I'm Tammy. 

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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, breakfast table... 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. 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. Displays of "cookie cutter art" in school hallways and art studios do not necessarily show creativity (just the ability to follow directions).
    • Manage children's expectations. Gradually teach them through example. Focus on process not product. Check out Praising Kids' Art and Eroding Kids' Creativity.
    • Don't be tempted to "fix" or "finish" a child's artwork. It is not your artwork. It is the child's artwork. You may fix or finish your own artwork as you desire. Do you finish their spelling tests? Answer the unanswered math problems?
    • Don't copy cat a project. If you are teaching kids to paint in the style of Van Gogh, they do not need to use deep mustard yellows and create a sunflower. Teach the process and let them paint what they wish as long as it is within the boundaries you set - i.e. using a specific style or type of brush. 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 so it's not a "special treat" like an iced cream sundae. Check out the entire series on Micro-Managing Kids' Art.

    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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