Artmaking with Young Children

I was incredibly lucky to begin my art education career at the Chicago Children’s Museum (CCM) – celebrating its 30th birthday this year!

CCM has a fully-dedicated art studio and gallery space on the ground floor.  This Kraft Artabounds Studiowas my home for two years as I helped teach and manage family, school, afterschool, and early childhood programs.  Looking back on workshop

Chicago Children’s Museum

descriptions for Kids Create, a weekly drop-in program for 2 to 4-year-olds and their caregivers, here are a few favorites:

Rolling Balls – Roll it fast.  Roll it slow.  Dip balls in paint and watch them go!  Create trails with paint as you roll balls down inclines or around and around in pans.

It’s Snowing! – Scoop and build snowy landscapes with shaving cream.  Use little spatulas as shovels to clear paths.  Make a snow print to take home.

 Loop a Labyrinth/String Sculpture – Learn to hammer nails into a wooden base.  Then wrap and loop string around the nails to create a colorful string sculpture (or labyrinth)

Recently I’ve been thinking a lot about lessons learned at CCM, especially since the majority of students in my Art in Education class (15500) are majoring in early childhood education.  One moment stands out in particular.  I was working with CCM’s Early Childhood Director on a new program for school groups (pre-K to 1st grade) that focused on learning about lines.  Half of the workshop would be movement-based, the other half would be art-based.  We were digging through an amazing collection of toys and other manipulatives, looking for objects children could use with paint and dough to create a variety of lines.  I immediately started pulling out objects that I knew would be very easy to use and would create a wide variety of lines.

Within a few minutes I was stopped when the Early Childhood Director said something along the lines of, Rachel, now you need to find some objects that might not work as well.  I was confused.  Wasn’t it my responsibility, as the educator, to make things go as smoothly as possible?  Then the EC Director asked, How will children learn what objects work most easily and have the most varied lines if you don’t give them a range of objects to explore?

Suddenly I got it.  My attempt to make things easy for children, would’ve taken away so much potential for learning.  As teachers, how can we create a learning environment that is both welcoming and challenging to students?  How can we create opportunities for children to gain hands-on knowledge through the process of exploration?

To learn more about CCM and the Kraft Artabounds Studio, check out these links, including their Resources and Activities page that houses a treasure trove of lessons.

Rachel Farmer

CCNY Adjunct Lecturer

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