Tag Archives: materials

Avoiding the “Shoulds”

IMG_1245Aidan sat at a small table in the house area with a doll and basket of doll clothes. He selected a small shirt and began fitting it over the doll’s head, concentrating hard, his tongue slightly protruding from between his teeth. It took experimentation, trial and error, but Aidan managed to get the doll’s head through the neck hole and the arms into the sleeves. He smiled, removed the shirt, chose a sleeper and began the process of fitting again. He found a headband that fit the dolls head, then a jacket. All the while Aidan worked silently, with intensity and focus, and no one paid him much mind.  A lovely example of a boy in the house area dressing a doll, playing ‘dad’.

Or is it?

I thought about how Aidan held the doll and the clothes, how he chose particular pieces of clothing from the basket and I began to see other possibilities. I thought about Aidan’s way of manipulating other objects and materials in this child care space, how he arranged objects in rows, fit items one inside the other, stacked things. As I considered all this it dawned on me that Aidan was not ‘playing dad’, he wasn’t ‘dressing a baby’. Rather he was experimenting with the mechanics of how objects fit together. How does a round hole in fabric, fit over a round plastic shape, the doll’s head? How do plastic arms fit into narrow cloth sleeves? How can the tension of the fabric change and accommodate the plastic body of the doll? The questions of fabric and plastic, and what they can do together, how they resist, pull, stretch, and slide are intriguing and endless.

The objects that Aidan was using suggested a particular way of seeing, a particular narrative of ‘house’ and ‘dad’ and ‘baby’. I observed Aidan interacting with the doll and clothes and assumed a narrative of ‘dressing a baby’. My assumption of ‘dressing a baby’ limited what I saw.

How often do we assume a particular narrative based on our assumptions?  How often do we limit other possibilities by not attending to different ways of seeing?

What if I had commented to Aidan “You are taking good care of that baby” or “Now that baby has pyjamas on, are you going to put it to bed?” With such comments would I have been imposing my idea of what ‘should’ happen in the house area, how materials found there ‘should’ be used, how an identity as ‘dad’ and ‘baby’ ‘should’ be played in the house area?  Would Aidan have felt he could continue his experiments with the mechanics of plastic and fabric, or would he have understood his experiments as not the right way to use a doll?

I am going to be listening and observing more, questioning my assumptions……trying to avoid the ‘shoulds’….

An Ode to Tape

The feeling of tape against skin is compelling, curious and addictive. Tape wound on fingers, tape over mouth, tape stuck in hair, tape on a t-shirt.  And in the process there will be tape against tape, an ungainly mess. But an interesting ungainly mess.

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Tape can hold anything together

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Tape a straw to a box and voila!

You can drink from it.

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Tape can be control panels for trips to Mars.

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It can hold a house together.

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Tape can be a building tool.

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Tape can be aerial insect pathways.

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Tape can hold everything together. Tape might be the thing needed to keep your life together.

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Tape can be life.

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You’re Too Young to Paint!

“Ohhh no! Come with me, you’re too young to paint! ” A toddler who has been dabbling his fingers in paint is whisked up and away by a parent and plopped down beside some cars.

Parents, grandparents and caregivers routinely move small children away from paint in this drop-in program. Whether it is paint on the table with brushes, paint on the floor or paint at the easel, all are out of bounds for some toddlers. The facilitator of this program would love to have toddlers paint, and has never imposed restrictions about an  appropriate age to paint. In fact there are photos around the room of children, small and big, with paint on their hands, faces and arms. Mess is acceptable here, there is a sink nearby, smocks are available. So why does there seem to be a ‘rule’ about the ‘right ‘ age to paint?

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 Do we think a toddler is going to go wild? Throw paint at the ceiling? Toss a brush at a bystander? Pour it on someone’s head?

 Do we think that because a toddler isn’t making marks on paper that are representational they are

therefore unable to use paint ‘properly’?

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Does making marks with hands or fingers, or pushing the brush around in circles not count as painting?

What role do clothes play? Has keeping clothing clean become a value of childhood?

 Do we think toddlers are not capable of experimenting with texture, colour, brush, paper?

 Do we think toddlers are too young to make their own choices about what materials they would like to explore?

Are toddlers simply not trustworthy?

 Is there too much unpredictability giving paint to a toddler? Does it mean we will lose control?

 When is the right age to paint? Would we ever tell someone they were too old to paint?

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 What are we afraid of?


I wonder why?

WP_20130402_017Watching children’s creative processes always amazes me. You really get to know children through the way they create. Their work tells you something, even random paint splotches tell you something.  You get to know the children through their art and the process in which they engage with the materials. I know that Eunice is about to get serious about her painting if she kneels to paint. I know that Lily is going to start planning if she asks for a really large paper. I know that Brendan will create city plans if he grabs the masking tape.  Sometimes though something happens at the easel or art table that makes me wonder why?

 This morning when I was prepping the easels I was short one metal cup for paint. So one easel had only two choices of paint instead of three, I didn’t think much of it beyond being annoyed that I couldn’t locate the third cup. I went about my morning with the children engaging in dialogue, listening and documenting our learning.

 I would change the paper at the easel from time to time, as one does in a preschool.  The more I removed the children’s work from the easels the more I noticed a pattern emerging.  At the easels that had three cups of paint I was seeing very representational paintings; trees, suns, flowers, crosses, roads, etc. I was noticing in these images the colours were not mixing. If an object was painted in green it didn’t have any other colour on it.

A painting from an easel with three colours.
A painting from an easel with three colours.

On the other hand what I was noticing at the easel with two colours was experimenting with mixing colours and paper being covered in colour. I noticed children experimenting with painting with two brushes at once, using circular motions to mix the colours and large strokes of paint.

A painting from an easel with two colours.
A painting from an easel with two colours.

I started to watch the children painting.  Why? I kept asking myself, I contemplated all the possibilities. Could it be the colour choices at the easels? Was it the way I presented them? Was the other provocation I had set up in the room with the rainforest book and drawing influencing the children’s use of the colour green? Do pink and yellow just beckon to be mixed? Was it the brushes?

 Wanting to explore this further and see what was causing this pattern, I set up the easels the exact same way, right down to the brushes I provided. You know what it didn’t happen again and again I ask why?

 What are your thoughts? Why do you think this pattern emerged?