Today’s guest post is by Faigie Kobre, who we could all learn a few things from. For whatever reason, my gmail account sorted her email into the spam folder, and I almost missed out on having her share her experience and opinions! Thankfully, Faigie didn’t give up, and reached me through a friend, and, as they say, the rest is history. Enjoy, and let us know what you think by leaving a comment.
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I have a pet peeve and a passion. They are connected to each other and Rivki wrote a very good post a while back addressing both of them (of course, all her posts are good, but this one is relevant to my topic).
My pet peeve is copycat arts and crafts and my passion is teaching parents and teachers to move away from them.
Rivki’s post was called teaching my son to be himself. In it she says, and I quote….
“You know, when I get perfect-looking school projects, it’s nice, and they look great, but I know it’s not really what my child would do if left to his own devices. No, this is a child who wants to make monster/alien looking leaves. Because that’s what he sees. That’s where his mind is taking him. And if I don’t ever let him express himself, but always
forceguide him to do what I imagine things should look like, how will I ever really get to know him, and how will he develop the confidence to be himself?”
Many years ago there was a very well known secular singer named Harry Chapin. He wrote the song Cats in the Cradle that we all went around singing when we were teenagers. He wrote another, not so well known song called “Flowers are Red.” You can check out the song on YouTube with Harry Chapin in concert or this animated version of the song.
This song is about a little boy, his creativity and how the school system/his teacher, killed it. He kept wanting to put many colors in the flowers he was drawing, but his teacher insisted that flowers are red and green leaves are green. He insisted, he got punished, he gave in. Flowers are red and green leaves are green.
How common would you say that little boys’ experience is?
I would say all too common. It was my experience and I’m sure many of yours. If your children are in traditional yeshiva systems, your children probably bring home the same exact projects each year (it’s not just the yeshiva system by the way, its most public schools and many private schools).
Two of my children that are 10 years apart brought home the exact same project, just 10 years apart. You know what I’m talking about – Avraham’s tent and the Yom Kippur slippers?
What’s creative about these so-called “creative arts and crafts?”
In order to understand this we have to learn what creativity is. Wikipedia defines it as such:
Creativity is a phenomenon whereby something new and valuable is created……
The problem is that most arts and crafts are not creative. Just because children are using crayons, scissors and glue doesn’t mean they are creative. There is nothing new created each time, probably because the adults giving the craft don’t see new, innovative creations as valuable.
Value, in most adults’ eyes is: Can I recognize what this child made. Hence the oft asked question to children about their art: “What is it?” This is all regardless if the child is ready to make projects that are representational.
Having children copy a project that an adult has created creates robots.
If we talk about the need to teach our children to think and be independent, why is there such an output of these ridiculous copycat arts and crafts that are discouraging thinking and independence?
There are a few reasons that I can see.
- There is a lack of knowledge of what children are capable of. Teachers and parents are not trained to understand child development and what their needs are.
- This leads to fear of parents. When you can’t explain why children need to create messes at the early childhood level, then you tend to do what everyone else has done because you can’t explain yourself.
- There is often an inability to make changes which is often…
- The fear of the unknown
- And of course, you will always have those that say “you can’t break tradition.”
As Rivki said however, a child needs to express himself. But what does that mean?
I was never really sure when artists spoke about expressing themselves, what that meant, but, with children I would say it means that the child is allowed to create art on his own. He is expressing his age level by creating what he is capable of at that age.
Rivki said it perfectly: “If we don’t allow our children to create at their level we will never know what they are truly capable of.”
To illustrate this exact point, I recently gave a project to a kindergarten class in one of the art classes I teach. It was a torn paper collage. It wasn’t just do what you want (though there is a time for that as well).
The children had a clear directive. It was to be a snow picture, they could only tear the pieces they needed and could not use scissors. I gave them blue or black backgrounds, with a few other limited colors to create their snow scenes.
Below are 2 of the art pieces of children in the same class.
I admit it, I chose the two on the opposite ends of the spectrum. The first one is having problems in school.
Art is often a good indication of where child is holding. If all the children have to make the same project, how in heaven’s name will we know about the ones who are in trouble? And what a pity that children who like to think and create can’t do so. They should be able to create new and valuable pieces of artwork.
Yes, valuable. Not worth money though, but worth self-esteem and thinking skills.
Faigie Kobre is the owner of Edu Art 4 Kids, an art website for parents and teachers teaching the best kinds of art for kids’ development. Learn the in-depth reasons that copycat art is detrimental to your children by getting Faigie’s free report The 3 types of kids crafts that suppress creativity, reduce IQ, weaken self esteem and how to avoid them. This report will help your children become better learners, increase their self-esteem and inspire amazing creativity.