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Creative expression of children

This is the post excerpt.

Once I drew like Raphael, but it has taken me a whole lifetime to learn to draw like children.” Pablo Picasso

I am starting this blog to share my experience and knowledge about children and their creativity. Working in the early childhood sector, doing my master’s in early childhood and interacting with young children on a daily basis has given me an insight and understanding on how children’s imagination and creativity work and how we, the adults, can encourage, promote, foster and develop creativity in children. Every child has creative potential and with our mindful and intentional help we can help the child to develop the fluency in creativity – when she can generate one idea after another with apparent ease.

The purpose of this blog is to advocate for creativity in children and share my thoughts and ideas on how children can preserve their creative nature and take it to adulthood with the help of a knowledgeable adult.

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Papier-mache Doll Project – Part 2 – Foil and Masking Tape

When the children finished building their wire person, we started wrapping aluminium kitchen foil around the wire armature to give our wire people some muscles.

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I asked the children to think about the body proportions, the thickness of arms and legs and the size of the body. Obviously, the area around the chest and the waist needed more foil.

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We didn’t wrap any foil around the area where the head should be attached as we decided to pierce a poly ball onto the wire piece to represent the head.

When the foil wrapping was done, we started covering our models with masking tape. This was quite challenging especially for younger children as it required a lot of advanced fine motor skills.

One useful technique we found out during the process was preparing a number of short strips of masking tape and sticking them onto the table edge before starting the wrapping process. Encourage younger children to use scissors for cutting the tape as it is quite tricky to rip it off with fingers.

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Another helpful tip was to ask the children to wrap the making tape onto the model by putting the end of the strip down first and wrapping tightly.

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Some children were quite inventive and came up with very interesting wrapping techniques. For example, pulling a long strip of masking tape and wrapping the armature while the masking tape roll was dangling 🙂

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The masking tape wrapping was the most challenging process on this day. We didn’t have a chance to practice this process beforehand jumping straight into it. If you feel that your children might be overly frustrated by it, I suggest you practice useful techniques of masking tape wrapping first to make sure everyone has mastered this skill before wrapping the armature.

Also at this point I asked the children to bend the limbs of their wire people and give them an action pose.

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Papier-mache doll – Ages 5-10 – Part 1 – Wire

Term 1 starts Feb 1

This papier-mâché project was completed in the course of four lessons (each lesson is 1.5 hours) and it was the longest and the most exciting project in our 3D construction course. The ages of the children ranged from 5 to 8.

We started off by twisting  floral wire – bending it in half and twisting it several times around. Each child needed about 4-5 twisted pieces of wire to build her ‘wire person’.

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We studied the human proportions looking at a wooden mannequin. We tried attaching our twisted wire pieces together with masking tape measuring the length of the body, legs, and arms – literally just putting the twisted wire on top of the mannequin and building our human bodies proportionally.

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I have to mention not all the children were ready to grasp this idea of proportion – some of the younger children ended up with very short legs and very long arm – which we happily accepted as we value process art and exploration and try not to change or criticise children’s art work. In fact, when the project was finished, it was evident that the quirkier the character looked the more personality the art work suggested – which is only possible if the children are not corrected on their art process and artistic choices.

In Part 2 I’ll talk about the next step – wrapping the wire armature in foil and masking tape.

 

How to add structure to open-ended art experiences for preschool children

The last year before school is a perfect time to start your child on some structured table work.
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Not a boring letter/number drill of course – something creative but structured at the same time.
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We’ve got you covered at WonderLab with our Explore and Create program for older preschoolers!
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Today this 4 year old artist spent 50 (!!) minutes on this mixed media art piece. How did he do it? With our thoughtful teacher facilitation of course!
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We know how young children tend to loose focus quickly and move from one activity to another very fast – so we planned a number of steps and art media to explore for this project:

  • a picture book to ignite imagination;
  • drawing of a house with a chalk marker on a big black piece of paper;
  • collaging with newspaper on top of the drawings;
  • painting newspaper with watercolour;
  • finishing off with exploring chalk pastel – rubbing and smudging the chalk dust

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Just look at this incredibly detailed art work by a 4 year old child – isn’t it amazing?

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Communication Through Paint – acrylic painting course for school age children

We run this course for our 9-week term classes and during our school holiday camps. Obviously, we manage to go through a lot more information during our term program, but our holiday camp crash course is a perfect opportunity for children to get familiar with acrylic medium and learn necessary painting techniques to be able to create a painting.

I learnt this painting course from an artist and art teacher Hamish Betts – you can learn more about it here.

We start off by practicing a series of painting techniques with children so that later when they begin creating a painting they have knowledge and awareness of different brush strokes and ways to apply paint on canvas.

Among these painting techniques are: base coat, gradient, stippling, rough brush stroke, sgraffito, palette knife scraping, pointillism, splattering and finger painting. We practice all these techniques on a large piece of paper so we can use these pieces of paper later as a visual aid or reference for our painting.

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When all the techniques have been covered and practiced, we are ready for our first painting – an abstract art work of feelings. We talk about colours that represent certain feelings and look at famous paintings, for example, Picasso’s blue period paintings suggest sadness and misery and if we want to paint something sad, we might want to choose shades and tints of blue.

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Red, magenta, yellow and orange colours, on the other hand, might suggest anger or excitement so we choose these colours to paint anger. We start each painting with a base coat and then add more layers of painting techniques progressively thinking which of them might represent or look like the feeling we have chosen to paint.

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Our next step is to build on the knowledge of colours and we look at the photo of a tree on a calm and sunny day. Children brainstorm their feelings when they look at the photo and we choose the colours for our second painting – a tree. Children choose themselves the painting techniques they would like to use to paint their tree. Note how the art works are different as we allow children the freedom to express their own ideas and work on their own skill level.

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For our third painting we choose an animal to paint. We look at the photos of different animals and vote for one we would like to paint. Similar to the tree painting, we brainstorm the feelings we might have towards the animal, for example, if it is a turtle, we might come up with calmness, happiness, relaxation. We choose the colours for these feelings again and start layering our canvases with paint. As always we start with a base coat and the gradient painting the turtle on top of these two.

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To give the children additional practice of painting the shapes of the turtle on the canvas, we go through an observational drawing session where children draw a turtle by looking at the photo. Again note how all the drawing are completely different even though the children are looking at the same photo. This is because we encourage individuality and never correct children on the way they see things!

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Our next session is dedicated to painting a collaborative mural. We paint an abstract art work – our attitude (in other words a feeling again) towards a certain world problem. In this photo you can see the children are creating a painting of their feelings towards the problem of the rubbish on the beach. Again all the colours represent our feelings.

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Finally, during our last sessions children choose their own subject to paint and use all the skills and knowledge practiced throughout the course of the term to create their unique masterpiece!

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You can also watch our video about this course here.

 

Drawing holiday camps for children ages 5-10

Our holiday camps are a perfect opportunity for children to develop an interest in art and practice some art skills.

During our drawing camps  the children practice a series of drawing skills.

Before we start describing the drawing skills we practice with children, it is important to note that children are NOT adults and they do not draw like adults – they have not developed adequate fine motor and cognitive skills to be be able to draw like adults and we do not ask them to practice adult level drawing (if we did it would frustrate children and make them feel inadequate). Thus, the art work that your children will be bringing home will not look like Albrecht Durer’s drawings! A lot of the art works will look like childish scribble, but there will be lots of meaning to it – it will be a meaningful and thoughtful scribble! Read further if you would like to understand your child’s drawings.

Some of the skills that we practice with children include:

  • the awareness of the elements of art (for example, different types of lines, shapes, textures). We ask children to think of all different types of lines they can come up with and draw a picture that includes just lines.

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  • the awareness of the principles of art (for example, patterns, balance, movement). We ask children to draw their self-portrait and add lots of details to their picture – patterns on the clothes, accessories, background. We also ask them to draw big and take up the whole space of the page. This technique helps children to develop their subject and stay on the task longer.

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  • Exploration of the possibilities of each drawing tool introduced – for example, the difference of drawing with a pencil and with a marker (when we draw with a pencil we can grade the colour which is not possible with the marker).

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  • observational drawing skills (when we look at the object and try to draw all the minor details) and imaginative drawing skills (when we draw from imagination, add background to our drawings that we can’t see but imagine)

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  • drawing with the technique of mark making – rubbing an oil pastel on paper in different ways (dragging, twisting, rolling etc.) and adding drawings on top of the rubbings with a lead pencil learning to see pictures in marks that we make (developing our creativity and imagination)

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  • drawing using large body movements – kinetic drawing (trying out totally new things). Watch our kinetic drawing video here.

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All in all, the main point of practicing art with children is to stretch their imagination and experiment with art materials in a relaxed and playful way!

Children’s drawing skills progression

Last year I asked the children (3.5 years old) to draw a dinosaur by looking at the picture or a toy and trying to draw by observation.

Yesterday (which is almost 8-10 months later) we revisited this experience and I compared the results. In each pair the first photo was done in 2018 and the second one is 2019.

 

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It is obvious that the children have developed in their ability to see shapes and proportions and draw objects by observation.

 

 

 

Self-portraits

Setting mirrors at the table and providing children with paper and black felt pens allows for a simple, provocative invitation to observe and study children’s faces and practice observational drawing skills.

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Before starting to draw, invite the children to study their images in the mirror asking simple questions such as these:

What is the shape of your face? Is it round? Oval? Is it thin? Long?

Look at the shapes of your eyes. What shape are they? Inside your eyes, do you see a black circle? What colour are your eyes? What’s around your eyes?

What’s above your eyes? What’s the shape of eyebrows?

Continue asking eliciting questions about the features of children’s faces – ask about the nose, mouth, lips, chin, cheeks, ears, and hair.

After this time of quiet, intimate reflection, invite the children to capture their observations on paper. Offer each child a pen and a sheet of white paper. Invite the children to begin their sketching guiding them through this process:

Look and draw, look and draw.. Look closely at your face in the mirror to see its shape. Then draw the shape you see. Then look again in the mirror to see the shape of your eyes. Draw the shape of your eyes. Look and draw, a little bit at a time.

Watch closely for cues that a child has finished with her self-portrait. Children sometimes keep doodling over the lines after they’ve finished their drawing, starting to colour in their sketch, or adding unrelated details. Offer the child to stop drawing this self-portrait and take a new piece of paper to try it again if the child still wants to draw.

You’ll be amazed how this guided drawing approach will enable even the youngest children to come up with a very recognisable self-portrait.

Cardboard box city

In this mixed-media art project the children were challenged to create a model of a 3D city. This was an extension to our previous project on painting houses. The cardboard box city took us nearly a month and the result is just amazing as you will see at the end of this story. At the very beginning we didn’t have a plan of how to make this city with the project evolving organically and the teacher letting the children decide what and how they want to create.

We started off by covering cardboard boxes with three layers of white paint to try to paint over the original pictures on the boxes.

When the white paint dried, the children painted their boxes in different colours. The painting with sponge rollers was the children’s least favourite experience, probably because is was very mechanical and lacked imagination and creativity (if you want to do this project quicker, you can paint the boxes on your own and skip this step).

Once the paint dried, the children chose white and black paint and paintbrushes to paint windows, doors and patters on the boxes.

One boy went further and decided to make a boat out of his box. He rushed to the loose parts centre and collected a couple of things he needed to make a mast and a flag.

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Following this boy’s interest, the next day I set up the table with loose parts, scissors, masking tape and glue. It resulted in such wonderful creations and happened to be a hit amongst the rest of the children.

With the number of creations growing, we realised we have to build our 3D city. A big cardboard box was chosen as a base and we started attaching the creations to it with a glue gun (the children were fascinated by this tool 🙂

We glued the boats on the right and the buildings on the left. Blue paper cut-outs next to the boats are representing the water and the wharf.

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To enliven the cardboard base, we decided we need the roads in our city – long strips of black paper were cut out for that and glued to the base. The children then took white paint and paintbrushes and painted a white broken like running along the road.

Green paper cut-outs were chosen to represent the grass next to the buildings. With the project still going, we are thinking about making trees and cars to add to our 3D city.

The cardboard base fitted our drawing table ideally allowing the children to stand around the creation and work on it comfortably.

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House Mural

 

To extend on our house drawings, the children were invited to create a collaborative mural of a city drawing and colouring different types of houses that they had already had an experience with during our previous project.

‘When children collaborate on a mural, they bring an expansive idea to life. Murals collect multiple ideas in one place, summarising and expanding a group’s thinking’ – Pelo, 2017.

We taped big sheets of white paper  next to each other on the floor and began drawing our houses sitting along one side to establish a perspective of the art work (drawing houses at the bottom of the mural).

We started off by sketching the houses with a black marker:

When drawings were finished, we started colouring our city using coloured pencils and oil pastel (day 1) and watercolour (day two).

We even put the mural up on the fence and continued our colouring during the week with the children having access to a large DIY colouring sheet and art media.

As murals involve a lot of collaboration and negotiation of space, the children had an opportunity to practice their social skills. I noticed that a collaborative art work like that invites even the most reluctant artists to create as the children share with and bounce ideas off each other.

When the mural was finished it was full of colour, vibrant and expressive – the children felt very proud of their work.

The wonky house

Sasha and I are attending music classes on a weekly basis and the music teacher draws a music house every lesson for the children to locate musical symbols and notes in it. She draws a typical house with a pointy roof, two windows with a cross inside, a typical door with a door handle, a staircase, a chimney and smoke coming up from the chimney. Something similar to this:

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I noticed that Sasha started drawing this musical house at home and getting very frustrated that he cannot draw the staircase in the way his musical teacher does it. I decided to study different types of houses and architecture with Sasha and the children in his preschool room to challenge the model or schema of drawing a typical house.

I printed off pictures of atypical houses and asked the children to examine them. We talked about their uniqueness and unusual design and realised that houses come in different forms and shapes.

 

With this in mind, the children started drawing their houses and I began collecting their creations and making a house book.

 

Drawings displayed on the wall:

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Making house structures with blocks using children’s drawings as a plan:

 

In this project the children had an opportunity to challenge their schema of drawing a typical house which was successful judging from the range of houses they came up with. They were practicing their creative thinking skills and expressing their ideas in a meaningful and unique way.