Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Some great stuff from 'Young at Art'...

...which is this fab fab book by Susan Striker about doing art with children, which basically changed my life... I read it two and a half years ago, it totally changed my approach to working with kids, and I decided to teach my first art class shortly after. I was just sharing some resources from the book with the group of fine folks who are going to be sharing their sweet little toddlers with me for my upcoming art class in September, and I thought I'd slap 'em up over here as well. It's really good stuff... she's a little overly fervent and believe you me I've given my kid the dreaded coloring page and I'm pretty sure he's not ruined for life... but I really like the reminder to be respectful of children and their work.

By the by, Susan has a whole series of 'Anti-Coloring Books' which are actually really fun... if you've got a kid that likes to draw (which I do not, sadly...) you can print some of the pages out for free here.


1. Let go of your own expectations of how an art project should be completed, and let the child's imagination decide how the art materials will be used. (Instructions can prevent exploration, which is the essence of creative thinking.)

2. Never draw, paint, or write on a child's artwork. (The child's own art is more important than any contribution you may make and it may discourage age-appropriate work.)

3. Never point out accidental similarities to realistic objects. (this can distract from the value of the kinesthetic activity of the project.)

4. Never show a child "how" to draw, or entertain a child by making realistic pictures. (these lessons can quickly become substitutes for creative exploration.)

5. Don't ask "What is it?" or "What are you making?" ("What" it is is not as important as "how" it is being made."

6. Never give a child coloring books, dot-to-dot, magic paint with water, molds, drawing machines, drawing computers, or similar anti-art toys. (There is no value for a child in completing something another person created.)

7. Never encourage children to participate in art contests or other forms of competition that pit child against child. ( Children benefit most from setting their own goals and competing with themselves.)

8. Encourage a child to come up with many different solutions to problems, rather than only one correct answer. (In life there is rarely only one "correct" solution to problems, and sound art experiences can teach children how to solve problems.)

9. Don't scold for drawing on unacceptable surfaces. Offer paper and say, "Oh good. I see you feel like drawing." (Emphasize the positive--- your child wants to draw-- and provide an acceptable substitute surface.)

10. Do not rush a child to the next level of development. (Each stage is important and there is no advantage gained by rushing through one stage to reach another.)

  1. Be a role model. Instead of saying “I can’t draw a straight line with a ruler”, say “I love to create things”. The process of creativity is far more important that the product. If your child sees you taking risks and making things, he or she will follow your model.
  2. Don’t only hang your child’s art on the refrigerator with a magnet. Your child already knows that “real” art is framed and hung throughout the house. Take something your child makes to the framer and hang it in an important area of your home.
  3. Show a clear preference for your child’s original work. Let your child know that copying, tracing and coloring-in of adult art is not creative. Help your child understand that solving problems while creating a work of art leads to solving problems in all areas of life.
  4. Verbalize why you “like” a picture. “Pretty” is not particularly helpful. For example, “the colors are so bright and cheerful, there are straight lines and curvy lines and they look well together, the colors remind me of when you were so sad”, are the kind of phrases that can help your child expand his or her vocabulary. They also reinforce what is already being done on an intuitive level.
  5. Visit an art gallery or museum with your child. There are many to choose from right in your own town. Look at the art work and encourage your child to look at and talk about the art without worrying about being correct.
  6. Make holiday cards out of your child’s drawing or painting and mail them to everyone - even your boss!
  7. Have your children’s birthday party guests decorate their own cake, using squeeze tube frosting and candy.
  8. Set aside an area of your home that can always be “messy”. Put an easel, chalk board, crayons, paints, glue and a box of scraps there. Call it the “art studio”, and encourage daily use.
  9. Buy a big portfolio and save art work. There is nothing more discouraging than working on a picture only to have Mom throw it out on trash day.
  10. Occasionally buy plain, light colored things for your child to decorate, such as t-shirts, curtains, sheets, dishes, canvass bags, etc. use them!
  11. Buy a leather-bound blank book for your child to use every day, even when you travel. Use it regularly and it will soon be a delightful record of your child's growth and development.

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