As we near the end of 2023 and the experiences we’ve had over the past year, parents and caregivers can use the arts as a tool to reflect with young people, promoting a sense of agency for the growth and discoveries of the year. Many products and toys that claim to bring happiness and learning into our lives drive childrens’ activities to predetermined outcomes. But creative art experiences, like the ones shared below, allow young people to use their understanding of the art form and intuition to reflect on their experiences, while also sharing their creativity with others. When adults encourage artistic practices, self-reflection and open-ended expression, we foster an authentic sense of happiness and satisfaction that comes from within.

As a parent or caregiver, you don’t need special artistic talent or skill to have creative arts experiences at home.  A few simple tools and activities and a loving connection are all you need! The teaching artists partnering with Young Audiences Arts for Learning New Jersey & Eastern Pennsylvania (YA) are experts in guiding young people through artistic experiences that prioritize our sense of connection with each other. Storyteller and visual artist Rebecca Kelly and photographer Erik James Montgomery are two Young Audiences teaching artists whose artistry will help us to open our eyes, ears and hearts to remembering and celebrating our relationships with each other.

Try This At Home–A Creative Map of 2023

Rebecca Kelly’s Arts Connection Resource is an interactive reading of Sara Fanelli’s The Map Book. The art-focused and fun resource guides viewers through the process of noticing and remembering details of the people, places and comforts experienced each day.

You too can support young people to remember their experiences. Consider viewing your 2023 digital photo album as a way to remember the details of your year or try the prompt “When you think about the past year, what do you remember about our time together?”

Use these 4 steps to guide your young artist to create a 2023 memory map of their own.

You will need blank paper or the blank side of a cardboard box and colored pens, crayons or markers. 

  • STEP 1: Draw three of your favorite 2023 experiences and places. Include the important family, friends or teachers you were with.
  • STEP 2: Share why you selected these experiences.
  • STEP 3: Draw three experiences or places you would like to have more time to explore. Include the important people who will join you.
  • STEP 4: Add color, shape, curly, straight or wavy lines to your memory map.

Try This At Home–The Creative 2023 Photo Album

Like the creation of a memory map, documenting the year through photography is a wonderful way to reflect on the details of our life together. Taking photographs that archive the environment we live in and our experiences helps us to notice details and remember our time together.  By allowing young people to make creative choices with photography and be the photographer, they share their perspectives and preferences.

Activity 1:  The Moment

You may already have hundreds of photos in your digital photo album from the past year. This activity slows down the process and encourages you and your young person to create photos together.  Families can work together to take candid photos of their surroundings, or a special moment of your day to create a story for their album. These stories will serve to reflect on the activities of the past year.

While taking photographs, talk with your young person:

  • What is important to you about this moment, this place or this experience?
  • How do you want to frame your photograph? Do you want to be up close, from a distance or somewhere in between?
  • How do you want to hold the camera? Will you use a tilt, horizontal or vertical position?

Tilt     or     Horizontal




Activity 2: Creating a Portrait

Explore a different style of photography by creating portraits. Portraits have the power to help young people internalize a positive self-image and celebrate their growth over time. The concept of the self-portrait dates back to the early 1800s. Around this time, Frederick Douglass became the most photographed man of the 19th century, with historians recognizing him as “The Father to the Selfie.” Today the selfie has become a form of individualized self-expression.

Young Audiences teaching artist Erik James Montgomery’s Make Your Own Portraits Resource is a fun activity that helps us to use photography to develop our attention to each other while fostering togetherness and community belonging.

While taking portraits, talk with your young person and experiment:

  1. Where should this portrait take place? In front of a simple background or in a special location.
  2. Where and how is your subject looking? Are they using smiles or serious expressions?
  3. What lighting would you like to use? Natural light, with flash, or without?

Once you’ve gathered your portraits and your new photographs together in your Creative 2023 Photo Album, spend time with the collection, and share it with other family members. Use your discoveries from these interactive and collaborative activities to create a 2023 Family Motto! Gather with your loved ones and begin to share one quality that’s appreciated about each person, use these qualities to co-create a family motto. For example; Open Heart, Generous Souls, and Picturing Love working together for a synchronous whole.

Collaborating through these arts experiences will give families the opportunity to not only reflect on the past year but also discover new ways to stay connected throughout the coming year. Making artistic collaborations a part of your weekly routines will create meaningful memories and new family traditions that may encourage your loved ones to explore other forms of creativity. Enter the new year by encouraging family togetherness through the arts!

This article was written by Michelle Marigliano, Rebecca Kelly and Erik James Montgomery.

The mission of Young Audiences is to inspire young people and expand their learning through the arts. Since our founding in 1973, YA has grown into the region’s largest arts education organization. Early work focused on introducing children to classical music. Today, YA is a valued school partner, providing teaching artist-led programming across all art forms and numerous cultures. We are a proud member of the national network Young Audiences, Inc., comprised of 31 autonomous affiliates.

Michelle L. Marigliano is the Senior Director of Education & Equity at YA whose passions center around the development, coordination, and implementation of student-centered arts-based initiatives. She supports programs such as workshops, residencies, and adult professional learning programs making sure that each program brings experience, understanding, creativity, and connection.


Rebecca Kelly is a multidisciplinary artist, storyteller, textile and book artist, and curator. Her students’ Book Arts work was exhibited at the Guggenheim Museum’s Learning through Art Exhibition. Rebecca is an experienced educator and holds a Master’s Degree in Child Development from Sarah Lawrence College.




Erik James Montgomery, owner of EJM Photography, is a self-taught fine art photographer who creates relevant, thought-provoking, visually unique imagery. His viewpoint is from a photojournalistic standpoint where his imagery tells a complete story in one photograph.

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Two Activities to Try at Home to Nurture Your Child’s Creativity