Have you ever seen a child’s perfectly cut pumpkin hung proudly on the fridge and wondered, “Who actually did that project?” Parents and caregivers feel the stress of society telling them to make Valentines Day cards or snowflakes with their kids because it’s that time of year. It can be easy to fall into the trappings of Canned curriculum or “performing”, but emergent curriculum takes on a child’s interests and allows them to integrate and absorb the process on a deeper level. Homemade cards are great, but it’s more important that the child had fun using their creative mind.
Art and the creative process apply the six major areas of development that are focused on in early childhood: Physical (fine and gross motor), Language, Emotional, Creative, Cognitive, and Social. All of these developmental areas can be touched upon during the process of creating art.
Physical: Grasping a crayon or paintbrush, but also offering modeling clay or found objects/recyclables left around the house.
Emotional: Relating to emotions felt during real life experiences or the emotions of friends, family members, or characters in their art.
Social: Politely sharing or requesting materials or ideas, or complimenting a peer’s creation.
Language: Children utilizing language skills to describe their piece, as well as the caregiver asking questions to promote thinking and cognitive development.
Cognitive: Offering open-ended art projects that allow the children to think about what they will create, and how to manipulate the materials to achieve their ideas.
Creative: Prior to beginning, thoughtfully place materials in a way that encourage children to mix colors or try a new art medium, allowing the environment to act as a third teacher.
Here’s some tips for the next time you play:
1. Seeing growth and development in our children is far more important than staying inside the lines.
If you work with older children who have never had the opportunity to approach art in this way, they may have difficulty. Some children may not know where to start or can’t think of something to paint.
2. Help build their confidence and show them that they have the power and creativity to make whatever they would like.
Nannies, caregivers, and parents can do this by never making a sample product. No one’s art has to be the same; everyone’s creative minds should send them in different directions. Ask the child what they are making rather than guessing, so you don’t upset or influence the child, accidentally seeing a tree when actually it’s a dinosaur. A child may ask for your approval after finishing, “Do you like it? Did I do it right?” When answering these requests for approval, be descriptive, “I love the orange sky you painted so beautifully! What do you like about your painting?” And avoid using simple responses, such as, “It’s great!”
3.Get the parents involved so they can see what children can do when given freedom with art.
When your Mom Boss asks you to make turkeys for the Thanksgiving Dinner centerpiece, explain your approach to the creative process and the developmental areas scaffolded through open-ended art. Suggest decorating a ceramic flower vase, a basket to glue colorful materials to, or placemats to design. But remember to allow children to come to their own conclusion about how to decorate, design and create. Choosing something of the child’s own design will reinforce their pride and accomplishment in creating a unique work of art.
Open-ended art allows children, caregivers, and parents to see that it’s not the final product, but the child’s creative process that is the true masterpiece.
How do your charges get to make believe and use their imagination even if it’s not perfect?
Kelsey Plimpton is currently a nanny in Boston and has been nannying for five years. She started as a part-time nanny while earning her associates degree in Early Childhood Education. Kelsey has worked with ages 2 months to 15 years in both nannying and babysitting positions, since the age of 13. While working with children she follows their interests to help create activities targeting developmental goals. She blogs with SitterCycle.com and is the Early Childhood Coordinator.>