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When people think of setting up an art activity for children, they generally think about planning a “craft”.  However, young children need “free art”, instead of the usual craft idea adults think of.

What is “free art”?  It is simply setting out a few art materials, and allowing a child to pick which materials they would like to use and how to use them.  For example, on a table you could set up paper, glue, scissors, feathers, markers, and google eyes.  Simply sit with the child, and allow the child to use these materials to create a piece of art.  If you show a child a pre-made picture of a bird, and that child cannot recreate the bird, the child will feel as if their art is a failure and it will affect the child’s self-esteem.  Whereas, if you allow the child to create freely and simply sit and enjoy the child’s process of creation, the child will feel a sense of accomplishment once he/she has completed the activity.  It becomes a learning experience about the process, not the end product.  It also allows for the child to make their own choices (where to put supplies, what colour to use, etc…), use their imagination, express their emotions and ideas, problem-solve and manifest abstract ideas.

At home, parents can create an art opportunity easily.  To protect your furniture, put a garbage bag on top of the table.  Use an old shirt to protect your child’s clothing.  Visit a dollar store to stock up on open-ended art supplies.  Then, you can simply enjoy watching your child create.

In a classroom, having a shelving unit full of art supplies (glue, crayons, paper, scissors, etc…) allows students to create freely and by choice.

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