A few words on how we craft ’round here.
I try to do arts and crafts with my boys on a daily basis. On some days crafting may be as simple as some crayons and a piece of paper, but they are creating and, to me, that is what matters.
During my twenties, I was a preschool teacher in a classroom of two-, three-, and four-year olds. Each day, I offered the children various art materials with which they could create. It was important to me that these projects be made by the children. I was interested in the process by which the children were creating, not their end products. I can close my eyes and still see one of the children, his hands covered in blue and green fingerpaint, slowly moving his wet hands up and down on the white paper for a long, long time. Pre-cut, adult-guided, structured projects are aesthetically pleasing, and they are often to goal in our society, but for me, that child was creating, dreaming, feeling, and enjoying that painting project, and that moment was the zen of art.
I was, however, challenged many times on my point of view by parents of this cooperative school, who wanted their witches at Halloween, their snowmen in January, and their umbrellas with rain in April. I understood why these projects were coveted by the parents, and, in some cases, by other preschool teachers in my town. At our monthly meetings, the other teachers and I would share craft ideas. They had rainbows with cut-out strips of colors, glittery valentine hearts, and baseballs & bats cut-out for spring training bulletin boards. I would hold up a picture of circles drawn by a three-year-old with crayons. (Cue crickets.) I understood how a bulletin board full of seasonally appropriate projects is appealing, in fact, I admired them to a point, but not for this young age group. Whenever I would cut out pieces of colored paper for them to glue together onto a pre-cut form, the children were not as involved in the process as when I merely laid out materials and stepped away.
Over time, as a compromise and out of respect to the parents, I did some pre-cut, directed art projects for the seasons and the holidays. I kept them simple and open to adaptation by the children. To be honest, the older children enjoyed when their project resulted in a clearly-identifiable object from the world. In addition, I found that they would add their own creative touches to my pre-cut pieces, and furthermore, that my demonstration of how to put together a project added to their creative repetoire for when they created with no direction. It was an awakening for me — by both allowing children the space to create and providing some guidance for them, I was nurturing their imaginations while simultaneously giving them ideas to build upon.
Many years later, I am a mama to two little ones, a three-year old and an eighteen-month old, and, we often spend our days dreaming and creating. Most days, I lay out materials and let them pick whatever they want to use to create. Some days, however, I choose a project, cut out pieces, and show them “how to do it.” And then, I try to step back, and allow them to interpret it in whatever way they choose.
I tell this to you because I share pictures of our artwork and craft projects in some of my posts. These projects are simple, and they are not really anything anyone but their mama would pin. They are, however, the products of my children’s imaginations and little hands. I delight in the pure joy that my older child displays when we get to create with new mediums. I savor watching my younger son, who is really, really loving play-doh, smash and pile a mound of that dough, and then sticking it with utensils and cookie cutters.
This is the work of my children.
This is their creative process.
I do guide them, but then I step back and watch them create. It has made all of the difference in our home.