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Sunday, December 12, 2010

A more creative approach, perhaps?

The first time I did art & craft work with my son, we made a wind-chime. Or should I say, I made the wind-chime.
Well, an ordinary piece of craft you would say, and I would most certainly agree. But what made me ashamed was not how ordinary this piece of work was. It was that this craft was well ... 90% my work and only 10% my son's. *blush*

In short, this was the work of an adult made to look like a child's.

And you could probably tell, the only part he helped to do was to punch holes, under my guidance.

Try to take a look at kids' crafts everywhere; in preschool, sunday school classes, you will probably see the same thing. Beautiful pieces of craft, wonderful laces of fish, or ingenious piglets made out of cupcakes wrappers. Do we wonder how much of it is really a child's work?

Ok, I'm not saying a child is incapable of such wonderful work. There are instances where childrens' work blow our mind away, a thousand times. One way is to look at their developmental stage and how much of the craft originates from the child.

I remembered once when my son came back from a particular class and showed me some colourings. I asked him, "oh that was so beautiful, you coloured it?" "No, my teacher coloured it." came the reply. There was no pride in his voice, he just said it matter-of-fact, flatly.

To be fair , I suppose the teachers everywhere were probably under pressure to show parents what 'real work' took place in class. It would also be almost impossible to have 20 kids pick up their favourite materials and do what they like with only 2 teachers ratio.

So, the question to ask is, would such approach to art have a place in class?

A craft that has been conceptualized and steps that are thought out by a teacher leaves little room for a child's imagination. That is why you would see 20 crafts done by 20 kids looking exactly the same. The same ingenious piglet made out of cupcakes wrapper is the same 'ingenious piglet" by 20 kids.

Thankfully, all is not lost. :) There is a place for such craft. It is when we decide to hone in a specific skills, for instance, cutting, pasting, hole-punching, pasting... that is where such craft requires the attention of doing a skill repetitively so that the child can perfect it, through practise. Or where a craft is called upon as a reinforcement to a subject, concept, or a lesson.

This is a craft of an owl. I followed the instruction of a craft book, merely because this particular craft trains the art of cutting straight lines and using scotch tapes to paste. You can see that these skills forms the intent of this project.

There are at least 12 straits lines to cut and probably about 15 tapes to stick. Talk about repetition. As a parent-teacher, I praise how well the child could hold s scissors or tape papers and not how beautiful he created the owl.

There is difference between his work versus mine. Someone else came up with the owl concept, not him. So give credit where credit is due. Of course, I could say, "look how we created the owl", or "look how your cut papers can create an owl".

Technical dexterity is an important consideration of art. It is however, not the only thing that counts. For that matter, creativity is not really an art subject as much as it is a lifeskill. We need creativity to solve problems, or to get along with others, for instance.

Young children are the world's most imaginative people, yet it is most contradictory that their natural imagination and creativity not given an outlet to flourish.

This year, during lantern festival. I told my son, aged 3, that we are going to make a lantern. I was doing a lesson on mid-autumn festival and wanted to emphasize the significance of a lantern. So I initiated the idea of making lantern. However, he is free to choose the materials and conceptualize his craft. Ask 20 kids how they would like their lanterns made, and you most definitely would have 20 different designs. Now that is creativity!

Creativity lets a child take it from ground zero. He conceptualizes, designs, and makes various decisions on how it would function.

He owns the process of making his craft, he imagines how the craft would look at the end.

Ask a child "who made the lantern?"and you will most certainly see that unmistakable beam right across the child's face, "I did it!" He knows and you know that it is 100% his work. What confidence and pure fun that brings!

But beyond that, we would have built in a child, lifeskills that extends further than just preschool years. Lifeskills are survival skills. Problem-solving, decision-making, creativity, having ownership, independent thinking/ group discussion (if you have more than one child together), are just a few skills-set that can be achieved with this approach to art.

Adults often look only at the results and ignore the process. We missed much of the effort that a child has put in. The process is bigger than the performance itself!

We need both technical excellence and innovation. The key is to strike a balance. It is not hard, with a little imagination. Anyone can help a child's creativity take flight!

Next time we look at a child's art, try not to t be too quick to dismiss the results. There are alot more going on then we ever know.

We could also be less impulsive with our praise for art work which we know is not 100% a child's. He knows that we are either being phony or just too lazy to recognise where his true potential lies.