Art is a time for children to explore concepts beyond creating something beautiful. Art is a time for children to explore math and science concepts, in addition to confidence and independence. When we present art to children we want to be focused on the process, not the product. The children should have free range of the materials, and support to explore as they wish.
Provocation is how we can guide the children’s creative process. Let the activities leading up to the project inspire the children. Read a book, sing a song, or use props that will lend themselves to inspiration. For example- read a book about birds, discuss their feathers and the shape of their body. Then transition to art. On the table the children will have feathers, clay, and various tools. You can prop the book open on the table and tell the children that they may feel inspired by it. Some students will naturally create birds, other students will create their own sculptures, and that is ok too.
First impressions do matters. Set up the art in a way that will inspire the children. Be mindful of the containers you use to hold your materials. Pay attention that they are washable, and functional. Use small cups to hold crayons and markers. Make sure the amount of paint you use is appropriate. Too much and too little will make the art less enjoyable. Use paint brushes that are appropriate for the project. Keep in mind that small work needs small brushes for fine detail, larger upright painting may require the long handle paint brushes. Supplies should be spread appropriately across the table for all students to access. Involve the children in classroom maintenance by having them clean up their center when they are done. Have them be mindful of when others are going to be working after them, and they only need to tidy the station, and when they are the last one and do bigger clean up jobs.
Documenting the Work
Because art with young children is driven by the process of making it, not the end product, a very important part of art is to document the work. Take pictures of children who are allowed to have their photo taken. Record the process of how their art develops. Jot down quotes from the children, maybe they told you about their art while they were creating it. Preserve the process so the parents and children can see it too. When you hang their work you want your display to be tasteful and respectful of the hard work the children put into it. Frame or mat their work, and display it straight and even on documentation boards. Make sure you write down what they learned, and a little bit about the project, including your provocation is always a good thing.
Art teaches more concepts than we always realize. Mixing colors is a math skill, “When we add red and blue it creates purple. Now instead of having 2 colors we have 3.” How the crayon moves on the paper and leaves part of itself behind is science. “See how the more we draw the shorter the crayon gets? Some of the crayon is sticking to the page.” Using glue or other adhesives teaches other early math/science skills. It is also a time to foster independence and self confidence. Creating masterpieces that you are proud of feels good. Exploring your creativity is an important part of life, and vital part of childhood. Encourage the children to explore the materials, use critical thinking, and to think outside the box. Follow their lead during art, and always encourage the children to create in their own way.