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Just Let Them Do It!

Just Let Them Do It!

I can admit that I am a bit of a control freak but in the classroom I never had a problem letting the children have control of their own artwork. The art easel was open every day with paint, paintbrushes and paper for them to access at their leisure. Sometimes we would even add sponges or textured rollers just for fun. The art center was also open every day with a plethora of materials for them to use. Everything from construction paper, glue, scissors, tissue paper, pom pom balls, shredded paper, sprinkly things from the recycle center, wallpaper samples, crayons, markers, cotton balls, q-tips………you get the picture. My point is that all of those materials were out and available for the children to decide what they wanted to use and how they wanted to use it. This is called a process-focused art experience.

Some days, one child would paint 6-7 paintings in a span of 15 minutes but that was perfectly fine. I would save one to hang up in the classroom and send the rest home to share with the family. Some children made two brushstrokes on the page and were finished while others spent time painting every inch of the paper. Some children would make a collage by gluing one or two items on the paper but some children would glue so many items that you had to be very careful when you moved it for fear of items coming dislodged. All of these creations are special and unique because they were created by each individual child, and they decided what they wanted to use and how they wanted to use it.

If you are showing children what an art project should look like when it is complete, please stop. If you are expecting the finished product to look the same for every child and you are willing to fix it or finish it for the child, please stop. Please stop expecting all children to create cookie-cutter craft projects and then hanging them in your classroom and promoting them as artwork. These projects are at very best a lesson in following directions. These are called product-focused art experiences.

Characteristics of PROCESS-focused art experiences
There are no step-by-step instructions
• There is no sample for children to follow
• There is no right or wrong way to explore and create
• The art is focused on the experience and on exploration of techniques, tools, and materials
• The art is unique and original
• The experience is relaxing or calming
• The art is entirely the children’s own and the art experience is a child’s choice

What children might say:
“Look what I made!”
“I’m going to do another!”
“Can I have more time?”

Characteristics of PRODUCT-focused art experiences
Children have instructions to follow
• The teacher created a sample for children to copy
• There’s a right and a wrong way to proceed
• There’s a finished product in mind
• The children’s finished art all looks the same
• The children experience frustration
• The teacher might “fix mistakes”
• The whole class took part in an art project at the same time
• Patterns and examples are readily available online

What children might say:
“Can I be done now?”
“Is this right?”
“I can’t do it.”
“Mine doesn’t look like yours.”

Please consider letting go of control a little bit and letting the children create some collage masterpieces of their own or painting creations of their own. At the very least set out a basket of crayons, white paper and let them draw or scribble whatever they want. By providing more process-focused art experiences you will be encouraging more child creativity through developmentally appropriate art experiences.

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