Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Art + Crafts: The Fundamentals Part 1

Creative expression is essential in a child's early years and beyond. Often we use “arts and crafts” as a description for creative expression with a variety of materials. So, what is the difference between them?
Art is an open ended expression of creativity using a variety of materials. Options could include; paints, paper, found objects, sculpting dough or clay, crayons, pencils, markers, beads, feathers, etc. It’s important to offer the opportunity for children to explore all types of materials completely without any expectations of any specific outcome. There can be parameters set on the activity in terms of the materials available, the time frame for the activity and the location.
Art is about the experience and process of creating rather than an expectation of the outcome. Children are free to express their feelings, illustrate experiences or simply open themselves up to the moment. The final product may not have as much significance to the child as the experience itself. 
Crafts may also include a variety of materials offered but with a specific outcome expected or desired. Typically there are several steps involved in the process from beginning to the end product. This could include assembling components or working through a step-by-step instructions to arrive at the completed project. Crafts have more structure and can be an asset in developing concepts of planning, implementation and completion. There are lots of kits

 and books with developmentally appropriate projects which include list of materials needed to complete the craft. Although the outcome of a craft is an identifiable and defined project, its goal is the process which uses step-by-step instructions and specific materials.
There is room for both arts and crafts in any early childhood setting. Some children thrive when given materials to express themselves as they see fit and others really enjoy having structured parameters.
A child who prefers structure can also benefit from free flowing, non-outcome expression. The child who loves expressive art can profit from projects that promote order concept processing, “first, second, third” with a distinct outcome. Encouraging children to engage in both activities provides a balance of experience.
Keep in Mind -
• Having a place for art or crafts to take place is important.
• Both art and crafts can get messy so have a plan in mind.
• Consider appropriate storage options for materials.
• Consider what items are at child level and what are stored for adult access.
• Creating is something that can be done everyday, but should be balanced with other activities (reading, outdoor time, games, music, science, etc.)

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