Avoid Activities Masquerading as Creative Art in Child Care Settings

Crayons and coloring sheet

Creative art is an important part of the child care curriculum because it allows children to practice self-expression, fine motor skills, thinking and many other skills. Unfortunately, many activities that look like creative art do not actually encourage creativity. These activities are sometimes used in art programs and may help develop fine muscle control or eye-hand coordination, but they don’t provide artistic and creative opportunities.

It’s important to avoid activities masquerading as creative art. Activities that masquerade as creative share three characteristics:

  • The responsibility for making art is shifted from the child to the teacher.
  • The activities have a high degree of structure.
  • The product is specified, and often a model is provided to copy.

Problems with Highly Structured Craft Activities

People who have studied how creativity develops warn against the use of ditto sheets, coloring books, tracing patterns, dot-to-dot sheets, craft projects and holiday gifts with specific outcomes in creative art programs for preschoolers. These projects may be enjoyable, but they can actually discourage children from being creative.

An Example

Researchers Lowenfeld and Brittan looked at the use of models in art programs. Young children were asked to draw birds, and they did. They drew wonderful birds of all colors, with funny long legs and pointy beaks, lovely wings and beady eyes. Then the researchers gave these children a picture of birds to color and said, “Try to stay in the lines.” The picture looked like a bunch of “V’s” flying around the sky, and the children colored ever so carefully. A few weeks later, they gave these same kids big pieces of paper again and suggested that they draw some birds. Do you know what the children drew? No funny long legs; no pointy beaks; no lovely wings or beady eyes — just plain old “V’s” in the sky. No creativity.

For More Information

To learn more about children’s art, check out our other articles on Art in Child Care, or take a look at other articles about planning creative art activites: