At the Heart of Children and Art

Supporting Creative Art Experiences for Young Children

Painting by Ruby Stafford, age 4, as part of a Butterfly Study

Ruby's Butterfly

One of our values at McKendree is the opportunity for children to engage in creative art experiences.  We believe that every child is born an artist and that expressive activities such as painting, drawing, sculpting, and collage are ways through which children can explore and communicate their understanding of ideas and the world.

All of our classrooms provide creative art experiences for children.  Our older babies might begin their artistic development by making simple marks with chalk, markers, or paint.  The toddler’s scribbles are evidence of increasing motor control and the capacity to intentionally create.  By age 3, shapes emerge in children’s drawings, often followed by the distinctive “mandala”, a circle within a circle.  Suns, radials, and combinations of shapes, as one unit, typically emerge by age 4.  Between 4 and 5, children often begin to draw people.  These are beautifully illustrated by the monthly displayed self-portraits created by the children in our Researchers and Constructivists classrooms.

The developmental changes in children’s art and drawing is only part of story. The plot thickens when we see the child as capable and trust her to experiment with a variety of materials in a way that honors the creative process.  Our classroom teachers support this practice in the classroom and in the studio.

Delightfully, in our desire to extend these experiences, we plan to add an Atelierista to our program later this year.  The Atelierista or Studio Teacher’s role is different from that of the classroom teacher.  She will add another perspective to the learning that takes place through art.  The Atelier or Studio is not just an isolated space for arts and crafts but rather is a laboratory for thinking and making connections through the use of creative materials.  The Atelierista’s role will be to guide the children to be more active, more adventurous, more reflective, and more creative in the Atelier.

Cindy recently attended a wonderful day-long professional development workshop called, “It’s a Messy Job: A Crash Course on the Role of the Atelierista” in preparation for our shift to deepen McKendree’s practice of supporting creative work.  Our studio’s materials are growing and much of the children’s work already reflects our increasing value of art.    It is with joy and wondrous anticipation that we embark on our continued journey to extend children’s learning.

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