January 24, 2011

A Post About Art and Your Kids

In case you haven't heard me say it enough (and I apologize if you have), I used to be an art teacher. Which meant many long hours in courses like "Teaching Art and Visual Culture" and "Perspectives in Art Education" (to be honest, I'd be flummoxed in explaining the syllabus to you, now 5+ years later).

Obviously I subscribe to a lot of art blogs, which provide a plethora of fun craft ideas and art experiences that I try to incorporate in the daily doings with my son.
In one recent RSS entry, I found myself getting a bit peeved about a certain topic, something highbrow art ed students used to label "make and take" projects.  Now I know there's a fabulous blog out there with a similar name, and let me be clear that this post has nothing to do with that blog. 
It actually has to do with a post from a blog written by an art teacher, one who is big into "make and take" projects, which are basically cookie-cutter activities that are assembled by kids, factory style.  The kind where all the kids in a class use a certain kind of color with a certain kind of gimmicky technique (like salt on watercolor, etc.), so that all the final pieces of art look nearly identical.

One of my beliefs regarding art and young kids is that they should be mostly left to their own devices, to scribble and dabble and explore materials, not be shown how to make a specific  landscape and then glue a pre-cut tree or animal on top.
Yes, these kinds of art projects makes an impressive display for grown-ups to admire when visiting school hallways, and it probably makes older kids satisfied, knowing that they made a conventionally-pretty piece of art. However, I believe it kills the creative spirit that comes so naturally in children.  I often think of Picasso's famous words, "Every child is an artist. The problem is how to remain an artist once we grow up."
So parents, let your kids explore, make a mess (within reason), and most importantly, make mistakes.  Bring out the art materials, and casually lay them out on the table for the kids to experiment with.  If you're feeling brave, you might even just walk away for a bit, and see what happens (other than crayons on the wall, which are easily removed with Goo Gone).
Or better yet, find creative outlets in the mud of your garden or the shaving cream in your bathtub.  Scribbles and blots can be even lovelier than a pre-cut elephant on a beige Savannah.


  1. I agree. Get a magic erasure and they can really do no wrong. :) Takes off crayon and marker like a dream.

  2. I so agree! Sometimes it's hard to let go and let them take the reigns, but it's so worth it when you do, you get a peek into their world, their imagination and it's beautiful.

  3. The creative process is so beautiful, and it's delightful to see it budding in moments here and there. I'm not informed about art philosophy, and enjoy all sorts of crafts (canned ones, too), but I have been reaching out myself to freer creative processes. The book Journal Spilling helps me let go of my anxieties about perfection and What It Is helps me let go of trying to make something "pretty." These are very hard inhibitions to let go, but it is exhilarating to try!
    Oh, and we are going to paint tonight as a family activity. It was Kidoodle's request! I can hardly wait for The Man to come home.

  4. I agree...who want to see a piece of art, created by an adult and assembled by a child? Not I!!

    The "magic" of art making is largely in the process with children. And honestly, that's the best part to watch! :)

  5. Amen!
    I remember way back to when I taught preschool. Our director came into my class and told me what pictures to display and what art work I should be doing. All for the sake of looking "good" in her eyes. Boy was I fuming!!!

  6. I've noticed that my daughter's art class does not always challenge her to be creative or "color outside the lines." Too often I think she's wanting her pictures to look like what the other kids are making and too busy comparing that she's forgetting her own talents in the process. Yes, it's so important to get out those art supplies at home and just let the kids go to work! Great post.

  7. You know Kathleen, I couldn't have said it ANY better myself! Honestly, more schools and programs need teachers like you who understand this importance rather then just telling children what they need to do and making it so uniform.

    It really IS important letting them be creative in their own right!

  8. Oh yes, I agree too! You know what I'm not sure I like...I don't know how a piece of art can be graded. It seems kinda silly. My son just brought home the most creative beautiful painted and sculpted paper mache mask. I was very impressed! He got an A-. Now granted, I am happy he got an A, but come on, an A-...I'm not sure I get that. I don't even really think it should be graded at all. I'm confused...what do you think about that? Anyhow, I'm glad you posted this because now I feel inspired to get out all the art supplies and let the kids go to town!

  9. It seems to me the only good thing many of those projects are good for are the adult supervising the project. We have come to a time where people have gotten lazy and don't want to deal with messes or "out of the box" ideas. It really is a shame; why would we want our children to all fit into one box anyway? Makes for a boring, and not very vivid, future.


I'm a good listener...comment away!

Related Posts with Thumbnails