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Art teachers were STEAM-ing before STEAM was cool!

Friday, March 15, 2013

Easy Art Activities For A Snow Day Or Any Day (Part 2)

OK, so now you have an Art Center full of inspiring art supplies and you are raring to go! But what are you going to do with all of that stuff? Some children don't need any encouragement--they see the art supplies and they know exactly what they are going to do with them. That's great! 

Free play and exploration of supplies is so important to a child's creative, cognitive, and motor development...BUT, I have to advise you...you are going to have to be flexible. Many children go through a phase where, to a grown-up, it looks as though they are "wasting" supplies. If you haven't experienced it--just wait! I'm talking about puddles of goopy glue, sticking every sticker they can find on their paper, whole rolls of tape shmooshed into a sticky, tangled ball, cutting and cutting until there is confetti everywhere! It's the way it goes--not all artsy activity is going to produce a masterpiece.

My youngest is just getting into the
"cutting and cutting until nothing is left" phase...

Here are my tips for allowing your child to explore the Art Center during this stage of development:

1. Relax. You've set yourself up for success by actually having art materials and tools available to your child, now you have to let them go (a bit). I'm not advocating letting them be truly wasteful on purpose, but they are going to want to "draw" with the Elmer's glue and then float scrap paper bits in it. They just are. Think about how you react to your child exploring, taking creative risks and creating. Is getting stressed and yelling really going to create good feelings about art?

2. Don't buy expensive stuff. If your child is in the "experimenting" phase, this is not the time for artist-quality supplies. Buy washable, inexpensive products when they are on sale (ie. back-to-school time) and keep the "extras" away. Buy a cheap ream of copy paper, an inexpensive sketch book, reuse scrap paper, keep those bits of construction paper and reuse them, buy some things at the dollar store...you get the idea. You won't stress out so much of your child goes through a entire roll of dollar store tape or breaks a box of inexpensive crayons into bits--again--if you are buying kid-friendly products. There will be time for special, fancy art supplies and those fancy supplies will be even more special when your child receives them when s/he is ready.

3. Monitor what you put out. If the scissors are not being used properly (cutting the air, cutting someone's hair, running with scissors, etc.), then they go away. Crayons being broken (or eaten) even though you've explained it is against the rules? They go away too. If too much is being removed, you may need to rethink the free-spirited art center at this time. Perhaps you set aside time to sit with your child to show him/her the proper way to use the supplies. Danger = Not Good, Not Respecting Supplies = Not Good. You will have to determine what your child can understand with regards to rules and expectations for "proper use" of supplies.

4. Meter what you put out. You don't keep all four bottles of Elmer's in the Art Center when your child is going through the "painting with glue" phase. But, you can keep a 1/2 full bottle in there. I can wipe up a half bottle of glue, if necessary. Same with construction paper. If your child is going through the "cut with scissors until there is nothing left" phase, keep just a couple pieces of construction paper in the Center or teach him/her to choose the recycled paper to shred.

5. Have an open mind. What we think of as "art" is not what a 3-year-old thinks of when creating. Sure, you can do projects together, but be flexible. I have seen parents so focused on the finished product that they take over the project while their child looks on. I've also seen people literally hold a child's hand and guide them to place the elements of a project. This is not assembly-line work. This is fun, this is exploring, this is creativity.

6. Think of this as a "teachable moment." Be involved. Saying things like, "This is how we use scissors safely," "Oh, see how goopy this gets when there is so much glue?" and, "How about we use the scrap paper if you are going to cut, cut, cut it up?" It's a process, but children eventually learn how to use art and craft supplies safely and properly.

7. Be OK with throwing it away. If your child is attached to an "experimental" piece and proud of it, hang it on the wall and have him or her show it to visitors. But some of these pieces in this experimental phase get forgotten the minute your child is done with them. You'll be hanging some strange stuff on the wall during this phase, but if your child is loving the work than you should too.

None of this is rocket science, but how your respond to your child in these beginning phases of art-making and exploration is really important. Exploration of tools and media in a healthy, encouraging way creates confidence, increases fine motor control and problem-solving skills and this time will be remembered fondly by you and your child for years to come!

Here's an easy project to do with your child that will remind you to relax during this phase of your child's development. Print this little poem on card stock, add some little handprints, a photo and hang this in the Art Center to help when you are picking up paper confetti and goopy glue. The kit for this piece was given to me when I was pregnant with my first child, so I'm not able to track down the original source.

 Enjoy!
Sorry I couldn't show you the entire piece--it has my kids' names on it.
This is a lovely Mother's Day or any day project!

When I'm big you won't remember
the mud I tracked on the stairs.
Instead I hope you'll hear
my laugh that eased your cares.
The smudges that I leave on walls
will someday fade away.
But the memories of my first steps
will be cherished every day.
As for these two handprints,
Someday you'll be glad
We took the time to make a mess
That didn't make you mad.

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