We rarely do structured craft projects in our home. Following a page of directions or tracing patterns is like reading the last page of the book to see how it ends. The instructions, usually with a picture of the finished project, dictate exactly how the project should look when followed properly. A child doesn't have to use their own unique creativity to engineer what they want to create. They won't even have to think of what they want to make on their own. It's like giving a child a game to play, then telling the child they won without letting them play the game. The child may have "won", but doesn't feel the satisfaction of reaping that win, or even the enjoyment of being allowed to play it. Like the unearned win of the un-played game, the opportunity to feel the glowing satisfaction of having created something unique or invented something wonderful themselves has been taken away when they are given specific craft instructions.
Unstructured art play is playfully innovational. It grants the surprise of a uniquely wonderful creation when finished. To facilitate our own art play, we have an abundant supply of scratch paper, colored papers, crayons, watercolors, markers, paints, colored pencils, recycled construction paper, play dough, yarn and other odds and ends that can be pasted, stapled or taped together. Children can create out of anything on hand—the recycling bin is a good place to begin. Our supplies are within even our toddler's diminutive reach, handily stored in long, thin drawers of a map file cabinet. Keeping children's art supplies so easily accessible at all times encourages frequent art play. It also promises that we will often have paper scraps and art supplies scattered across our kitchen table and on the floor below it as well. Ah, well. I relish the visible process of creativity in children, bubbling over with the sounds of activity, while I clean the kitchen. Even if it means I have another mess to clean up when I'm finished washing the dishes.
Sometimes our 2-year-old son's ideas are bigger than his abilities. He expertly wields a pen to easily draw. But then he decides he needs tape, sticky and awkward. His sister lovingly assists. I can see the tape wasn't absolutely necessary at all, the snake-like twisted strip wasn't adhering anything together. It was challenging his fine motor skills — perhaps a weak justification for wasting the tape. But, even tape proves itself as a fun part of our art play.
Our child-size scissors were a quiet, methodical distraction for our 2-year-old for a long peaceful time. Enough green confetti bits were made and scattered on the floor around him to look like he was decorating for a birthday party.
✄ children's art supplies you may like:
©heather cahoon •wordplayhouse®
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