Children are natural creators, inventors, explorers and artists.
They do these things automatically and with confidence.
Somewhere along the line, they receive messages that make them lose that confidence and this can destroy their desire to continue creating. This can be disastrous for the world and for them.
There are a few mistakes to avoid doing if you don’t want to be one of the people transmitting those confidence sucking messages.
I’ve talked to so many adults who tell me they can’t draw and are not artistic. I’m sad to admit, I’ve even heard a few of my Wacky Workshops students, aged 5 to 12, say this.
Watch the flair with which any toddler draws with crayons or splatters with paint. It is clear they are all passionate artists.
How is it they can create with such confidence and then, a few short years later doubt their ability?
BEAUTY IS IN THE EYE OF THE BEHOLDER
Part of the reason could be the older children and adults are able to discern what they consider good art. However, this can be influenced at an early age. Art is subjective. It can be argued there is no such thing as ‘bad art’. If there is bad art, who determines what is good and what isn’t?
I saw a painting at the Museum of Contemporary Art Australia that looked to me a lot like something the baby Goddess would do.
I’m no art critic. Given my views on making judgements about other people’s creations, I would absolutely suck at it. However, to me, this painting is a way less interesting picture than the one depicting the burnt-out trees the then five-year-old Goddess saw near my work after a severe bushfire.
Or the beautiful impression of a thunderstorm by the then four-year-old Goddess.
Maybe I’m a little biased. ‘Sorry’ was painted by a highly respected Australian artist who has been painting and sculpting for more than 30 years.
Whether her work is good or bad, I can’t say. What I can say is how much, or little, it appeals to me. Art is often used as a way to get a specific point across. In order to do this, it may not always be visually beautiful. That means the story behind the picture is often more important than the picture itself. In other words, anyone can be a ‘good’ artist.
As I explained in my post, Think You Are Not an Artist? This is Why You’re Wrong, marketed correctly, even human excrement can be considered art, worthy of paying thousands of dollars for.
MISTAKES TO AVOID WHEN CREATING ART WITH CHILDREN – AVOID JUDGEMENTAL STATEMENTS
My first tip for creating art with children is to avoid judgemental statements when it comes to other people’s art. Obviously, this goes for the child’s own art as well. Instead of saying ‘this is a bad painting’ say ‘I don’t like this painting very much’. Could be the child sees something beautiful in that painting. When they are told the thing they thought was beautiful is ‘bad’ they start to doubt their own opinions and that leads to lack of confidence.
MISTAKES TO AVOID WHEN CREATING ART WITH CHILDREN – DON’T PROMOTE PERFECTION
The internet makes finding creative projects so easy, don’t you think? A quick tap on a key and you can enter the wondrous world of Pinterest. It is jammed packed with clever arts and crafts projects, among other things.
Our eyes feast on pictures of these fabulous projects, some designed to be suitable for three to five-year-olds. Hang on a minute, those pictures sure look perfect, don’t they? That’s because they were done by an adult. Chances are the three to five-year-olds were nowhere near the project when it was being created.
Another mistake to avoid is to try and force a picture-perfect project. Let the child colour outside the lines (you can be sure school will teach them to obey the rules and stay within the lines). Embrace the quirkiness of their own designs and allow them the freedom to experiment with different ideas. Don’t make the mistake of teaching perfection (which we know doesn’t even exist).
MISTAKES TO AVOID WHEN CREATING ART WITH CHILDREN – DON’T TAKE OVER
As I explained in my craft project, Halloween Haunted House to Make, there is no point in even starting an arts and crafts project with a child if you intend to take over. This one really gets me angry. All too often I see adults taking over a child’s project because they believe they can do it better.
If you feel inspired to be creative, get your own project. If you take over from a child you are sending a clear message that they cannot do it well enough to please you. The ultimate confidence sucking message.
Yes, you may know an easier way to cut out a shape. You may have better ideas of which colours will work for something. You may be able to create and make less mess. Regardless of this, back off and let the child work it out for themselves. Have faith that if the child gets stuck, they will seek advice. That is the time to offer a few gentle suggestions. It is also a great opportunity to ask the child to think of solutions for themselves, teaching them to think in inventive ways.
There have been many occasions where my students have shown me a different way to approach a project, sometimes even a better way. Then the teacher becomes the student. A creative cycle is formed.
MISTAKES TO AVOID WHEN CREATING ART WITH CHILDREN – DON’T UNDERESTIMATE THEM
This leads to another mistake to avoid when creating with children. Don’t underestimate their abilities. One of the Goddesses gets frustrated with her ability to cut shapes. A fellow leftie, she finds it difficult to manipulate the scissors the same way her pre-school classmates do. She doesn’t bother asking me to do it for her anymore as she knows I want her to keep trying. Her cutting skills are improving. She is starting to regain confidence in her ability to cut shapes.
MISTAKES TO AVOID WHEN CREATING ART WITH CHILDREN – DON’T GET STUCK ON AN IDEA
Don’t get stuck on a particular idea. In my classes, I always have several projects planned. I make the projects myself first to gauge the difficulty level and time required to complete them. I show the students an example. Some students will do the project and stop several times to ask if they are doing it ‘right’. My standard response is there is no ‘right’ or ‘wrong’. I just gave them an idea, but where they take it is up to them. Sometimes the end result is completely different to the example, but that doesn’t matter. It is the child’s own creation and their interpretation of the idea. The child’s creativity is fully promoted.
MISTAKES TO AVOID WHEN CREATING ART WITH CHILDREN – DON’T BE STOPPED MY MATERIALS
Sometimes a child will be super eager to start a project they have seen but you delay because you don’t have the necessary materials. This can lead to disappointment that creates conflict. Instead of refusing to start, or rushing to the shop to buy the materials, encourage the child to come up with substitute components.
For example, I came across this fun project to make a bird marionette. One of the Goddesses was really keen to make it. The project calls for pom poms and I was out. We discussed what we could use instead and she came up with bottle lids (I tend to collect them for craft projects) and an artificial flower for the body. No need for an emergency shopping trip and a disappointed Goddess. More than that, the Goddess was using her power of ingenuity to think outside the box and come up with her own ideas.
Creating with children can be as much a learning opportunity for you as it is for the child. It is a wonderful chance to offer all the benefits of creativity while having a ton of fun. Best of all, with a little thought, you can turn it into a beautiful confidence-building occasion.
Happy crafting and have a gleeful week, Tamuria.