Ever feel like this project just isn’t turning out? Let go.
Remember the process.
A post written and shared by Ali at At Home with Ali.
Doing art and craft with young children can drive anyone crazy. Paint going everywhere except on the paper, glue on fingers and in hair, mountains of glitter spread out for no purpose, oil pastels having their wrappers ripped off and smushed into the couch… frankly it was all too hard for me.
However, one day I turned around and realized I had limited my 2 year old daughter’s art and craft activities to a set of waxy crayons, a glue stick and some paper – no paint, no pva glue and no glitter.
I love art and craft so how did we get here?
Luckily, I was fortunate to have a mother-in-law trained in the field of early childhood education and we had many conversations about the importance of process over product and child-centered play… which really got me thinking.
You see, I am a graphic designer and all my working life has been focused on the product, sure there is process but I am not happy if the end product does not look great. This sort of thinking had transferred to my art and craft activities with my daughter, Cakey. Time for a different approach – I stopped trying to create beautiful things with Cakey and let her lead the way.
First up, I changed my meaning of a ‘successful’ activity – I started to measure success only in terms of time spent [the longer the better] and fun had. I stopped whipping away collages when I thought they were finished [i.e. looking lovely with heaps of bits and pieces glued on]. I left them out for Cakey to destroy. She seemed to get more pleasure from ripping the pieces off than she did from sticking them on.
I also re-introduced paint but I took away the easel. Instead, I set the paint up on a big table and supplied a variety of different materials to paint on – bark from a paperbark tree, little canvasses, coloured paper of various sizes, stones from the garden. This stopped her from painting on the table or pavers. And I gave myself a break – on days when I couldn’t cope with cleaning up the mess from painting I pulled out our little tray of watercolours instead.
As Cakey got older [she is now 3.5], I introduced good quality [i.e. sharp enough to actually cut paper] child-friendly scissors. I let her experiment with these by cutting up strips of thick paper. I also used to sit her at the table with a magazine and let her go to town on it.
But by far the best thing I have done [in terms of independent arts and crafts go] was to teach her how to use the sticky tape dispenser. I bought a decent tape dispenser and the most expensive sticky tape because it breaks off easily for little fingers. It was well worth the investment. Cakey will happily sticky tape together amazing creations for hours with no help and is always so proud of her results. I do have to buy sticky tape in bulk now though.
Handing control over to Cakey has been hard. I realized that I have many pre-conceived ideas about what are the right and wrong ways to do something, but Cakey doesn’t see the world in the same way. She doesn’t want me to tell her how to do something, she wants to discover it herself. As I have slowly loosened up, art and craft activities have become loads of fun for both of us and I am learning the difference between supporting her rather than directing.