How should I act when I join my preschooler in the Studio?
How can I be a part of their exploration without disrupting their investigation?
Here is our Center’s culture around
talking about children’s work and taking part in the activity
in a child-centered way.
Talking about children’s work
It can be tempting to ask, “What is it?” However, the “what” is often less important than the “how.” Chances are, if a child is working on something representational, she will tell you about it even if you use open-ended questions. A great way to understand a bit more about what the child is thinking is to spend some time watching them work, identifying aspects of their process or painting that you find particularly interesting, and following with observations and questions like:
“How did you make so many different marks with the same paint?”
“You added a new color! What happens when it touches the others on your paper?”
“I’m so curious about that! Can you tell me more?”
Joining in the activity
Art materials can be so enticing, you just want to play with them, too! The trick is, how can you join in alongside your child without the focus shifting to what you are doing rather than what they are doing? By turning the attention of the child to what we as adults are capable of, we intrude on their experience of the material. This can feel disempowering when their young hands can't make the perfect shape the way an adult's hand can, or when their idea becomes secondary to yours. So, instead…
Take a moment to look at the children’s work. What do you find most interesting? Ask the child whose artwork you examine, “How did you make this shape? Can you teach me?”
Notice the way the child is moving the brush, and use that as a guide for how to move yours. “I want to try swirling my brush around and around, just like you.”
If a child asks you to paint or make something for them, say, “I want to see how you would paint one. What shape do you think we need first?”
How do you think these ideas compare to the ways in which you talk and interact with your child around art activities at home? Are there any pieces of this you might try to use?