I wish I wrote this article. I feel like I say these exact words every semester to every group of students I encounter. But still, I go out into the field and see the same arts and crafts activities time and again. Where does it end?
Many summers ago, some friends and I spent the summer watching each others’ children. We called it “Moms’ Camp” and there were many things about it that were wonderful. The kids played all summer long and the moms took turns being with the kids as well as getting days off (more off days than on days.)
One day, two of the moms (they shall remain nameless here, and I doubt they read my blog) decided to take the kids to the beach. That was great. While there, the children collected rocks to bring back. Also great. When they returned to one of the houses later that day, the children asked if they could paint the rocks. Awesome! However, by the time we arrived to pick up our own children, the moms had “fixed” their painted rocks, so they looked like paintings, rather than rocks painted by three, four and five-year olds. I was livid as was one of the other moms, who like me is an early childhood teacher and advocate.
Both of these moms insisted that the children wanted them to fix their paintings and make them look more like the ones the adults were making. Well (even if I doubt that this was true) if children see art that is made by adults, then they naturally don’t think theirs is as good. This stands to reason. In the case of rock painting, what do you think rocks painted by four-year olds should look like? Should they look like little landscapes, or cute faces? Of course not. They look like rocks painted by children who do not have the fine motor control to paint teeny tiny paintings but do have a keen sense of their own style. I wouldn’t trade the beautiful painted rocks my children created for any of the more refined and sophisticated examples sent home that day.
We have to help everyone (teachers, directors, parents, colleagues, grandparents, etc) move away from cutesy arts and crafts activities and let the children create.
If you’ve never seen or heard this song, take a watch and a listen. It will change your ideas about children’s arts and crafts and if it doesn’t, watch it again, until it does.