For anyone reading this blog, it should be no surprise that Peeper loves her some art. Most of her hands-on time is very open-ended: I set her up with some paper and crayons or a paper plate full of paint, then let her go wild. (And by wild, I mostly mean speckled green, black and orange in art supplies.)
It turns out that free-spirited approach to crafts is good for kids’ creativity. “Process art is more important than end product,” writes Rachelle Doorley, artist and author of Tinkerlab: A Hands-On Guide for Little Inventors, on her blog. And focusing too much on what kids make, and especially what projects are meant to look like, is stifling.
Doorley also polled a whole slew of educators, artists and parents on what they wished they’d known about kids’ art and rolled it up into a fantastic blog post. Just about everyone agreed that art is all about the doing—not what gets done.
I thought about her post a few times in the last weeks.
At a recent art/music class she’s taking at West Linn’s Youth Music Project, the kids marbled clay, rolled the ball flat and poked holes in each corner to hang it as a bird feeder. The children on either side of her carefully executed the project, and miniature bird feeders materialized all around us.
Peeper, meanwhile, had her own vision. “Want to make a bird feeder,” she repeated—while poking hole after hole after hole in the clay. I just let her go at it; she clearly enjoyed stabbing a pencil into the slab.
We ended up with more of a colander than a bird feeder, but oh well. She was happy, and so was I.
The same thing happened after story time recently. Sometimes the library sets up a craft related to the books they read, and this week they did an activity based on Baa, Baa Black Sheep. Well, Peeper came home with this.
And anyway, analyzing how much it does or doesn’t look like a sheep, or how closely it resembles the instructor’s example, misses the entire point. Art is about exploring your creativity, whether you’re 22 months or 22 years old, whether you’re a kid or Kahlo. (I’d bet Frida would have a few words for any critics who told her what her paintings were “supposed” to look like.)
So while my Pinterest boards are populated with crafts that have specific outcomes in mind, I’m glad I also stumble across gems like Tinkerlab. They remind me that Peeper is experiencing art just as she should. They’re also a good reminder for me to keep out of her way. As long as Peeper is enjoying it, her art projects are coming out perfectly.