I am positively thrilled to announce the return of Backyard Art Camp! Remember Backyard Art Camp from two years ago? The inimitable Jane from Buzzmills and I gathered together a group of bloggers who each created art projects for kids centering around famous artists. It was SO MUCH FUN! And, we’ve been meaning to do it again. As the dog days of summer approached we talked about it a little here and a little there. Finally Jane’s brilliant daughter came up with the idea of a Re-useum…that is an art gallery with art made of recycled materials! Genius! So, in a kind of last minute, thrown-together way….I am happy to present Backyard Art Camp 2015, the Re-useum. Along with Tara from Girl Like The Sea, Jane and I are spending this week showing off our projects, philosophies and all things recycled art projects for kids. Be sure to check out Jane’s post from yesterday so you can bask in pure delight…she invited the whole neighborhood over and created a full-on recycled art gallery (a real RE-useum!)
Today, I’m talking about nurturing creativity with child-led art projects. I feel a little bit silly discussing this, to be honest. I mean, it’s not like I am some expert on this stuff. I’m sure there is a Montessori teacher out there who is going to shake her head through my whole blog post. I don’t know if I’m doing the whole ‘child-led’ thing exactly by the book or perfectly. But a new shift has happened at our house and it’s meant I figured out that child-led, open-ended and highly optional is the ONLY WAY I can engage C in the idea of art projects. He’s eight now and along with that has come a reluctance to do “art projects” that are at all defined or structured. For a while I kind of gave up but that made me really sad. So, I figured out what works for us and here it is:
+ Set up an invitation for the project. Put out the materials they will need so we aren’t scrambling to find things and the protection necessary so I’m not nagging them about ‘staying clean’. It’s set up for creativity and mess (let’s be honest, those kind of go hand-in-hand don’t they?) In the case of this project, I put out all recycled materials and basics like paint, glue and scissors.
+ Sometimes I bring it to their attention and other times I don’t. If they don’t seem interested in doing it, I will start a project of my own. Seeing me work on something often draws them in. I just keep working alongside them as they pick up materials and get started. Plus, to be honest I like doing these projects!
+ Stay out of it! Even if I’m making something myself, I keep my attention on my own project and work alongside the boys. That way, they are free to create whatever they want to without my intervention. If they need help with something like cutting heavy cardboard I will help out. I definitely don’t correct or re-direct them or suggest anything related to their project.
+ Limited attention. Often the boys want to share what they are making (of course!) and I try to ask questions and discuss it without contributing what they should do next, etc. Just keep it as open and inquisitive as possible. In truth, I try to maintain a demeanor that communicates I see them as my peer. We are just people making stuff together.
+ Accept what they make. This one can be tough for me. For instance, yesterday when we sat down for this activity, they both made swords. Ugh! I hate weapons but they LOVE them. I kept my mouth shut and let it go. You know what, once the swords were done they moved on to other projects!
+ Process not Product. This kind of art project is really not at all about the outcome. It’s about teaching them to love making. It’s about those faces up there…full of concentration and deep thought. It’s about getting them addicted to the feeling of creative flow. I want them to be intrinsically drawn to the creative process rather than reliant on external value of their product. They aren’t not going to be pinterest-worth, re-clickable toilet roll animals. They just aren’t and that’s more than ok. That is the point. I don’t want those external standards encroaching on their beautiful process.
That’s about it. The great approach is pretty simple: put things out, do my own thing and stay inquisitive but not nosy! Not rocket science. Do you have any child-led project tips? I am all ears.
Stay tuned tomorrow for a great post from Girl Like The Sea! She is up next on Backyard Art Camp, Re-useum! On Thursday Jane will be discussing famous art that uses recycled materials and on Friday I’m sharing our Re-useum party! Not to give anything away but it was awesome!!