I keep going back to my favorite art idea book, Discovering Great Artists: Hands-On Art for Children in the Styles of the Great Masters, which I have been using for a few years now with all three girls and I still marvel at what they come up with. They draw and paint almost every day, but when I take the time to really put an "art class" together and we read a little about the artist each project in the book is inspired by and I show them some photos of the original pieces online, (the books doesn't contain any photos of actual pieces) it really is special. I know they get excited about the formality of it all—they are so free to do their own thing, that's the norm for them, so something prepared with some parameters really excites them and forces them to try new ideas and techniques that are unfamiliar to them. I help, so they don't seem overwhelmed/frustrated, especially with the 6-year old.
Using the Discovering Great Artists Book, these boxes were inspired by the artist Louise Nevelson. Her wood box scupltures. She would use scrap wood and found objects and then paint the sculpture one color. The girls gathered up bits and bobs from the house and outside. Then we got out the glue gun and some epoxy for the rocks and got to work. They really dig them and have them up in their rooms.
We have done triptychs from this book too, along with so many other projects. It's great for when I am having a "what are we doing today?" homeschooling moment and I can tell we need to get our hands dirty.
Then, if the stars align* and I am not dealing with a paint emergency, we talk about the historical context— was there a war happening? What were other artists up to at this time? What were some of the major themes in the artists work? What was happening musically at that time? I stream music from that era while we work, or later while we are cleaning up. Pete's music degree comes in handy here. It's a great way to thread history together while we are gluing and painting.
*Sometimes we only talk about what we are going to have for lunch, the ideal vacation, and tell fart jokes.