Saturday, January 14, 2012

Messy Fun

Art is so much more than “messy fun” for your child. Mark Wagner of Arts and Bones Studio shares with us 10 reasons why art is good for your children. Though I agree with all 10 of his reasons, my top three favorite as a parent are: 1) art prepares kids for the future, 2) art awakens the senses and 3) art develops the whole brain.

As a teacher candidate in a method's art class, I was fascinated to learn about Lowenfeld's Stages of Artistic Development. This was an eye opening experience for me. I began being able to walk the schools of a hallway, knowing exactly how old the children were that created the artwork.

As an assistant teacher in my early 20's at a Montessori school back in
Chicagoland, I recall reading an article about how children should be given the
best art supplies that is financially feasible. It made sense. If you want them
to 'create' give them the tools to express themselves without being limited by
certain mainstream art products marketed for children. Let them paint with ease
by using a 'real' artist’s paint brush and have colors that blend as they are
intended to.

Since I am passionate about Montessori, I'm going to focus on a few key components of art in a Montessori classroom that you can easily apply in your home. One thing you need to understand with “messy fun” is that while it may be messy for you, it’s learning for your child. So be prepared to clean up. Designate a special art area—away from things that you may not want to have christened by your budding artist.

Easel’s vary in price and quality. We’re on our 2nd easel. I picked up the
latest one from IKEA for $14.99 (a fraction of the cost that I spent on our *well used* first one). During the summer, I like to bring the easel outside for the kids. This changes their perspective. Make sure your easel is positioned by a light
source. I had an accompanying apron with our first one. However, I don’t have
that anymore as I’ve come to the realization that my kids are more important
than the clothes they wear. I try to keep them in “play clothes” that they are comfortable in and can get messy without me worrying about them being ruined.

The first thing a child learns at the easel is how to hold the paint
. Once the child is ready, then you can show your child how to paint a
line. Sounds simple, but this is where the child learns how to control the
brush-- and in turn freely express. You will thank yourself for extending the
life in the bristles of the ‘real’ brushes you invested in.

One of my favorite tasks in preparing the classroom environment was the paint area. By just standing in that section, it piqued the curiosity of children. Often I
would wait for a child to wander over and then we would select the colors of the
day based off their clothing. We would experiment together with the color
and mix colors to get a desired match.

Since I love to connect literature to any activities we do as learning extensions,
here are some of our favorite “messy fun” books:
· Red Fox by Eric Carle
· The Artist who Painted a Blue Horse by Eric Carle
· It Looked Like Spilt Milk by Charles G. Shaw
· I Aint Gonna Paint No More by Karen Beaumont
· Beautiful Oops! by Barney Salzberg
· The Crayon Box That Talked by Shane Derof
· Leaf Man by Lois Ehlert
I fight the urge to comment on work children do or instantly frame it. I've learned to wait until the child engages me about their work. Instead of replying with,
"How pretty!" or "Beautiful," I learned to engage the child back. For instance, "I like the colors you chose to paint the horse-- why did you choose those?" In turn, it leds to a beautiful conversation that often includes story-telling.

I also learned not to hang up art work (or work in general) in the classroom.
When you take a child's work and hang it up, you are instantly placing judgment
and value on that work. Instead of the child creating for the sheer joy of it,
he or she learns to create to gain please. The rule of thumb is
to let your child first express that they would like to display their work.
Though this is sometimes more challenging, let them choose a spot for their
work to be displayed.

No doubt, for those that have been to my house, you already know that my children
are my favorite artists-- but I always remember to respect the child and their
wishes. As a photographer, I get this. There are some pieces that are "for
me." I would never want them showcased to others. Now, for those pieces
that your child lets you display, here’s an idea. Scan it or snap a picture of
it. Then insert it a word document. Size it accordingly at make your own
personalized cards or postcards designed by your child.

Recently my eldest was invited to a birthday party for a 5 year old aspiring artist.
Nishad was quick to say that he needed some new paints. I’m no stranger to Dick
Blick Art Supply
stores, but whenever I stop in, I always discover something new. In this case it was liquid water colors by Niji. Of course, I had a package up for my boys too so we could test them out. What a hit!

Keep in mind that traditional water colors are great because of the process and
practice the child learns to master with applying water to create a mixture to
paint with. In my opinion, the best water color paints available for kids is a Tempera cake. The best part of using a cake is that there is no spillage on the tray that blends all the colors together.

Typically we use Prang’s Tempera paints. I like the consistency of the paints as well as the fact that it’s non-toxic. Another plus, is that it’s washable.

A great way to place artwork to dry is to pick up a laundry rack. Check out this
one from Target that is mounted on the wall. Not only useful, but it saves space.

Remember to keep the focus on the process and not the product.
Release your inner Pollock, have fun and get messy!

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