Monday, October 3, 2011

Maryann kohl discusses the importance of art in early childhood – part one

***There is a giveaway at the end of this series; don’t miss it!***
Art, when you think about it, is an amazing thing.  The possibilities contained within a new box of crayons, a set of paints, a little glue, some scissors, construction paper, and so on, are astounding.  To be able to take a few items and create something that never was before, something unique and totally your own… well, who wouldn’t jump at the chance?  And if you are a toddler or a preschooler (or even an older child!), you might actually do a little jumping as you set to work. ;)  Excitement just pours out of their little bodies, doesn’t it?  It can’t be contained!  We mamas know a little about this too – our bodies were pretty involved in the sweetest creations of all, weren’t they?


As you may know, we are big fans of MaryAnn Kohl around here.  In the past I’ve said that we are her biggest fans, but as that seemed to surprise some of you that consider yourselves to be her biggest fans, I’ll just leave it at “big fans”. ;)  I was recently in touch with MaryAnn, who has graciously offered to send one of my readers a copy of Scribble Art:  This is one of our very favorite books of hers, one we go to again and again, knowing we will always find something interesting to do and experience.  MaryAnn has over 20 other books, each one full of art activities – you are sure to find one that is just right for your family!

(The giveaway will be at the end of this 3-part series, but comments on these first two posts will earn you extra entries!)


MaryAnn, even more graciously, offered to answer a few questions for us.  I had three that came to mind, from conversations I’ve had with other moms, either online or in real life.  We often refer to our home as the “art gallery” – if you’ve seen my kitchen walls and cupboards, you know why. :)  M loves to “do art”, and I do my best to encourage it, but I find it hard to explain just why art is so important to us.  And, I am not immune to “mess stress” either, although I try hard to not let it interfere with M’s creativity.  Sometimes this means closing my eyes and just not looking. ;)

I’m separating the three questions and answers into three posts so we have time to really think about and focus on MaryAnn’s answers.  She has so much wisdom to share. :)

1. Many moms of small children are so busy keeping their homes reasonably clean and tidy (with the care of their families genuinely at heart!) that it's hard to deal with the extra messiness of art projects.  Is it truly important for small children to experience art?  Do you think there are benefits of letting small children "do art" at home versus just waiting until they are in school and letting them get messy there?
MARYANN: Art is one of those activities in a child's life that can be messy, but it doesn't have to be. If messiness is a detriment to providing your child with exploration and discovery through art activities, go easy! Provide blank paper and crayons and feel good about it. Research shows that children who draw frequently without adult interference do better in all other academics. So easy -- and yet so important. A little preparation goes a long way for children doing art at home. Keep a trash receptacle near where the child is working. If possible, provide a small table near a shelf or closet where art materials are stored. Providing materials that are "self-serve" for children can make things easier for parents in the long run. Such materials would be crayons, paper, tape, stapler, scissors, and materials like catalogs or magazines for cutting, ribbons and sewing trim, cotton balls, or other collage materials (depending on suitability for the child's age and ability).  

Yes, it is truly important for children to experience art, and not just copying an adult's idea of how things should be made, but allowing a child to experiment and explore and create with their own ideas using materials on hand. The benefits of having art supplies and an area to work at home are many. One of the most important is that the child has a quiet place to go and unwind after a busy day at childcare or school, where they can freely draw or create at will. Parents benefit because the child is involved while dinner is being made or while folding laundry, etc. Art is one of the only creative activities where a child can rest while being busy. Reading is another. In fact, children who have art in their lives tend to also be good readers!
Isn’t that beautifully said?  And how often do children get to follow their own ideas?  So often, they just have to follow the plans of others!  Art is a great way to respect their  ideas and help develop their independence and self-esteem; as well as validate their ideas and creativity as good and worthwhile. 

Come back tomorrow for question number two, and don’t forget to leave a comment for an extra entry to win Scribble Art!  In the meantime, check out MaryAnn’s website, Bright Ring Publishing – she has free art activities available there, as well as a sweet art gallery to look through, and links to her blog and favorite websites.  
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Have a beautiful day! :)

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