Saturday, November 5, 2011

Starting small

Every child is an artist.  The problem is how to remain an artist once he grows up. -- Pablo Picasso

Doodle turned three this month.  I love three.  Love.  Three is the age when those pudgy little fingers start finally helping in the kitchen instead of making a bigger mess than mommy or daddy.  Three is the age when conversations about what strangers’ footwear is like (“I have birdie shoes on, but he has toes on”), among other such charming observations of life.  And three is the age when art gets to be really super fun.

Drawing of a "skinny bug (stink bug)", 3 years old. 
Yes, it's that time of year again when those evil creatures invade the house....

I have been waiting for this moment since she was born, and now that it’s here I am beside myself with possibilities.  What can she do?  What does she understand?  What can we MAKE??

Now that my classroom has transitioned from 600+ elementary kids a week to 2 kids, I'm always looking for ideas, and I have lots more ideas brewing.  One of my favorite blogs lately is A Little Learning for Two.  Her project and learning ideas are all geared for young hands and sensory issues that are perfect for this age.  Please feel free to share some of your favorite preschool art projects!

Where did we begin?
I get this question from new moms who are ready to start artmaking with their young children-- How can I get my kid interested in art when all he wants to do is chew on things?  What materials are good to start with?

My advice: start as soon as you want!  I chose the 1-year mark as an age when she could sit well, and have good manual dexterity to hold a tool or manipulate toys.  I started with homemade playdough, figuring if it went into her mouth, at least it was edible.  Well, let me tell you, if you try this yourself, consider an alternative recipe to what I did-- whole wheat flour and red food coloring in a no-cook recipe.  The playdough looked like ground beef, and quickly became a not-so-tasty snack for mommy to clean up. For the record, she's a pro at using playdough now, so at least it wasn't a deterrent.

When Doodle was 14 months old she got her first art supplies for Christmas: Crayola jumbo crayons, and their Beginnings line of palm-held markers.  I also got her big floor-sized pads of paper, and brought out an old colorful sheet from my childhood that I dubbed The Magic Carpet.  My one simple rule: art materials stay on the Magic Carpet.  If they leave the Magic Carpet, art time is over.  Here is a video of her trying out her new supplies.

So what about the eating the crayon thing?  Babies love to explore with their mouths, and some babies are mouthier than others.  I'm learning that Scribble enjoys putting lots of things in her mouth, but Doodle was really never that way.  With the caveat that the art supplies you have on hand should be nontoxic, and the expectation that mouthing the crayons is normal and may happen, it is your job to help her transition to drawing for pleasure, as opposed to tasting.  With Doodle, if it happened, I would remove the implement from her mouth and say, "crayons are for coloring," and hand-over-hand draw on the paper with lots of ooohs and aaahs.  Eventually the pleasure of mark making overrides the pleasure of tasting.  I would also color alongside my daughter, modeling for her, and having a super fun time.  

Developmental marks to look out for include big, sweeping side-to-side movements transitioning to circles.

Other materials to try:
Painting with a paintbrush and water on the sidewalk
Fingerpainting, including stamping with foam shapes and/or letters
Sidewalk chalk
Blocks, small empty boxes
Printing various objects (remember potato prints?  Carrots are good for little hands too!)

Where are we now?
This afternoon I focused on getting Scribble to nap longer than 30 minutes, so I didn't even pretend to try Doodle's "quiet" time today (it really is no wonder my youngest's naps are so screwed up, she has to compete with Little Miss Volume all the time).  Instead of insisting Quiet Time in solitude, I made her year by letting her spend time with me in the downstairs play area, where she got to paint with brushes of various types, including rope, sponge, fringe.  When we ran out of drying space, we cleaned up and transitioned from 2D to 3D, rolling and cutting out a billion (okay, not really) stars from playdough.

I love Three because of the elaborate stories that come with the art, especially the art that the casual observer truly has no idea what the masterpiece resembles.  I do my very best not to impose my own interpretation until she tells me all about it... and usually her description makes mine incredibly weak. 

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