Monday, August 4, 2008

How I Revamped Art Ed in my Home (and a shin bruise to boot)

Last month my mother-in-law attended a top notch, amazing arts conference in Dickson, TN at the Renaissance Center. The things she learned, the people she met, the workshops she attended... beyond amazing. As an arts educator and the owner of an arts organization, I couldn't help but be a tiny bit jealous when she whipped out various books and even cool, homemade domino jewelry. (Can you say Artsy Mamas activity??!! Ack, aren't they awesome?)

But the point of this post is not to go on and on about the amazing things that my mother-in-law got to do and how much I want to sneak into this particular conference next year. The point of this post is for me to confess to you, dear reader, that I have been not been the ultimate Artsy Mama. My children have not been educated appropriately in the ways of the visual arts, or at least not according to this woman. I was loaned one of the Anti-Coloring books and a copy of Young at Art by Susan Striker. She spoke to the educators at this conference and now, thanks to her, hundreds of children will slowly but surely have the mistakes of their ignorant mothers reversed. You see, I have been fearful of mess. I didn't let my 6-12 month old babies make art with their applesauce or pudding (which they were never served to begin with). I was concerned about their ingestion of dyes and I kept the Playdoh out of reach and I didn't bring it out unless the eater was napping. I have not explored hours of cutting and pasting with my children. I put the markers away and out of reach... in order to avoid writing on walls or, worst, more ingestion of dyes. A couple of times I even helped cut out the children's art in the shape of something recognizable and then pasted it onto another piece of a paper. And, according to this book, my worst offense was the countless number of coloring books I purchased and then offered to my innocent and unsuspecting victims. Okay, so maybe I sound a little sarcastic here. I suppose that is because, for the most part, I believe in what she says. And I'm a little ashamed and embarrassed that I didn't do a better job presenting visual arts to my babes. Perhaps I'm even a little bitter that the first and only formal art education course that I experienced throughout my entire school career was in the 8th grade and as a result I fell prey to the idea that I was talentless or that I couldn't make valid art. Because, as a thirty year old, I'm learning that I can produce some pretty cool looking stuff. But all sarcasm aside, I did take quite a bit of what Striker says in her book to heart. And I am even following her advice. I've decided to offer coloring books as a third option after paper and even after a catalog and a pair of scissors (I did not, however, do away with them entirely... I think that coloring books for very small children are not entirely evil). Even more bold of me, I brought the easel inside. I dragged that sucker through my garage and into the kitchen, leaving my poor shins with several bruises. Furthermore, I let the kids help me to begin removing the paper wrappers from the crayons, a move that will help the children to color with fewer inhibitions and more freedom. Cluttering up my kitchen with large art furniture and creating imperfect crayons on purpose is very difficult for me! I really recommend this book for anyone who is the mother of a small child, a home educator or an educator inside of an institution. My favorite revelation thus far is that it's preferable to offer only one color of paint at a time for young children. How wonderful is that! Only one color really takes the pressure off! And for anal retentive folks like me who hate a mess, one color really limits the chances of a massive spill. So, check out the book. And if you or your children are older than six, print yourselves some of these great Anti-Coloring book pages. I believe that Mamas could benefit from these types of exercises as much as a child!
Zemanta Pixie


  1. You inspire me to be more artsy with my "tv addicted" family.

    I can't believe how grown up and big Ronin is now!!!

  2. I've not been very good either with exposing my child to visual art. He's always resisted most of the things I've thrown at him, the projects I've really wanted him to do. I will say though that, unlike most other folks, I love a good mess.

    Mike has always been the one to say, "Eh, too messy! Too much risk of him cutting up something important with those! Too sticky!" of all our art supplies. I'm always the one whisking up oobleck or encouraging Nick (and his friends) with a bottle of glue and some scraps of paper.

    We don't do coloring books here, though, and we stick mainly with paper and other blank objects.

    I wish I took Nick to museums more. I really am going to start that soon! I keep saying that, I know.

    The book sounds interesting though. Good luck with future artistic endeavors (smoosh some applesauce in your hands and see if it makes you feel liberated!)

  3. Jen: You have NO idea how much tv we watch around here. I just don't BLOG about that! But thank you.

    Angel: We're going to start taking some field trips to places like the Nashville Children's Theater, Renaissance Center, and Frist if you are interested in joining us.

  4. I struggled with this a lot (not because I mind mess but because if my children got any dye on their skin the had a reaction and got super hyper, fast.) It made it hard for me to allow them to use anything with dye in it knowing that if they got any one them they would get sick. If it is any comfort all three (they are 10, 8, 6) are incredibly creative, messy, and are constantly building things out of old cardboard and I have drawings EVERYWHERE--I couldn't keep them from creating if I wanted to. :) It is okay to let them wait to get into the really messy stuff until they are a bit older--it won't break them. :)

    Anther great way to allow them to get creative is to give them bread or cookie dough to shape and mess with. Also we made all natural dyes and used those to dye homemade play doe, used crayons for practically everything (even coloring eggs), and stick with watercolor over other paints because they come off MUCH easier.


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