At Westgate, we firmly believe that every child is an artist. Arts and design activities are integral to our daily practice – not only are they fun and tangible opportunities to explore colour, pattern, and shape; they also allow the children to explore and express their own emotions.
But… with that exploration comes the knowledge that not every piece of art will be beautiful. Preschoolers will painstakingly draw pictures of their dreams, only to tear their artwork to shreds with scissors. Toddlers will paint with rainbow colours, before deciding to mix every colour available to create a brown mess. Babies will giggle as their hands are tickled by a paintbrush, which is then printed everywhere but the paper!
As the saying goes, children will be children, and we believe there is more value in these learning experiences than a production-line style art activity, where each child creates the same artwork as the child before them, all of which are instantly recognisable thanks to the adult’s input. The child cutting in preschool is learning how to use scissors, developing their hand-eye co-ordination, gaining strength in the muscles in their hand. The toddler is exploring how colours can be changed, and will eventually use this knowledge with purpose in future artwork. The baby with painted hands is learning about touch and consequences when he sees the grown up scrubbing paint off the floor!
Take this example of a Preschool junk modelling activity. The table was set with boxes, bottles, tubs, and cardboard, as well as a variety of cutting and fastening tools. The child filled an empty bottle with string, sticks, and pencils from the nearby pencil holders, developing strength in her fingers and wrist as she undid the lid and posted each implement into the bottle. ‘It’s my maraca!’ she announced proudly, shaking the bottle as she started to sing a nursery rhyme. A pencil flew out as she shook it, which prompted her to realise that the maraca needed to be sealed. She selected a glue stick and smeared it around the opening, before placing the lid back on. The child decided to decorate her maraca by drawing a picture, but realised that the pencils were all inside the bottle. She tried to remove the lid, and was surprised at how easily it came off – realising now that the glue had not been strong enough. She attempted to remove the pencils, but found that her fingers could not fit through the hole, so shook out all of the implements before separating them in to categories of matching objects. The child then drew her picture, reassembled the maraca (without pencils), and selected double-sided tape to reseal the lid. She used scissors to cut the tape, and spent several minutes concentrating on wrapping it around the bottle lid, until choosing to ask for help. When the maraca was complete, she asked for a disco and proceeded to shake her instrument as she danced to the music!
This activity took no longer than fifteen minutes, but in that time the child learnt a wealth of skills and techniques – from fine motor skills, to categorising; problem solving (exploring fastenings and asking for help when required) to imaginative play. Process art offers so much more than a memento – it provides a voice to speechless children; a problem to be solved; and an experience to be remembered. For our children, art is not about the end result, it’s about the journey.