Doing art projects out in the world (library, special events, etc) is a challenge for my LP.
She is all about the process and exploration of materials and usually those art experiences are about product. LP wants to feel the paint, glue and glitter on her skin and explore it completely with her hands. Her art experiences at her wonderful preschool are all about process as our 99% of the ones we do at home (every so often I push for product for a present), so she has many opportunities to go for it on the process front. When she participates in an art project in public, I want to balance honoring her natural impulse to EXPLORE materials with what is appropriate to the setting.
I believe that it is important for kids to consciously experience adjusting to the rules of a situation AND find their spontaneity within those rules. It is challenging for a person of any age to find their place in a group and public events are opportunities for our little people to work on those skills. I want LP to learn to find her own balance of joining in a collective experience while being true to herself.
These public art projects are a great chance for LP to get that experience of creating within more boundaries than usual. Often there is 1) limited time, 2) limited materials and 3) a “sample” that the kids are supposed to emulate. Those are three tough limits for my girl.
While I can’t do anything about 1 & 2, I am always supportive of LP doing the project she wants to do within those constraints. If she wants to do the sample, that’s fine too but that day has not yet come and for me the point of the project is to have a collective experience, not make a garden collage or challah cover that looks like the sample.
The biggest difficulty is with materials since my tactile girl wants to rub glue all over her arms and spread glitter with her nose and paint all over herself. The where and when of these events determine the boundaries I set with her. (I watch the art project set up with my questions in mind…Do I have a change of clothes? Is there a sink reasonably close? How soon do we need to catch the bus home? How much of the materials are there? And of course, the occasional parent insecurity about what other people think…) Within those boundaries, I let her go for it.
But oh the heartbreak of projects with gluesticks. Her desire is to use her fingers on those gluesticks and dig out all the glue and sculpt with it. And that is not an option when multiple kids are supposed to be sharing a gluestick.
Like a recent morning at the library.
After storytime, the librarian directed the kids over to two covered tables to make garden collages. Gluesticks, tissue paper, colored paper, crayons and markers were laid out and the librarian showed “the sample.” LP wanted to do the project (I was hoping to head out to the farmer’s market right away) so we stayed.
As the minutes went by, her energy became more and more withdrawn, so unlike herself, as she sat and tried to wait patiently for her turn with the gluestick. I could tell that this was not satisfying…like just one bite of a chocolate chip cookie. After about 10 minutes, I asked if she was done and she was quite ready to leave this project behind.
I mulled it over during quiet time. Despite my observation of her not enjoying the project, she did enjoy the overall storytime experience and wants to go back every week. She was very successful on the impulse control/sharing front. I wanted to acknowledge that AND give her for a balancing, playful experience. After working so hard on restraint, I wanted to give her a chance to fully explore.
After quiet time, I asked her if she wanted to do a glue project which got a cheerful “YES!” in response. So I gave her paper, two gluesticks (a bounty in our house!) and a bottle of glue and let her go for it.
LP enjoyed glue to her heart’s content for about half an hour. I sat with her at the table and worked on my own crafty project and just enjoyed her pleasure.
It is a helpful frame for me…when LP has worked to rise to the occasion that calls for restraint, to give her an opportunity to be fully expressive and exuberant — whether that means a chance to run free after a long bus ride or sculpt glue (& herself) until she’s done with it.