Spokane County libraries’ family painting parties prove popular for all ages

April 11, 2019

The Spokane County Library District is offering Family Painting Parties at many branches this spring in a new program that is proving to be quite popular.

Three sessions have been offered so far and they have been nearly full, said Public Services Manager for Early Learning Mary Ellen Braks. “Everyone had such a great time,” she said. “They’re asking when we’re gong to do it again.”

The program is modeled after one offered at the Pierce County Library that was presented at an early learning conference, Braks said. It’s for children ages 4 to 8 and their parents.

“The adults are active participants,” Braks said. “Everybody gets a canvas.”

Each session starts with a story time featuring a book that focuses on shapes like triangles and circles. Each participant is asked to pick their favorite shape and paint it. The children are then asked why they picked that particular shape and why they painted it the color and size that they did.

“They’re really talking about it in a way that uses rich vocabulary,” she said. “They’re really talking about the physical attributes of the shape. That shape is a starting point for their art. They turn that shape into an artistic creation.”

The possibilities are endless, really. A circle could be turned into a sun and a triangle could become a sail on a sailboat. Some people paint patterns. It’s an open-ended process and people aren’t all trying to paint the same thing, Braks said.

The goal of the program is to teach literacy and math skills in a way that doesn’t seem like work, Braks said.

“The thing about art is that it really helps develop your cognitive skills,” she said. “It’s just another way to make math more accessible. People are afraid of math, so let’s put math in a different context.”

Painting also helps children develop their fine motor skills, Braks said. “These beginning skills get them ready for school.”

The sessions use washable paint just in case young artists end up getting it all over themselves or the floor. The mess created by young children painting can be a deterrent for some people, Braks said. “Painting is messy,” she said. “Maybe you don’t want to do it at home, but you can do it here and we’ll clean it up.”

After everyone is finished with their creation, they get a chance to look at what other people in the group painted. Everyone gets to take their painting home so it can be hung on the wall and appreciated.

Everyone seems to enjoy the family friendly activity, she said. “It’s a really great program,” she said. “It’s a really great family experience. The parents are enjoying it as much as the kids.”

Additional sessions are coming up at the Otis Orchards, Argonne, Deer Park, Moran Prairie, Spokane Valley, Cheney and Medical Lake branches. Advance registration is required so organizers know how many canvases to purchase, Braks said. People can sign up online through the event calendar at www.scld.org.

“This is the first time we’ve done it and we already know we’ll likely do it again,” Braks said.