Our Kindermusik Maestro Carol Anne sent me this mother's reflection on allowing our kids to have control over the creative process. It reminded me of what I recently read about nurturing independence through art.
I thought of something I experienced with E last week:
We arrived home after a morning of activities. I needed a quick project to keep E occupied while I cleaned the kitchen. We were planning to visit my home town this weekend for Nana's birthday. I folded construction paper into a card, handed E some markers (at her insistence, "No, Momma, NO CRAYONS. Markers!"), and went about the chores I needed to get done while she drew.
I had to remind her once that "markers are for paper, not booster chairs" (don't worry, they're washable) but she was content to be making something for Nana on her own. This held her attention for a long period, in toddler time.
With my chores complete, I sat beside her to see what she had drawn. I always have her tell me about her picture so I can label it for her, introducing the writing process as well.
What you see is Nana, E's first drawing of a recognizable person, with eyes, a nose, and a mouth! Inside she drew our house and Nana's house, expressing her excitement over the fact that we would be traveling there and representing that she knew these were two separate places with distance in between.
As I stepped back (out of necessity), E had time to concentrate without me intervening. She knew I trusted her to make something that Nana would love all on her own. In the end, her artwork exceeded what I imagined she would do. Not only do I want to record this milestone here, but I also wanted to freeze in time this reminder to myself to allow her to have creative control by using these steps:
1. Resist - Resist the urge to take over or "suggest" things to draw or make. Hold back and see what your child does naturally, allowing their personality to shine through.
2. Relax - If you have an idea in mind of what the finished product "should" look like, let it go. If we all were asked to draw, cook, or sing as adults our completed products wouldn't be the same. It important to realize that your child's work doesn't need to end the way you want. Give room for your child to take ownership of the creation. Sometimes I have to focus on my breathing during this part when she is really making a mess, I mean, masterpiece.
3. Remind - Stay close enough to remind and refocus the attention IF necessary. In this case, I needed to remind E that markers are for paper, not furniture.
4. Rejoice - When I returned to see what E had made, I had genuine surprise and much pride in her creation! Together we discussed what she drew as I labeled her artwork.
I do believe there is a time and place for arts and crafts with steps where the finished projects resemble each other. I think that suggestions to your child in what to make can be helpful at times, since we all get inspiration from others. Sometimes, through, we just need the freedom and space to create and express ourselves, toddlers included.