Craft vs. Art

I am not a big fan of crafts, and for many reasons.  You have to gather enough supplies of ‘x’ to make sure that every child can do it, it requires WAY too much teacher time, and when it’s done, everyone has something that looks the same.  (Disclaimer:  That doesn’t mean that I never do crafts.  Quite often our Christmas present to our parents is a kind of craft, and when I leave lesson plans, sometimes a craft is good to leave for a sub.  They also have value in learning to follow directions, but that could probably be accomplished a different way.) 

My main reason for disliking crafts is that they are not art.  There is a model that the child is supposed to re-make, and if it doesn’t look just like that, disappointment can reign.  I went to an conference once where the presenter showed us a famous painting – a Van Gogh, I think – and said, “What if I gave you an easel and paints and said we were going to make this today?”  Way out of my league!  Another problem is that if the finished product is supposed to look like something, the teacher may have trouble resisting the urge to fix the child’s work.

You don’t fix art, it comes from inside.  There is no right way and no wrong way.  There is so much more value in giving children markers, paint, pens, crayons, glue, scraps – and blank paper.    We do talk about how to use the materials, of course – use a coloring mat underneath, pull with a paintbrush like you’re a little mouse sweeping with a broom, small dots of glue vs. large puddles, how to hold scissors, etc.  But within these boundaries exists the freedom for creativity!

I’ll never forget in first grade, I made a wagon out of an egg-carton top and a boy in the class said, “Wow, you can make anything from nothing.”  That’s one of my favorite memories.

Paint every day!

In the category of ‘Lessons I’ve learned the hard way’, one is that you should let children have the opportunity to paint every day.

A few years ago I had every intention of getting paint out, but you know how it goes.  I’d forget to get it ready right away, time would slip away, and before you knew it, another Center Time had slipped away with no paint.

The next year I talked with one of our graduates.  “How’s kindergarten?”I asked.   She answered, “Great! Our teacher lets us paint every day!!”  Ouch!  The knife in my heart!!

So, take my advice.  Have it available every day, or at least two or three times a week.  One or two colors is plenty, and they will love it!