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Process Not Product
The most important thing for early childhood teachers to remember when planning art projects for preschool children is that the process of making art is much more important than the product created. The motor skills, sensory opportunities, and coordination involved in creating artwork are all much more important than the product the child creates. Depending on the materials available to you, there are countless opportunities for planning creative arts activities for daycare centers.
Children are naturally curious about the world around them, and will often find new and innovative ways to use classroom materials. Providing them with a rich selection of art supplies will often yield beautiful results. Allowing children the space and time to create freely is perhaps the single most important thing you can do to foster a love of art and creativity in preschoolers, as well as teaching them about aesthetics.
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It is not always practical to allow children to freely create in the art center, which means you will sometimes have to guide an artistic activity. Here are some ideas that provide children with plenty of opportunities to exercise their creativity, while still giving the teacher a certain measure of control over the activity.
Scissoring: Using scissors is developmental task that is not always easy to master. Children need lots of practice with blunt scissors in order to become an expert at cutting. Provide plenty of old magazines, scraps of construction paper, old greeting cards, even old lesson plans for children to practice their scissoring skills. Set up a scissor box with scraps that children are allowed to cut until their heart's content. When scraps become too small to cut anymore, collect the smallest pieces and use glue to create a class collage. Construction paper craft projects, are perfect for practicing "scissoring".
Stamping: Use potatoes to create shape stamps. Create several different shapes and allow children to stamp on large sheets of butcher paper using fingerpaint or stamp pads. Talk about the differences in the shapes. Create a simple AB pattern using the stamps and see if children can continue the pattern.
Clay and Dough: Allow children to play freely with salt dough or regular play dough. Introduce potter's clay to your class and talk about how it is similar and different than play dough. Show children how to create bowls and pots with the potter's clay by pinching it. Allow the creations to air dry and paint them another day.
Recycle Art: Collect interesting recyclable containers in a large basket in your classroom. Ask parents for donations of toilet paper tubes, soda bottles, milk jugs and other recyclable materials. Once you have filled the basket, place it in the art center with plenty of glue. Allow children to create freely, or give them a specific structure to build. Do this by asking direct, but open-ended, questions such as "I wonder what a space ship from Mars would look like?" Be nearby to help children with cutting and gluing if necessary, but do not direct the project.
Painting and Drawing: Fingerpainting and drawing are excellent creative arts activities for daycare centers. To provide a more directed activity, limit the paint colors to two primary colors. Have children paint and discuss what happens to the colors when they are mixed. Add a third primary color to the mix. What happens then?
The key to providing exciting art opportunities for children is to keep the direction to a minimum. Children will often surprise us with their unconventional approach to using materials. Allow yourself to be surprised!
"Creative Activities for Young Children"; Mary Mayesky; 1995