“All grown-ups were once children… but only few of them remember it”
[Antoine de Saint-Exupéry]
In my initial post, A Word On Imagination, I claimed to possess a top notch make-believe machine that is still up and running in my cranium. I also remarked that no matter how hard I try, my imagination is rusty compared to the fantasy factories my preschoolers run everyday!
I am envious and mystified by the adventures my students go on without even leaving the classroom! I am flabbergasted as my students bring me a work of art they have created which, to the “grown-up and professional” mind, looks like nothing more than a jumble of waxy colours, only to discover through a three-year-olds insight that the masterpiece is in fact the one and only cloud machine found on Planet Unicorn! –A place which, by the way, seems to be home to very whimsically shaped cumulus clouds!–
As I continue to view my classroom’s gallery of preschool artwork I am happily reminded of the first story in the classic book, The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry. This short but completely unforgettable tale opens on the narrator recalling his childhood infatuation with animals, particularly, the boa constrictor and its capabilities to swallow animals whole. And, as all children do, interested in this, he starts to draw his own adaptations of lunchtime for boa constrictors. Full of pride in his work, he presents his drawing to adults and inquires to if his masterpiece frightens them. (Who wouldn’t be afraid of a snake who just gorged himself on a whole elephant?!) The grown-ups, looking through “mature” eyes, can’t see any reason to be afraid of what they interpret to be “a hat.” And they soon insist that the narrator drops his curiosities and imagination and focus on what will help him be a great grown-up.
For anyone who has not read The Little Prince, I highly recommend it. I do not believe I stopped smiling for the entirety of the book. This is a book for all ages and is the perfect book to gift to a high school graduate.
–I know the popular book to give to graduates is Oh the Places You’ll Go. And there is nothing wrong with that book. There is nothing wrong with Dr. Seuss. But I say between the two, The Little Prince is so much more meaningful! Yes, “your mountain is waiting” and “you have brains in your head” but I believe that what young adults who are going out into the world really need to remember is what it is like to be a child. Go ahead and “grow-up” but don’t forget; hold tight to your childhood spirit through all of the places you’ll go.–
Now, let’s get back to the topic my students’ artwork.
Free art is an important imagination exercise. In a quality early childhood classroom there should always be enough free art supplies: markers, crayons, coloured pencils, paper, collage materials, paste, scissors, etc. These items should be open at all times for the children to use!
I love connecting art to the books we read in class. Similar to the narrator in The Little Prince, children love to draw what they have learned and what interests them.
Here’s an example:
A couple months ago our theme in the classroom revolved around outer space. One week, we read a lot of books, fiction and nonfiction, about the moon. After finishing up one story, I told my students that there was supplies for anyone to use to create a personalized moon adventure. The lunar masterpieces that each child developed were beautiful, mysterious, and asked for the viewers attention.
Here’s a very important tip for anyone who interacts with a child artist.
(Which is any child, by the way.)
When a child brings you something he or she has designed never say the phrase, “What is it?” This is so discouraging to a young mind. The child may start to think ideas such as, “How can you not see what this is?” “I must have not worked hard enough on it.” “It’s not as good as I thought.” This question can cause a child to have self-doubt.
The better phrase to use when presented with a child’s masterpiece is, “Tell me about your creation!” If you will recall from one of my previous posts, The Art of Book Conversations, open-ended questions ask so much more from a child! The phrase “tell me about” allows a child to become the storyteller. It is a child’s chance to invite someone into his or her fantasy world! And my dear readers, pay attention, for the world of a child’s imagination is so wild and captivating! Enjoy each adventure you are allowed to enter!
Children hold to key to the wardrobe.
Preschool art should encourage a lot of open-ended creations. Yes, all teachers and parents love when children follow a model of an art project. Glue this here, colour this red, cut on the dotted line… but I wouldn’t entirely call those projects art. That activity should be labeled a craft.
Children do enjoy making crafts. I have some five-year-olds who strive to recreate the examples I make of a specific craft and work really hard to achieve that goal. And such activities are great! They emphasize concentration, fine motor skills, hand-eye coordination and encourage children to strive for a tangible, set goal. But, something that it doesn’t entirely do is point a child’s creative mind towards higher level imagination!
The best classroom or home should incorporate a mix of both crafts and art every week!
Need ideas on how to incorporate more open-ended art topics into your classroom or home? Leave me a comment here, send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org and stay tuned for my next post!
For now, please enjoy these parting words from the great Antoine de Saint-Exupéry:
“It is only with the heart that one can see rightly.
What is essential is invisible to the eye.”
Your Grown-Up Friend Who Remembers,