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    « Kick-Start Your Art Journal (9) | Main | Doodles + Watercolors (Part 3) »

    How {Not} to Micro-Manage Kids' Art (Part 4)


    Start with Part One of our Sensible Guide, I'll wait for you! The idea behind this series is that when you release control over the outcome of art projects, children benefit from less control and more freedom.

    I understand if you don't want munchkins gallavanting around with brushes dripping alizarin crimson (I might be up for cadmium yellow but that's another story). So we need to create an environment that fosters creativity while balancing freedom with responsibility. Here are some things that you as a parent or art teacher can do:

    • Use gentle reminders. "Let me show you how we rinse brushes in the sink." "We keep beads in this box on this shelf." "Remember to put your finished work in this basket."
    • Protect your art space. We don't have a dedicated art space, so we use the kitchen floor or breakfast table... or a little card table in the kitchen. Protecting the workspace means less worry about messes, less stress.
    • Facilitate. Balance freedom with guidance. Put out colors that will work together, no matter how the kids use them. You don't have to put out 25 colors; nor do you have to say that the cow has to be brown. Turquoise cows are cool too.
    • Keep suggestions open-ended. There is no "right" color, "right" pattern, "right" way to do art. Try asking open questions like, "Would you like to add another color to your painting?" "Are you finished with the background?"
    • Manage customer expectations. If you are a teacher, that's likely parents & administration. Talk about your approach to art; letting kids have freedom while learning about media and techniques. When I see "cookie cutter art" in school hallways and art studios I see that the kids can follow directions and are not free to interpret the technique or lesson as they wish.
    • Manage children's expectations. Focus on process {the "doing" part} not product {the "end result" part}. The goal is not perfect art. The grass does not need to be green. 
    • Don't "fix" or "finish" a child's artwork. The truth is that this not your artwork. It is the child's artwork. Do not alter a child's artwork, other than putting it in a frame {if the kid is OK with that}. Do not draw lines around his/her work, erase his/her work, add a blue sky or tell him that the grass should be green. For pre-writers, you can add the name/date on the reverse and add documentation about how the child describes his/her own work. 
    • Don't copycat a project. If you really must teach kids to paint in the style of Van Gogh, teach the brush technique and let them paint what they wish as long as it is within the boundaries you set - i.e. using a specific style - medium - type of brush. Requiring them to use deep mustard yellows and create a sunflower is basically copywork. Having them simply imitate what you do, or a sample project, puts unnecessary boundaries on their art and is of questionable value.

    The creative culture in our home evolved out of our knowledge of the Reggio Emilia philosophy, trial & error, watching what works and what doesn't. We focus on the joy of doing art, bringing art & creativity into every day. 

    Check out the entire series on Micro-Managing Kids' Art.

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    Reader Comments (2)

    I love your blog! It's so full of color and fun. thanks for the inspiration.
    I too have little girls (8&6). I'll be back often!


    12.9.2009 | Unregistered Commenter5orangepotatoes

    great art advice!!!!!!

    12.12.2009 | Unregistered Commenterjo

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