I love contests that encourage kids to create art and write, and there are actually some really fun opportunities in our area for kids to win great prizes by using their imagination to write and to make art!
A few of my top tips to ensure your kids do their best work and have fun:
- Check deadlines carefully to make sure your entries are on time. Most contests are pretty strict, and it'd be such a bummer to work hard but be ineligible because you mailed or emailed a day late!
- Check other details carefully too--I entered one of the University of Iowa writing contests recently (more info below!) and realized after submitting that my computer's default font wasn't one of their approved fonts.
- Consider printing coloring sheets on cardstock (I buy the cheapest brand from walmart) if using wet mediums like paint, markers, watercolors, glue, etc so that the paper doesn't get a tear in it.
- Let your kids do the work! Kids art should look like (talented!) kids did it, and while it can be tempting to step in and "fix" it, this doesn't help your kids improve their own writing or artistic abilities, it doesn't give them confidence that their work stands for itself, and it makes an uneven playing field for competitors who are doing the work all themselves. Some of the contests have adult divisions and you should totally enter those!
- Look at their art and read their writing before they submit and tell them something you truly love about it whether they win or lose.
- Celebrate! Finishing a contest entry and submitting it is a cause for celebration in my book and the actual results are also cool but separate. Contests are fun, but make sure your kids know that what you admire is their hard work and creativity, and that their worth in your eyes is not tied to what the judges ultimately decide about their work.
Without further ado, here are some of the great local, regional, and state-level opportunities to enter contests and competitions with those wonderful pieces of writing and artwork:
South Dakota Student Art Contest
This annual art contest run by the South Dakota Arts Council and the governor of South Dakota is open to K-12th grade students in South Dakota enrolled in public or private schools or who are homeschooled, and looks for the best 2D student art for 4 different age groups within that broader range (K-2nd, 3rd-5th, 6th-8th, and 9th-12th grades)
Winners get to have their art displayed at the state capital in Pierre from January through September 2023 and have the option of choosing to sell their art at the end of the exhibition.
Upcoming or most recent deadline: The online portal for submissions will be open from September 16h, 2022 to November 11th, 2022.
For more information: Visit the South Dakota Arts Council website.
Book People Bookmark Art
Kids are invited to create their own bookmarks based on their favorite books for this fun competition from locally owned bookstore Book People.
Winners have their bookmarks turned into bookmarks that are given out at Book People, and the winners get $50 to Book People plus 50 copies of their bookmark design to use and to share with friends and family!
Upcoming or most recent deadline: 2022 entries were due by April 30th, 2022, and winners announced during Children's Book Week in early May.
For more information: Visit the Book People website
Lewis & Clark Interpretive Center Kids Art Contest
Each spring, the Lewis & Clark Interpretive Center holds a kids art contest with prizes for winners and displays all the great artwork!
For more information, visit the Lewis & Clark Interpretive Center site.
Sioux City Historical Preservation
This local contest focuses on the history of Sioux City, and invites kids from Pre-K to high school to enter coloring and/or essay contests to share their love of local lore. The contest is sponsored by the Sioux City Historic Preservation Committee and comes with a prize! In 2021, the prize included gift cards from Palmer's Candy!
This contest was most recently held in October 2021 and May of 2022. I don't know if they are switching to May permanently or rotating the time of Historic Preservation Week each year, but I'll update when I hear something new!
For more information, watch the Sioux City Historic Preservation Committee website and social media
University of Iowa Write Now
The University of Iowa has a world-renowned writing lab, and as part of the fun they host flash writing contests for all ages several times a year! To enter, follow their prompts to write a short piece, then submit it online.
Winners get cool Hawkeye writer gear like notebooks, pens, and more!
The most recent contest was a 100-word micro story contest in July of 2022 and according to their site, they are holding a "Hawkeye Haiku" contest sometime in November. They usually have multiple contests per year.
For more information visit the University of Iowa Write Now page.
State Fish Art & Essay Contests
There's a national "state fish art" competition run by a group called Wildlife Forever based in Minnesota, and while kids in grades K-12 from every state are welcome to enter, some states like Nebraska also have state-level prizes from the Game and Parks department! Grades K-3 enter just an illustration of a fish from the official fish list on the contest website, and grades 4-12 enter their fish illustration plus an essay about their fish!
The most recent contest deadline was March 31, 2022.
For more information, visit the State Fish Art contest website.
County and State Fairs
Iowa, Nebraska, and South Dakota and the Siouxland counties in each state are home to some of the best fairs in the world, and all of the state fairs and most of the county fairs have open class art contests for kids. The Iowa State Fair also has a kids coloring contest that is separate from the open class fine arts division, and which is free to enter!
Most of the county fairs in the area are in late June, July, or early August, and the state fairs in August.