We went to a wonderful children’s event recently. It was a jazz concert in a topiary park, surrounded by topiary statues, a pond with ducks, walking paths, and wildflowers. It was adjacent to the downtown library, and representatives from the art museum had a project set up after the music.
The art project was set up well. The table was spread with choices, including foil sheets, tissue paper in many colors, pipe cleaners, googly eyes, puffy balls, magic nuudles, glue, markers, and colored tape. Kids could choose anything they wanted and the only direction given was that they were making “plants from another planet.” I’m sure that there was some reason for that theme, but they didn’t explain further. And my kids got to work.
My kids got to work until a mother and her preschool aged child sat down with us. She said to her daughter, “you’re supposed to make a flower from another planet.” And she went on to tell her daughter each step to take to make a tissue paper flower. She made every decision. At one point, she said, “this flower looks really sad. Let’s make it look better.” And she added another layer to the flower while her daughter watched.
Other kids starting following suit. One girl, obviously distressed, turned to her grownup and said, “it’s supposed to be a flower!” My kids hesitated, but I reiterated that they could make whatever they wanted and they kept creating.
Why even go?
Why do we take over for our kids, even in these situations that are specifically designed for children? Why can’t we trust them and let them create? Obviously, it’s not understanding process vs product art, but it’s so much more than that. Why can most adults not let kids have even the smallest amount of control over their own lives?
Creating art has so many benefits. Creating allows children to explore their creativity and is a wonderful sensory activity. It develops fine motor skills, creativity and confidence. I love this quote shared by the Artful Parent.
“Art has the role in education of helping children become like themselves instead of more like everyone else.” –Sydney Gurewitz Clemens
That is, if parents let it. The parent in this story missed out on enjoying her child create something unique and wonderful, and the child missed out on the opportunity to make decisions and be in control of herself and her project. How do we expect our children to gain these skills if we never let them practice?