The Best Places for Kids to Get Creative in Los Angeles

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Photo courtesy of Rolling Robots

Kids like making stuff. But not every parent has the patience or wherewithal to come up with a project on demand. Sure there’s always good old paper and crayons. But we live in Los Angeles, where there are all sorts of businesses that cater to creative kids. Many offer drop-in options, which means zero commitment. And no advance planning is required. So whether it’s throwing a clay pot, crafting a puppet or decorating a cake, little artists can get their muse on.

Barnsdall Art Park



On Sundays 10 a.m. to noon, up to 100 visitors gather at Barnsdall Art Park to make art. Sometimes whole families, grandparents included, arrive en masse. Some stay the entire time, others for just 20 minutes. The projects change each week and travel the globe. One week it might be golden headdresses from Thailand, another time it’s Aztec shields from Mexico. One thing you won’t get at these workshops is templates. “We never want anyone’s project to look the same,” says Shelah Lehrer-Graiwer, executive director of Barnsdall Arts, which produces the events.

Bitter Root Pottery



With all due respect to the many pottery painting studios around town, Bitter Root is the real McCoy - a full deal pottery studio where you make designs from scratch, whether on the wheel or by hand. On Saturdays and Sundays, they offer morning drop-in classes for kids ages 6-11. Parents are encouraged to grab a coffee in the neighborhood, so as not to put a damper on their child’s creativity - let’s face it, parents sometimes do this, despite good intentions. Kids come up with a game plan, perhaps a dinosaur or a cereal bowl, and staff help guide them. The classes are first come, first served and regularly fill up, so it’s worth arriving early. Fortunately the studio just doubled in size, which means more room for little artists.

Duff's Cakemix



You know the expression, “Like a kid in a candy store.” Well it could easily be, “Like a kid in a cake decorating store,” because kids love creating with fondant and buttercream at Duff’s Cakemix. They can choose either cupcakes or a 6-inch cake. (The former is recommended for the youngest ones.) The beautiful thing about doing this here rather than your home kitchen is that you won’t be cleaning hot pink frosting off the dining room chairs and hunting for errant sprinkles on the floor. Note that kids 15-years-old and under should be accompanied by an adult. Also, you can now make reservations online for weekday slots.

UCLA

Fowler Museum at UCLA



You can add the Fowler Museum’s Kids in the Courtyard series to the “best things in life are free” list. The events take place one Sunday a month and introduce kid-friendly projects based on current exhibitions. Recent examples include a pop-up book making session and craft a comb. Turns out there’s a lot one can do with a regular store-bought comb, faux jewels, foam and googly eyes. Family Jam, another once a month Sunday happening - also gratis - has a maker component too. Audience members are invited to make something - often an instrument - related to the performance. For a recent Flamenco show, kids and grown-ups made taps for their shoes. Olé!

Kidspace Children's Museum



Kidspace Children’s Museum usually offers one or two of their special Kid Workshops each month. Designed for children ages 5-8, the 45-minute classes, all taught by enthusiastic staff educators, cover a diverse range of topics, from lapidary to rockets. In the fall, expect the return of a couple of favorites: dissecting a pumpkin and candle making. The classes are hands-on and generally fill up ahead of time. All workshops are $7 per child with accompanying adult, in addition to regular museum admission. And don’t forget to visit the Imagination Workshop where they present two different art projects daily. On a recent visit, kids were creating beautiful stained glass windows with crayon shavings.

Leanna Lin’s Wonderland



Leanna Lin’s eponymous five-year-old business is first off a gift shop and art gallery. But at its heart is the Jewelry Studio. Lin, a jewelry designer, wanted to give her customers a chance to create too. So she assembled a collection of beads, all stored in glass mason jars, including plenty of what she calls “kawaii” (cute) charms. Kids can design their own earrings, bracelet or necklace using professional bead trays. Prices start at $12 for earrings. “I give them a nylon coated stainless steel wire with a signature closure,” says Lin. “It’s not a stretchy bracelet (or necklace). It’s meant to last.” Lin encourages young designers to do as much of the work themselves as possible. “It’s part of the process.”

What’s more fun than going to a puppet show? Making your own puppet and bringing it to life. Every couple of months, Puppet School Los Angeles offers a two-hour workshop for kids ages 5-11. Students start by making the puppet structure. Then they choose a fleece body and start adding eyes, hair and accessories. “Boys and girls, they both go nuts,” says teacher Sherry Layne. Boys tend toward monster puppets and girls towards maximum feathers, she adds. But really anything goes. At the end of class, Layne leads improv games “so that they can start playing with the puppet and making it a character.”

Purple Twig



Saturdays are dedicated to open studio at Purple Twig. They supply a tantalizing assortment of materials, and kids go to town. Each month, the menu of materials changes. One month it might be pinecones and glitter, beads and ribbon. Another it might be scrap wood, with sandpaper for sanding, along with fabric and sequins. One kid might fashion an airplane, one a castle and another an abstract sculpture. “We always give examples,” says owner Samara Caughey. “We don’t want anyone to feel insecure.” Parents are welcome to join in or tuck into a good book in the reading corner. There’s even a drop-off option for kids 5 and up.

reDiscover Center



The shelves at reDiscover Center are filled with fabric swatches, egg cartons, buttons, ribbons, decorative paper, corks, tennis balls, yarn, and a bunch more cool stuff all neatly organized and ready to be turned into fabulous, never-before-seen creations. That’s exactly what happens on Saturdays and Sundays during open recycled art. What comes out of this controlled chaos? Doll houses, robots, and a dazzling assortment of inventions. It’s $7 a project and nearly all the materials are recycled. So you can feel good about not buying another cheap, plastic art kit made in another country.

Rolling Robots



Rolling Robots is a godsend, especially for parents who aren’t mechanically inclined, but who somehow ended up with offspring who can disassemble and assemble electronics like nobody’s business. The folks who work here know their stuff and are really good with kids. Technically, one can do a drop-in to nearly any class. But a fun way for newbies to dip in is to gather a group of four buddies and set up a Build A Bot session. Your group gets their very own instructor for one hour. And each child can make the robot of their choosing - perhaps a propeller racer or doodling robot. Robot kits are an additional expense.