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Sunday, June 13, 2010

A time to begin.....

Why a "Playpen?" After teaching children for 43 years, mostly very young children, they taught me that we are naturally creative, artistic, and intelligent. Play is the birthright of children. But, what happens to human beings as they grow up in our culture? Unlike my kindergarten students, my second grade students were asking "How to you draw?" , "What color should I use?", and stating whether they were "good at" and whether their classmates were "good at" art and about any other thing we were doing. By fourth grade I noticed we had students who thought of themselves as "talented" in art or "good in" art and students who thought of themselves as lacking talent or "were not good at" art. What is it that we take away from human beings as we educate them, raise them in our families, and allow them contact with our culture?
As I followed my heart back into active art after my retirement, I was confronted by the same traits in my fellow artists as well. Very young children do not concern themselves with being "good at" unless they get messages from others about whether they are or are not "good at". Besides witnessing this change over time in the artistic sense of trust, exploration, creativity in children, I noticed the many children who felt they needed to seek adult confirmation as to what adults thought of their work. They run to the teacher often with their drawings, paintings asking if we like their work. Unfortunately I saw most adults feeding into this trap, by offering praise or criticism. My own preference was to turn the question around as ask the child, "What do you like most about your picture?"
Thus the "playpen". For my quest is to experiment, create, explore, paint, draw, enjoy. And to nurture that in my artistic friends....and my non-artistic friends as well.
Welcome to Elsie's Art Playpen! Jump in and join me in the creative process!


  1. Hi, Mom! Great first post, and I *love* the pastel painting! I'm so glad you started this blog; it's going to make it so much easier for me to stay current on your artistic activities. Looking forward to future posts....

  2. Thanks, Julia!
    It's about time I jumped into the blog bog and got my feet wet!

  3. I found your blog through Ben's blog.Now I know why he's so artistic grandma and a math prof for a mom!
    I recently noticed that my 3 year old really enjoys playing with colours and she knows at least 10 colours.She enjoys drawing too and can draw a face with eyes,nose,ears,mouth and hair without anyone teaching her!Maybe her hearing impairment makes her a more visual child.Hope you'll give some tips on how to encourage young children to explore their artistic side.

  4. HI, Amie,
    Great idea, Amie. Maybe I'll write some stuff on kids and art ideas in the blog!
    Basically, you just give them plenty of materials:
    crayons, pencils, cut up paper, scraps, glue, cloth scraps, playdoh, and be there to ooo and ahhhh, and hang up the results in your home gallery....ours started on the frig when Julia was little and then went down the stairs to the basement and up the stairs to the second floor and the halls! But, a big important step is to talk about what they are doing, colors, shapes, textures....more language time!

  5. Hi Elsie!

    Just popped over from WetCanvas.

    I was a preschool teacher for many years before I came home to home school my youngest son (graduated from HS last June--yay!)

    I love, love, LOVE, your attitude toward children and art (or really any sort of self expression). That is precisely the way I ran my classroom.

    If you can use this blog to teach mothers (and sadly, even teachers) how to foster joy and exploration in children, you will be doing a great service.

    I'll throw my 2 cents in, too, from time to time!

    I think if I could give new moms one important piece of advice regarding fostering creativity it would be this: There are two dangers: 1) a lack of engagement and interest in the child's parents or caregivers and 2) too much praise given for every little thing.

    Kids want you to see and share--not necessarily critique. They know when they've worked hard or tried something new and they know when they haven't. Overwhelming praise is as destructive to creativity and expression as a lack of interest. You are exactly right when you say that entering into a conversation with the child is the right response--that builds language skills as well as warm relationships, a sense of safety in exploration, and generally promotes learning.

    Can you tell this is a subject near and dear to my heart?

  6. Hi, Kim,
    Oh, yes, yes, yes....developing in children the art of conversation, discussion rather than evaluation and judgment is so important! You know fear of having one judging one's art work keeps many adults from taking art classes!
    I need to get back to my promise to give some help to parents! Thanks for joining in!