Tag Archives: children’s art

Art vs. Crafts

Every parent likes to see something that is cute and well put together that “their child made” such as sun catchers or that cute hand-print frame that is sitting on their desk at work. During the summer, lots of programs have different projects, and parents want to see what they do. HOWEVER, the question lingers in one’s mind—how much of that project did the child actually make? Craft projects are fine every now and then, but is it really something that a young child understands? Process art is different than crafting—it’s about the journey a child takes to get to their end product. It is way more fun, hands on, and appropriate for a young child to do. With process art, a child is able to:

  1. Work fine motor muscles. Working with different types of tools/media they can build the hand muscles for better dexterity. This lays the foundation for cutting and writing. Examples of this could be setting out a hole punch and pieces of paper, using scissors to cut straws or clay.
  2. Enhance critical thinking skills. When a child is in the creative process, his/her mind is thinking out ways to make/create the subject at hand. Gathering information and hypothesizing how to create the artwork builds the mind for thinking out other scenarios children may face throughout everyday events. Instead of laying out specific supplies for the children to all come to the same end result, give lots of options: hole punches, stamps, stickers, beads, string, tongue depressors, pom poms, glue, scissors—the possibilities are endless!
  3. Express themselves. If you provide the materials, they will come! Allowing the child to experiment will result in something that has meaning for them. Sitting and asking questions about the creative process also helps the child develop the language and vocabulary for something that they may have never been able to talk about before. For example, something you may ask would be, “Why did you choose the felt to make the dog’s ears?” or “How can you attach the ears to the paper?” You can also help them express what they created by writing about it. This gives the families the story and process behind the masterpiece.

Art in an early childhood program is about more than just making something cute; it is creating the moments for a child to discover and learn. I said it before and I will say it again: let children have the time to play and try new things. After all, learning through play is how a child learns best!

What a Pretty Picture! Responding to Children’s Art

One of the best gifts that my mother ever gave me was a large stack of drawings that I created when I was 5 years old. I was flooded with joyful memories of painting and drawing as a child, how much I enjoyed communicating my feelings with crayons and paint!

As an adult, I am comforted by the feelings that I was able to express; and more importantly that my explorations of art as a child allow me to continue to express myself this way as an adult. My parents and my teachers encouraged me, and not in the ways you might expect! When it comes to children’s art, the best thing that we can do as educators is to give the child control over what they are creating. For example, avoid labeling. Instead of telling the child what they’re drawing (“That is a great picture of an elephant!”), ask the child to tell you about their picture. You might be surprised to find that what you thought was an elephant was actually a picture of you! With the child’s permission, write down exactly what the child tells you about their picture. Storytelling can play a very large role in children’s art.

One of my childhood drawings!

Educators should also avoid modeled art, where the project has a very particular finished product in mind. Instead allow the child to enjoy the process: the flow of the paint, the movement of the crayon, and watch their imaginations roam!