Professional Practice

Art Ninjas: The Most Fun You’ll Ever Have Outside of Your Classroom

As art teachers, we invest our time growing the artistic practice of others by encouraging their creativity and passion for expression. That’s the way it should be. But, too often, our creative outlets fall at the end of the daily “to-do” list. When you factor in important family responsibilities, it begins to feel nearly impossible to carve out time for personal art making.

I am definitely guilty of this. I am an “art teacher mom” of two young daughters (who are my entire world), but I find myself using my children as the excuse for why I don’t make art. Between lesson planning, laundry, soccer practice, and cooking dinner, I sometimes convince myself that art making is a luxury that this momma can’t afford.

But, we all know the truth; a car can’t run without gasoline, and an art teacher can’t thrive without a personal creative outlet.

So, I am on a personal mission to change my internal script, to stop making my kids the excuse and start treating them as the reason why.

mom and daughter holding painty hands

Even though I know art making is a necessity, it feels self-indulgent sometimes. No sooner do I sit down to work and the guilt creeps in. I was away from my girls all day, and now I am drawing when we could be reading aloud or snuggling together. For me, being “away” is the crux of the problem, and my search to create art making experiences “together” has developed an unusual solution.

Together, my husband, daughters, and I make up the “Midnight Place Craft Ninjas.”  We are a group of semi-anonymous art “superheroes” who make art together and deliver it to an unsuspecting public under the cover of darkness. Yes, this is definitely as weird as it sounds…and we have costumes.

But, this wacky system is working for us. Let me share a few reasons why.

daughter with craft ninja outfit on

1. It’s hard to deny the “kid buy in” for an endeavor as crazy as this one

My daughters are hooked. We took a process that normally left me isolated (momma painting alone) and turned it into a family affair.

Here is how it goes…

  1. We choose a target.
    This is usually someone we know and love in the community.
  2. We create a piece of art.
    Honestly, it usually is something more to the craft side of arts and crafts, but hey, we are making something outside of school!
  3. We anonymously deliver it “ding dong ditch” style at night.
  4. We wear custom karate suits and go for ice cream afterward.

Sometimes, I think personal art making is a lot like working out: we know it is good for us, and we have only the best of intentions, but it is hard to get motivated to do it alone. Having a friend remind you about a running date gets you out there running. Having super excited kids to remind you about art ninjas gets you painting. The “kid buy in” literally demands the art making.

2. Art teacher parental guilt is unique, and this seems to temper mine.

There is something beautifully rewarding and simultaneously heartbreaking about expending all your energy creating with other people’s kids all day long. I come home drained and exhausted for my own precious children. My heart was crushed the weeknight my youngest asked if she could “sign up for Art Crafters” so we could play together. This is not what I want for my daughters. I want them to grow up feeling like they worked alongside me, as collaborators, while I tried my best to live my passion through my own art. I want my kids to remember I gave them the best of myself as mother and an artist, that I saved the “good stuff” for them. I give my art students everything I’ve got every day, but I save “Art Ninjas” for my own kids, and no one can take that memory away from them.

So, will I always go to these bizarre and extreme lengths to fit art making into my personal life? Probably not. Having young kids is a beautiful and temporary season in my life as an art teacher, and this is what works for me, for now.

But what about YOU? Are you satisfied with your personal art making practice? Or are excuses keeping you from fulfilling your artistic desires? Art teachers are a creative and dynamic group of people. We TEACH creativity, so I simply cannot accept that we can’t come up with innovative solutions to fit our artistic practice into our daily lives…even if the solutions are truly weird!

So, this is YOUR call to action! What personal hurdles keep you from making art outside of work? What would it take to overcome these hurdles?

What creative ways have you found to integrate your artistic practice into your daily life?

Magazine articles and podcasts are opinions of professional education contributors and do not necessarily represent the position of the Art of Education University (AOEU) or its academic offerings. Contributors use terms in the way they are most often talked about in the scope of their educational experiences.


Lindsey Moss

Lindsey Moss, an elementary school art educator, is AOEU’s Content Specialist and a former AOEU Writer. She enjoys art history and finding creative and fun solutions to educational challenges.

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