It’s Not All Mary Poppins

Christmas crafts, again

At Mary’s house, there is always the craft table (aka the dining table), set out with scrap paper, crayons, scissors, glue, and assorted other stuff — cotton balls, tin foil, popsicle sticks, stickers… They can play with these things however they see fit, as often and as long as they wish. I offer only such assistance as is directly requested, and even then I may opt to assist by asking questions rather than by doing anything to their creation. And I never, ever “improve” something they create in this way.

These days I have three three-year-olds in the house. Fun! Three-year-olds are usually fascinated by crafts. They will respond according to their personalities, of course: The social ones expect you to stay and chatter with them as they create; self-motivated tots are happy to work for long stretches on their own; really active munchkins will zip to and from the table, adding a sparkle here and a scribble there between bouts of wild cavorting in the living room.

But by and large, they love the colours and the stickyness and the poking and twisting and gooping.

At three, they are only just moving past the absorption in the process that consumed them at two. Two-year-olds have no interest in “making” something recognizable. They are interested in the scratch of pencil on paper, the crunch of tin foil, the slop of paint, the scent of glue, the unfolding of colour, sound, texture, smell. It’s all about the ‘doing’ for a two. And as they “do”, they learn how all these things work, and they develop confidence in their creative process.

At three, while still fascinated by the doing, they are developing an interest in the outcome. Which is why the best three-year-old crafts have a little of both. The best crafts for this age do not need a lot of adult intervention. (The best crafts for 2-year-olds need essentially none, beyond providing the materials and maybe some instruction in how to use them.)

ball

This ball is a good craft for this age. They peel the stickers off (fine motor), they stick them to a ball (more fine motor), and they create something to hang on the tree — or simply grace their bedside table. This is Emily’s ball. She worked on this thing for a good hour, in several sittings. It required no adult assistance whatsoever.

And this is a not-so-developmentally-perfect craft:

angels

They got to draw the faces on these angels, and they made the halos by twisting the metallic twist-ties, but all the assembly was done by me. They helped by putting tape in the appropriate spots, but this is clearly an adult-essential craft.

That’s okay. They learn different skills, skills they perhaps can’t yet manage, but will in time. They see something being created in a step-by-step manner, with an eye to a goal. They also learn to follow instructions. All of these are Useful Life Skills. You don’t want all crafts to be adult-essential, of course. Non-directed crafts allow for exploration and experimentation. In a week of daily crafts, one or two adult-essential, directed crafts still allows for three or four days of free exploration crafts. A reasonable balance, I think.

And the parents get recognizable angels for the Christmas tree! So everyone’s happy.

December 10, 2008 Posted by | crafts, Developmental stuff, holidays | , , , , , , , , | 9 Comments

Figure Drawing

“Can I colour?”

It is Anna’s first utterance upon walking through the door. No, “Hello, Mary!”, nor “It’s very snowy out there!”, or even “Get your nose out of my face, Indie!”

“Can I colour?”

These days I keep a pile of paper and a basket of crayons on the table at all times, so Anna can satisfy her obsession. At three and… two months (?), three (?), Anna has moved past random scribbles. She is now drawing with an intention to produce an image.

In her case, faces. Faces and faces and faces. Faces with eyes, nose, mouth, and hair. No ears, yet. As the weeks went by, the faces sprouted arms and legs, and then, in a final burst of anatomical finesse, hands and feet. No fingers or toes yet, and it will be a little while before an actual body shows up. In the toddler world, arms and legs always spring direct from the head.

The steady deluge of a month of faces and people has made an impact on at least one other child. Last week, Emily decided that she, too, would produce a person. A person, mind you, not just a face.

I had an idea. I gave them card stock instead of the usual scrap paper. I sketched out for Emily in general terms what would be required. “First you’ll need a head.” I swirl my fingertip in a circle over the card stock. “A head with eyes and nose and mouth. And then you’ll probably want arms and legs,” stroking, linear motions, “and maybe even hands and feet.” I touch the card at four spots. Then I left them to it.

And here’s what they did:

paperdoll1

Anna’s is on the right, Emily’s on the left. Anna’s has eyes and hair, Emily’s is blind and bald. Anna’s is just “a girl, like me.” Emily’s is “a boy named George.” So there.

Why are they cut out? Because these are not just (yet another) drawing. These are paper dolls!

George is a boy, so he, so I was told, needed overalls. I produced them. Anna’s is a girl, and she needed a “long, long dress with buttons and ruffles.”

After all that hard work drawing, they were not interested in colouring in their clothes, so I did that, too, again under direction as to colours.

paperdoll2

Ta-dah!

December 8, 2008 Posted by | Anna, crafts, Developmental stuff, Emily | , , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments