it to the list.

Writing down my ideas gave them value, and that felt good.

Later I would scroll through the list to see what I really wanted to make. A lot of things never got made, and that was OK. But if an idea was important to me, I found the time to see it through (and sometimes I made it in the car!).

4. Create with your kids by your side

Spread out paper and supplies and start drawing next to your child. Chances are they are going to want to participate. Don’t worry about an end goal. Just draw. Let your lines overlap with theirs. Let them pick colors for you. Talk about the drawing out loud. You may be surprised to find how freeing it is for you, and how fun it is for them. And if you’re lucky, you just gained a half hour of creativity time with your favorite little person.

During a hot summer day with our cousins, I spread out a tin of crayons on the kitchen table. Everyone happily drew together and I rediscovered how fun crayons are! 

During a hot summer day with our cousins, I spread out a tin of crayons on the kitchen table. Everyone happily drew together and I rediscovered how fun crayons are! 

Your life has changed Mama, that’s just a fact. Maybe you can’t make everything at the speed and the volume that you used to. But if you use that as an excuse to stop producing entirely, you’ll end up feeling empty. 

SO WORK WITHIN THE POCKETS OF TIME YOU HAVE, THE SUPPLIES YOU CAN CARRY, AND SET NEW GOALS THAT ARE ATTAINABLE. 

Through your example, your children will learn that art can exist wherever we are, and with whatever material we can find. And you never know, they might be the one to inspire your next great big idea.

Do you know what it feels like to crave more personal art time? Let us know in the comments if you've found solutions that work for you. 

How to inspire a child's creativity

At the beginning of every school year, when I would stand in front of my new art class facing my elementary-aged students, one child always raised their hand and said, "Just so you know, Ms. Katz, I'm not good at art."

Here's why kids often believe that to be true:

  • Their previous teacher expected them to complete art projects that looked exactly like everyone else's. And they couldn't do it. So they thought they weren't good at art.
  • The only art supplies they had at home were crayons. Holding those tiny sticks was challenging and they couldn't make the lines they wanted. So they thought they weren't good at art.
  • They spent hours drawing spaceships and horses and flowers and all the members of their family on top of a rainbow. And then an adult said, "What is that?" If a grownup couldn't figure it out, that must mean they weren't good at art.
  • Every time their parent sat down to draw with them, the parent announced, "I'm really bad at art." And so, genetically speaking, that must mean they were bad at art, too. 

I was an art teacher for nearly a decade. I speak with certainty when I say that every child is an artist. But something is happening to make them believe they aren't. 

A recent NYT article, "How to Raise a Creative Child", said the best thing you can do is back off. And while that is true in part, let's be honest: It's very hard to back off. In fact, it feels counter-intuitive within progressive parenting. We want to ask our children what they are drawing because it's a way of engaging with them. We want to help them finish their art projects so they feel successful. 

For many well-intentioned parents, "doing art at home" means downloading instructions for DIY snowmen from Pinterest and telling our children to follow the steps. And if they can't, we do it for them. Then we hang it on the wall and say, "Look what you did!" (Even though they didn't).

I was at a library event with my toddler and the kids were given kits to design their own flower garden with stickers. I opened the packet, spread out the pieces on the table and said to my daughter, "Have at it." A few minutes later I looked at the little girl sitting next to us and saw she had lost interest in the project. Her mother however was hard at work, reading the instructions line by line to make sure she put all the flowers in the right place. I don't fault her for this. But I heard my art teacher voice come out as I reassured her, "Don't worry, there isn't just one way to do this." But she believed there was. And she was going to make sure her daughter's garden was done right. 

The academic term for this is product-focused art. Many of us have only had that type of art experience so we naturally pass that on to our children. The emphasis is put on what the art will look like completed. A child's art experience is reduced to a simple evaluation system: It's either finished and on the wall, or it's not. It either looks like what they were expected to make, or it doesn't. And if it doesn't, then they either don't know how to follow instructions, or they're just not that good at art. 

but what happens when we switch THE FOCUS FROM PRODUCT TO PROCESS?

At first it may feel daunting to remove the "finished product" incentive. But there are many fun ways to help a child (and yourself!) enjoy the artistic process.

Exploration and experimentation. 

Exploration and experimentation. 

Vary the materials

  • Instead of using one paintbrush that came with an art kit, put out brushes of all different sizes.
  • Try alternative line-making tools, such as sponges or q-tips.
  • Offer colors that aren't typical, like florescents and intense black.
  • Bring materials out one at a time. This gives the child a chance to focus on one tool, and then revives their curiosity when a new option appears. 

Vary the size and the surface

Drawing on the windows with washable markers (at the Westchester Children's Museum)

Drawing on the windows with washable markers (at the Westchester Children's Museum)

  • Use surfaces with different textures, such as thick cardboard, thin tracing paper, or scratchy wood.
  • Forgo margins: Paint vertically on windows, or finger paint directly on a table.
  • Try tiny post-it notes and then large mural paper that everyone draws on together.
  • Use nature as a resource. Paint on leaves or with branches.

Up the quality

Child-friendly art materials can be pretty weak. Often times the paper doesn't absorb water well, or the paint is so thin that it barely has any saturation. This defeats the purpose of having a child explore color. I suggest buying better stuff. It doesn't have to be expensive to be good, but it does have to be good to be worth it. Such as:

My 2-year old got more experimental with her art when the supplies I gave her could handle it.  

My 2-year old got more experimental with her art when the supplies I gave her could handle it.  

Spark a conversation

Instead of: "What did you draw?", try: "Can you tell me about your drawing?"

Instead of: "This is what we're going to make", suggest: "Let's see what happens when we try this."

A child being led through product-focused art will likely say, "I'm done" when they see the art is finished (or when they're told by an adult that they're finished). But a child engaged in process-driven art will often ask, "Can I do another one?"  

Don't make predictions

You should not know what is going to happen when a child starts to create. The element of surprise is a good thing. Setting parameters that help a child reach certain learning goals is great (such as color theory or conceptual themes) but ultimately the child is the artist. Unexpected outcomes are a sign that real exploration occurred. 

As a professional artist, I'm happy to admit that for every drawing I share with the world, there are pages of sketches that I don't. The reason I can draw someone's portrait is not simply because I'm "good at art." Of course natural talent helps. But talent is worthless without practice.

Everyday I challenge myself as an artist. I experiment and make decisions and erase and redraw and observe and push through. The end product is a result of my process. My commitment to the process is what makes me an artist.