Kids need art like plants need sun. In fact, art imitates childhood, when it grows organically and isn’t manufactured. I had a sad childhood experience with formula art. A teacher publicly criticized my piece for not fitting the mold.
Admittedly, I didn’t follow directions. She specifically said start drawing in the middle of the page. And I drew a boat along the bottom. I completely forgot, being caught up in the joy of creating.
She was right and I was over-sensitive. But art is personal. If associated with failure, it suffers. As does all education. I began teaching in Montessori. Dr. Maria Montessori enjoins teachers to “follow the child,” explains Metro Kids. That student-led approach served well teaching special needs, adults and homeschool, too.
Children must lead, because they can’t follow adults. Adults can’t imitate each other, and the playing field is level. How can a kid who lacks maturity, coordination, experience? When she can’t, she doesn’t see it’s adults who’ve failed her. She only knows she disappointed. Teaching EI (emotionally impaired) special education, I saw children damaged by pressure to be too adult, too soon.
I avoid templated, closed-ended lessons. Children will get enough of that later on. Childhood is an ephemeral place of wonder, possibility. Kids should enjoy it while it lasts.
Exploring art with children, I enjoyed it again. Kids neither fault-find nor compete. My edge-of-paper boats were welcome, even kindly called “pretty.” That’s adjudication I treasure.
The simplest things delight. Another reason I prefer children to adults. As an art-handicapped teacher, I relied on basics-no fancy technique did they get from me. And really, no one can “teach” art. It’s creative, not imitative.
Instead, facilitate. Provide materials; kids will bring the creativity. Don’t tack up a sample. Discourage copying. Each child is unique; that individuality should shine out.
Your best art resource is the recycle bin. Set out cardboard boxes, plastic bottles, toilet paper cylinders, fabric scraps, wrapping paper, magazines, bric-a-brac. Add scissors, paint, tape, glue, markers.
Propose a theme: mythical beasts, inventions, vehicles, musical instruments, boats. Then watch it happen. Don’t fix or correct. You’ll spoil the magic (you can’t help it, being grown-up).
Let children parade playing their instruments. Host a creature art feature. Serve dragonberry tea and Bigfoot cookies (recipes below). Have a tech expo where children demonstrate inventions. Make a masking tape race track where kids can test-drive vehicles. Lay down a blue sheet ocean for them to launch their armada.
Adulthood is too much coloring in lines. Childhood should be spent dancing riotously, giggling in the library, singing nonsense songs, eating cupcakes, spilling glitter and coloring trees cyan polka-dot with violent magenta skies. Kids should dream, dare and do, not rehearse what’s already written.
If there is a parable, a muse, for kinder art, it’s Vincent Van Gogh. Dismissed as childish and clumsy, his work has become most highly prized. Learn more about him at Making Art Fun. Because no piece, however well-executed, can replace a finger painting created with great passion.
Oh yes, the recipes: Dragonberry tea is heated dragonberry fruit Vitamin Water. For Bigfoot cookies, roll refrigerator cookie dough in six balls and arrange to resemble a paw.