Now, I do realize that a very talented and phenomenally gifted young artist might be able to come up with a spectacular piece of art. I can concede that when it comes to a craft that has heavy adult assistance, the end product could look incredible. This one, for example, doesn't look too shabby. I did a lot of "helping" though.
I have yet to meet a toddler who doesn't spill, or doesn't accidentally drip paint or glue in the wrong place. I don't know of a single child who hasn't accidentally smeared something that needed to dry. I have witnessed five and six-year-olds cry over their "ruined" art, and I've also seen some very frustrated nine and 10-year-olds who made one poor decision with their paint brush, and spent long periods of time trying to repair the "damage." I have also cleaned up after hundreds of students following a particularly rousing art session, and the work areas have never been clean spaces. Especially when you work with paint, you can expect splatter on clothing, shoes, tables, floors, paintbrushes, and just about anywhere else that you didn't really want to see splatter.
So when I come across a Pinterest idea for a toddler craft or art project where the picture depicts a completely neat and unblemished end product, situated in an immaculate room on an unsoiled and uncluttered table where a clean, contented looking toddler may be sitting, I have a pretty good idea who actually did that art and staged the photo shoot.
Now Little L isn't MENSA-level smart, but she's no slouch either. She is a bright and fairly attentive 2.5 year old. She is generally quite cautious and careful and clean, and is oft found whining when she spills something or makes inadvertent yogurt "dots" after pulling a straw out of her drink bottle.
I did a craft with her today. Follow along and witness with me a real toddler doing art.
We decided to do some potato "stamping" with paint. I thought maybe we could make a pumpkin print.
|I did the clean stamps. The smeary ones were hers.|
|Look at that satisfied grin after hearing the paper go RIIIIIP.|
Then my lovely little artist wanted to start tearing at the paper so that she could make another collage and "use glue." She ripped before I could even say yes.
|The teeny tiny piece of asparagus in her left hand. She's still ambidextrous!|
To distract from further tearing, I offered her a pumpkin to paint. She willingly accepted and began making red (and later, blue) dots with the end piece of an asparagus.
|Most of the ripping was my handiwork. She only wanted to rip for a little bit.|
Sadly, she has a great memory. She remembered her initial desire to rip up the paper. When I was ready, I let her rip.
|This is a different set of papers: marker paper for ink stamping.|
Now that our first project was in tattered, torn pieces, I tried to coax her into gluing a collage. Well, she was over it. She wanted me to pull out the stamps and the stamp pad. I hauled out 15 of them, and then Little L chose the apple shape and attempted 3 half-hearted stamps. I did a few more to try to entice her to continue. However, she decided that she wanted to stamp with the little potatoes instead of using the shapes in front of her.
|The dropper comes handy courtesy of Tylenol. It makes a great tool!|
While she was potato-stamping with the paint and the stamp pads, I decided to grab a dropper and some water to "refresh" some of the drying ink pads. She saw the water and the dropper and suddenly the potatoes needed a bath. Not one to squelch my daughter's creativity at play, I indulged her imagination and surrendered my dropper and water.
|Bedtime (for the bathing potatoes)|
More than an hour after our little art project began, Little L was done. She wanted to dry off the potato and put it to bed. And she wanted out of her chair, stat. My original art idea? In pieces in the trash. This new stamped paper was soaking wet from all of those potato baths, and needed to go to the garbage as well.
Pinterest's phony mothers can kiss my a$$. My toddler had fun, but her sleeves were covered in paint and the cuffs were soaked. The table was also dripping water onto the floor, and I had 8 bottles of paint, 3 brushes, 3 palettes, several potatoes and a lot of stamps to put away. Also, no Pinterest worthy pic of the immaculate end product to show, and no staged model child happily seated with her handiwork.
But this was real, and fun, and child-led. Little L learned about using non-traditional mediums to print and stamp patterns and shapes on paper. She saw cause and effect in action as she mixed paint colours and washed ink off her potatoes. She explored the effects of dropping water on water-soluble ink and washable paint, and she was able to stay engaged indoors on a wet and cold autumn day without being in front of a TV. In my mind, it could not have been more successful.
I'm not actually sure what people are trying to prove when they post these perfect "crafts" or "projects" online, but I suspect that they are not actually letting their toddlers do the work. Toddler work, or play, is a messy business. These littles don't need exemplars to model. They just need to explore and figure things out themselves, after being shown and taught safe ways to interact with their tools.
My kid's art projects may never be Pinterest worthy, but I'm okay with that. Maybe I will see you on the "nailed it" memes instead! :P