I love doing art projects with children, mostly because I enjoy the spontaneous creativity that emerges when children are allowed to explore and play with art materials. I find that the most successful art and craft projects are guided or based on a sample design, but allow plenty of leeway for individualization.
My two-year-old grandson, Carson, likes to be active, but he’s starting to become more interested in quieter projects. One afternoon last week I put some finger paint on a paper plate and showed him how to push toy cars through the paint and then run them over a piece of construction paper, leaving colorful tire tracks. He made a pleasing pattern with orange and yellow lines on a sheet of blue paper. His dad calls it, “Sticks Thrown into Water.”
On Saturday the Franklin Park Conservatory hosted the second annual Pollinator Palooza. Several vendors participated, sharing information and activities related to bees and other pollinators. I volunteered at the Community Outreach and Education table, helping kids with our Pollinator Paddle craft. We had large die-cut flowers, bees, and butterflies. Each child decorated a flower and either a bee or butterfly. We then attached the flower shape to a wooden paint stick, and the pollinator to the stick with an extra-long pipe cleaner, so the bee or butterfly would hover and bounce as the child walked along.
It was a perfect craft for the occasion. Children could color the pieces as much or as little as they liked. There was a choice of shapes and colors. The craft could be completed quickly or could take a while for children who wanted to make intricate patterns. There was plenty of room at our craft table and no pressure to finish quickly or to do more than a quick scribble if that was all a child desired.
Years ago, another teacher used to refer to my class’s projects as “road kill.” So what if they wanted to create creatures with three eyes or sixteen legs? A pink bear? Fine. A fish with legs? Okay by me. I just want the children to enjoy the project, explore the materials, and feel empowered to express their own ideas.