Give Your Students a Winter Break Art Challenge!

I distinctly remember my Elementary art teacher giving us a winter break art challenge. She sent home a slip of paper with all of the students with an optional creative activity or drawing task for each day. If we turned in the slip upon returning from break, we would get a prize. I remember working so hard each day to complete the assigned tasks. I remember how it felt to be handed my first paint palette as the prize, and I remember how one of my drawings impressed her so much, she laminated it for me (woo hoo) I still have that drawing today. (Did I mention this was when I was a 1st grader?)

Obviously this whole art challenge ordeal had a huge impact on me. So, what did I decide to carry on when I became an art teacher some years later? The winter break art challenge, of course!

This doesn’t take a lot of time or money, but will be a hit with so many of your students, who truly do get bored during break and crave the structure that school assignments bring. Here is a sample of the daily activities I’ve given to my students to use over break. I am sure you can think of a million other ideas to add to this list based upon your student population, their ages, and interests. Feel free to download mine as a PDF, or use it as inspiration to make your own.

Giving a winter break art challenge can help signify to students and parents that art is important. It reminds kids that practicing their craft (just like any other sport, hobby or career) will help them improve. It also helps advocate for your art program by keeping “art” at the “heart” of family priorities both in and out of school.

Do you send home a winter break art challenge, or something similar?
What other ideas do you have for keeping art “alive and well” with your students and their families?

Jessica Balsley

Jessica Balsley is the Founder and President at AOE. She is passionate about helping art teachers enhance their lives and careers through relevant professional development.


  • I was planning to send home a drawing exercise reinforcing drawing shapes and objects like cylinders. I like your idea of a drawing challenge but am not sure how I can pull off the “prize” part in an affordable way. I could have close to 400 prizes to give out if all kids handed it back in. 
    What prizes do you give out for the older kid? Whenever I mention prize, kids say “pizza party? “iPod?”, etc. 

    • Sure! I totally get it. I think my prizes were things I’d collected over time like sample paints and colored pencils, even just a pencil or eraser. I didn’t spend a lot of money. The big prizes were small sketchbooks and paint palettes, but really you wouldn’t even need to do prizes. I had on average under 30 kids turn it back in. They could even put their name on something to post on a bulletin board as recognition they did the activity instead. Bookmarks are also cheap and well received. Good luck!

      • Thanks Jessica! I’m going to give it a’s better to give the option anyway :) By the way, thanks so much for a post you made over a year ago about Blocks in the art room. Whoa! You are a has been amazing to feel the energy the kids get from the option of the blocks and they LOVE the hall of fame!!

        • You are welcome! The blocks are always a hit! I am glad it helped.

  • erica

    Like this!  A LOT. I am going to pin it. Right now though I have NO Copy Paper (our district doesn’t provide) and I’ve bought so many paper towels and copy paper that I need to wait until after xmas to buy anything more for school. For the days when I work in a place I can do this! I do LOVE THIS IDEA! 

    • Could you send this in an email? Have the classroom teachers forward it on to their parent lists? Glad you like it!

      • erica

        getting an e-mail list together of parents is a fantastic thing to do. I should do this next years open house. Maybe then I could send out quick e-mails for help needed or things like this. 

      • Erica

        FYI teachers this week staples has a coupon for free copy paper!!! No excuses. You have to be on their mailing list.

      • Claire

        Awesome! I may have read this a bit late to send it out this year… if I had an art room web site (next year’s goal), I could post it there!!

        • Good thinking!
          You could even do this for Spring Break (if you have one) or summer.

  • Amgentili

    Thank you! Once again you have saved me a lot of work!

  • Mcbartos

    This is a great idea for break. I actually did something similar to this over the summer but a bit different. I set up a separate email address for students to send me pics of their summer art projects. I only had three. But I then printed and posted their pics for everyone to see. They all received a paint container. Another thing I do to promote art at home is have a share day to bring in art from home. The way our schedule works I see a third of the students one extra art class a week on Fridays. Then at 12 week intervals it changes to a different third. They are allowed to bring in 1 thing that they made at home ( not something they made for another teacher a previous year or for cub scouts or something like that). I want them to know that making art on your own can be fun and easy. I have really had some nice things. I do however get some students who bring things in that they obviously didn’t make. But it all is fine. It makes the students feel good.

  • Pingback: A Wonderful Way to Engage Students At Home | The Art of Ed()

  • Susan

    At the beginning of the year I give my 4th graders(the oldest level I teach) what I call a “creativity challenge” Because art materials are hard to come by for my students I always make the challenge about creating something out of recycled materials. This year they were challenged to make something using recycled plastic water bottle bottoms. I saved a couple hundred over the summer so I was able to give each 4th grader 2 to get started. I gave them a deadline(after Thanksgiving break) to have their work ready for judging. All project were turned in anonamously in a bag (I gave them a number) , displayed and then voted on by all of the 4th grade classes. For prizes I give them something they deem”cool” that’s been sitting on my desk-usually something I’m happy to give away. Last year it was a ceramic box shaped like a cupcake, another year it was one of those smiley face lamps that spins around as it heats up ( I have no idea why I bought it in the first place)and this year it was a huge amethyst paper weight I’d picked up at a thrift store. Making something extraordinary from the ordinary always gets their creative juices flowing. The one draw back is not being able to control parents who want to take over the project for their child. Since the students do the judging, not me, I do ask them to consider this.

  • This is so great! I’m definetely going to use this!