We’ve all been there with a huge sigh, staring at a pile of old crayons. Ready to throw them out.
Or staring in disbelief as our child peels the paper right off brand new crayons! How dare he!
And if he snaps a crayon in half, oh my! Call in re-enforcements!
But the truth is, there are dozens of ways to use old crayons. And kids already know it.
One way is Alison’s idea to recycle old crayons. I love it!
You can also . . .
Melt them in old muffin tins.
blunt or tip;
batik on fabric,
Toss more colors in the bin.
“paint” with dots;
for stained glass spots;
Take your old crayons for a spin!
and much more.
Kids love this kind of exploration and naturally think outside the box. Especially the crayon box.
A child is naturally more consumed with the process more than the product—until we train him otherwise! Therefore . . .
- Don’t beat yourself up if you’ve failed to follow these guidelines in the past. This is “Art Rules According to Laura’s Experience & Reading.” Just be willing to take a fresh approach from now on. No guilt trips.
- Don’t make it all about you and your approval.
- Don’t label artwork as good, beautiful, nice, pretty, wonderful, terrific, amazing, etc. Don’t say “I like it” or “I love it”. These are value judgments. This kind of praise is more akin to flattery, and eventually makes kids dependent on your approval rather than following his own artistic instincts.
- Don’t ask “What is it?” This question assumes that everything must be “real” or recognizable.
- Don’t utilize “formula” and no-fail crafts. If you can’t avoid them, use them sparingly. Or figure out ways to individualize them. Otherwise, the already floundering child will come to rely on them and be reticent to try his own ideas. It may also develop a false sense of accomplishment.
- Give your child large paper. 18” x 24” or larger is good, so as not to restrict arm movement.
- Encourage experimentation.
- State observations to validate what she’s done:
“I see that you’ve made circles of many sizes.”
“You’ve used many shades of red and blue.”
“You made very thick lines here, and thinner lines over here.”
The bottom line is: Describe, don’t judge.
- Discuss technique. Note if he is applying heavy or light pressure with a crayon. Note if he’s using the tip or taking off the paper and using it lengthwise–even broken in half. Yes, broken and unwrapped crayons are okay! Note straight and curvy lines, short and long, thin and thick, blunt or sharp tips. This is more important than discussing subject matter. Again, describe, don’t judge.
Statements of observation are affirmations
that prove you’re engaged with his artwork,
that you’re really seeing it,
rather than merely labeling it as good or pretty.
On a personal note, as a kid, I remember certain adults complimenting my drawings. But the words fell flat unless they came from someone who actually knew something about art. It’s easy to “impress” the person who’s not knowledgable in that area.
Perhaps it would be like me randomly walking up to a heart surgeon and telling him that he’s the greatest surgeon ever, that he does amazing work. But what do I know about heart surgery? I don’t know the difference between cardiac tissue or a hamstring. A compliment from someone like me means nothing, no matter my good intentions. He would more likely value praise from his colleagues and superiors.
- Say “Tell me about your picture” if you’re not sure what to say about it.
- Encourage scribbling when it occurs with pre-school children. Scribbling is a natural phase and makes writing easier later.
- Display artwork. Put the rest in a 24” by 36” portfolio, or smaller pieces in a binder.
AND . . .
- DO give your child Susan Striker’s anti-coloring books! (See below for the complete list.)
I loved these books when my kids were young! For kids ages 6 to 9, each page offers an invitation to draw by means of open-ended thinking. The activities are designed to stimulate creativity and problem-solving skills.
The several books in this series offer an alternative to traditional coloring books that merely espouse coloring inside the lines of grown-up drawings. According to Striker, coloring books do more harm than good, and only breed sameness, killing creative thought and confidence.
Drawing on her experiences as an art teacher, Striker’s book Please Touch teaches parents how to foster creativity in children before age four through art, music, and play. You may not agree with everything she says, but she has many valid points about nurturing imagination and bringing out the best in kids. In addition, you can get specific ideas for art activities that will encourage your toddler’s or pre-schooler’s imagination in her book Young at Art: Teaching Toddlers Self-Expression, Problem-Solving Skills, and an Appreciation for Art. Also, learn what to expect at each stage of artistic development.
Now you can see why my son had such two disparate reactions to my comments on his project?
So when have you been either encouraged or stifled by praise for your creative work? And why?
P.S. Coming soon: An artist who’s just as comfortable sculpting polymer clay trees as she is painting Tom Petty portraits (& other stars), and also “draws” the best from her art students