- These activities hold their interest for a lot longer than the typical 3 minutes any other activity earns.
- It sparks their imagination – often leading to long narratives of adventure and creativity.
- It gets them working with their hands, and they get to exercise their motor skills.
Such as scissors – because we want them to start cutting each others’ hair and their books as soon as possible, for some reason. Why do we give them scissors so happily?
|Working out our homemade playdough.
While I have a background in education, it is not an Early Childhood specialty. I am still very much a novice when it comes to ages under 12. And when I see these “pinned” photos of gorgeous crafts that children have participated in, I have to wonder: how much input did their parents have? And is that a good or bad thing?
My good friend, The Internet, helped me find a couple of articles discussing this very subject. It’s all about the difference between “process” and “product”. There is discovery in the act of crafting (the process), so long as the teacher isn’t heavy-handed in his or her approach. The result (the product) shouldn’t be a carbon copy of anybody else’s. There should be individuality in each finished piece.
|Lucy’s giving a side eye, while wearing her abstract-art crown. Lila pasted googly eyes to the tips of her crown. Lots of eyeballing here!
I admit that I present most of these crafts to the girls with idealistic visions of perfectly finished products. The handprints will definitely look like turkeys; the papier-mache eggs will not end up looking like papier-mache lumps. My children will showcase their talents through their art! It will be a beautiful thing!
And then real life happens. Kids have their own ideas. They have tantrums. They want to put glitter where you want to glue pom-poms. It’s no longer a Kodak moment.
Sweet Pyjama Lucy – my stubborn little mule – often resists my “guidance” in crafts. She usually bails halfway through the project and heads off to build train tracks. Lila is much more interested in where our art is headed, but she has always been interested in the workings of pencils, paint, and glue.
When left to her own devices, Lila draws people. She draws her family, she draws her dog, she draws all of her classmates from preschool. Lately, dragons have been showing up as well (mostly because Lucy is afraid of them, and any opportunity to drive her sister to the brink is one that Lila will take).
Her independent art is messy, and colorful, and wild. It’s also oftentimes very short-lived.
Robin Schirrmacher, one of the authors linked above, writes, “With no input from others, children can sometimes become bored and even frustrated with experiences that invite only independent experimentation.” And I think that makes perfect sense. It’s why so many of us use magazines, plans, or online communities. We sometimes need a nudge to our creative selves; we are inspired by others and their success.
It’s true that our society values creativity: we admire those who stand out from the pack and put their own mark on the world. However, there are times when you have to adhere to guidelines. You have to work through the process in order to get to the product. Hell, most of Pinterest is based on that – it is almost an entirely product-based collection of ideas.
I think what I’m learning from all of this research and contemplation and “pinning” is that I need to mix it up when it comes to arts and crafts. It is not a disaster if the colours are outside of the lines. And if the eyes for the spider are on its butt, well then I should have a good laugh with the four year old who cannot stop giggling about it.
I will still provide lots of unstructured opportunity for art, but I won’t shy away from structure, either. I just have to remind myself that life is not Pinterest-ing, it is interesting. I need to stand back and let the girls interpet each activity in their own way.
What do you think about the “process” and the “product” when it comes to arts and crafts with little ones? Do you ever find yourself getting too involved when you’re crafting with your kids? Should all art be unstructured? Please leave your ideas; I’d love to hear them!