I feel passionately about art and creativity, so I would like to take a moment to speak about open ended art and process art versus cookie cutter arts and crafts. What is cookie cutter art? It is when you give children an art or craft project to do, but you do not allow for creativity. It is when all of the children's art looks the same; the art looks like it was created from the same mold AKA cookie cutter. Why do adults hoover over children to make sure that they are creating something that looks like the example? Why do adults sometimes even do children's art for them? Isn't the main goal of art to be CREATIVE? How are children being creative in these situations? So what is open ended art? Open ended art is art that is created with a variety of materials. Give children access to a wide variety of material; allow children to use these material to create whatever they wish. What is process art? Process art is playing around with different art materials in order to understand the process of art; it does not focus on a finished product. It is very important for young children to explore and to experiment with different art materials before they begin thinking about actual art projects to create to completion. Process art many times also allows children access to sensory experiences. Sensory experiences are very important in early childhood.
Are crafts bad? Is showing an example bad? Is themed art bad? Not at all! Part of the reason I feel so passionately about allowing children to be creative in art is because that I love being artistic myself; the other reason is that I have studied Early Childhood Education, and I understand the importance of open ended art and process art. I don't have much artistic talent, but I LOVE playing around with art. I've created art AND I've done crafts. My house is decorated with bottles that I have spray painted or food coloring and mod podge painted; that is crafty. However, no one told me how I must craft these bottles; I enjoyed the creative process! I would hate it if someone told me how I MUST create my crafts; I would especially hate it if someone told me how I MUST create my art!
You can still be creative with a craft. I love doing crafts especially for holidays. When I do crafts with children, I always allow for as much creativity as possible. I will show them an example of the craft. I will answer any questions they may have. I will also tell them that they may use other materials that are NOT on my example. I will also encourage them to make the craft their own! What about a theme? I always have a theme for each day; that theme is carried over into math, literacy, dramatic play, etc., and ART. Guess what? Process art can be themed, but don't be upset if the children choose not to follow your theme. It is their art, and it is their choice. Suggest a theme; if the children decide to create according to your theme, that is wonderful! If they decide to create something completely different, that is wonderful as well! If they do not have a finished product, that is perfectly fine! Don't allow your craft or themed art project to be the only art for the day. Always allow access to open ended art materials for maximum creativity even when you have projects for arts and crafts. As long as children are experimenting with art, being creative, and being unique, they are being artists! What is the lesson here? Crafts are wonderful! Themed art is wonderful! Cookie-cutter, exactly the same, copycat arts and crafts is not so wonderful. Just remember to allow for an abundance of creativity!
For examples of process and open ended art and links to lesson plans, please click on my link entitled Blog: Process Art VS Cookie Cutter Art.