Nov 28, 2007

art, craft, children, and the making of the home

salt dough ornament

winter collage

oh my gosh ... he's smiling!

classroom holiday crafts

In my Montessori training, we were warned against putting the children's art up for display. Children's art, it was said, should be spared the ooohs and aaahs adults are so prone to spill all over it. Like any work, it should be received in a kind and encouraging manner, but shouldn't be put on a pedestal, as the goal is for the child to learn to love the process of creating for itself, and not to "create" just because of the accolades their creations tend to elicit from grown-ups.

Okay, so that's the Montessori view of artwork. I'm on the fence - while I certainly don't want my students and future children to create simply because I like it and think its so incredibly cute, I also believe that displaying children's art in the home and classroom is an important act of home making and community building.

First, I would never want to diminish the act of giving a handmade gift that is, by its nature, infused with love, time, and much effort. As a child, I remember giving countless homemade gifts to people I loved. The child's generosity is unencumbered by holiday pressures and financial worries, and his penniless, spontaneous state allows creations of love to be gifted at any time of the year, if only he has within his reach a set of paints, fabric scraps, and other mundane treasures.

Next, if my creations are sprinkled about my home, why shouldn't my children's be, as well? For me, an integral part of "home making" is just that - a home must be made, not bought. How does one make a home? Here are a few thoughts:

Baking and cooking from scratch
Gardening and eating from your seasonal harvest
Making household items, such as towels, pillowcases, quilts, etc., by hand
Thoughtfully decorating with thrifted or handmade items
Cleaning - again and again and again and again ...

A home must be lovingly "acted upon" in order to make it a home. A home can't function on its own - we grown-ups are well aware of this. Children need to be brought into this realm of understanding, too. Remember that post on Practical Life exercises a while back? If you haven't read it yet, go ahead and read it now. As soon as the child is developmentally capable, he should be encouraged to help to "make" the house into a home. Like his parents, he should be involved in meal preparation, cleaning, and decorating; in essence, the child shouldn't be overlooked in the whole, ever-occurring process of making a house into a home.

If you are a crafter, this means that, like you, your children will want to make useful and decorative items for display, as they will see it as a tangible way to contribute to the family community. If you don't consider yourself an artist - consider trying it out, for the sake of your children. Why should their art be the only of its kind on display on the fridge? Consider making items for the home together, and finding more pleasing and permanent ways to display children's artwork other than the fridge. If you're at a loss for where to begin, Amanda's upcoming book promises to have some innovative ideas for displaying children's handiwork and many more lovely ideas for encouraging creativity in the family.

As for the classroom? Well, it wasn't for quaintness that Maria Montessori decided to call the 3-6 year-old classroom the Children's House. It is meant to mimic the family home, from the cozy decor to the familiar household (practical life) activities. I would say, then, that the students in the Montessori classroom should be part of the entire "home making" process, from caring for the plants to decorating for the holidays. No die-cut bulletin boards for our "House." Instead, you will find handmade paper garlands, hand-cut snowflakes, salt-dough ornaments, and more. The children make the decoration and then decide how, where, and if it will be displayed.

More on specific holiday crafts tomorrow!


Laura said...

I love your posts and check your blog daily. I especially love your photos and writing about your classroom. I am a former Montessori teacher currently teaching in a public school. I am hoping to get a job in a Montessori school again in the next year. Thanks for your inspiration!

Meredith said...

Such a delightful and insightful post!! Thanks Meg, you always inspire me :) Hope your season of giving is joyous, you've touched so many with your gifts already! Blessings!

Alexzandra said...

I really liked this post, it was very nostalgic for me. I went to Montessori as a child and my parents still have a collection of very similar hand made ornaments. Also, I agree that children should be able to display their work. Maybe not everything should end up on the fridge, but they should be able to display some of the pieces that mean the most to them, and decorate as they see fit. The only thing I disagree with is when a parent takes a guest around and shows them everything their child has created, especially because most people don't do this for their other decorations and paintings.

wayfarer said...

I think kids crafts and art definately have a place in the home and classroom. My son smiles whenever i put something up.

Funny, in his montessori class they put up the art for the day and then send it home with them. Granted, he is in the toddler program and it may differ.

Love your posts...nice to see the classroom pics!

Anonymous said...

Thought provoking! My opinion is that kids art should be displayed (alongisde the adults art etc) and that it is fine for adults to admire and encourage the kids by oohing and aahing as long as the adults comments aren't judgement adn praise based - as long as the comments and queries are about the process - what colours they used, what mediom, did they like the bigger paper etc.

Amy said...

Oh Meg, I cannot wait for tomorrow with your art projects posted! Schools off for 7 weeks here in Malaysia - not that my son would do a single Xmas anything at his school anyway!

Anonymous said...

Thanks for a beautiful and thoughtful post. My son is in Montessori and is bringing home some special pieces he has crafted in the classroom. We plan to frame a couple of pieces to admire in our home. That way we can rotate during the year the special pieces of work he chooses to frame. He is so proud of his achievements. As a mother its wonderful to watch!

Claudia said...

Love the concept of the Children's House. It is a great idea! I also think that kids art should be displayed: to share ideas, to inspire others, etc.

Rachel said...

What a wonderful post! I think displaying children's art in the home is extremely important. If I put my paintings around the house, then my daughter should have a part of her art in our home too.

My daughter's Montessori school displays the art for the day and then sends it home too. I hang them up in our house for a week, and then something else replaces it.

Natalie said...

Thank you for this gentle and wise reminder... I needed that. I am looking forward to your craft ideas.

The Hen said...

Such a lovely post. I have learned so much from the Montessori method about including my little ones in my day-to-day activities. And now they are actually fabulous helpers!

MishaLee said...

Meg, you are so thoughtful. Thank you for sharing, this is an awesome post. I was more concerned with how to store all of my sons art, rather than how to display it. Now I can't wait to make it a more a part of our home.

Vickie said...

Here, here! Really enjoyed reading you very thoughtful post!

jojoebi said...

Great post Meg, I agree that the children should display their work, which artist doesnt want their work displayed for others to enjoy?
It is sad that we can keep everything that they make, with my son I plan to scan/photogrpah his projects through the year and then make up a book for him at the end of the year including work with the metal insets, writing letters etc.

Pippa said...

How I love the gentle reminder that the 'ordinary' tasks in Making A Home are also creative and artful. Thank you, Meg, for a truly wonderful and inspiring blog. I am so glad I discovered you!!


Montessori Mama said...

I too, check your blog daily and am delighted by what I find. Thank you for writing this post, for sharing the beautiful photos and for your tremendous creative spirit! I've gotta say I feel like we are kindred spirits and am so happy to be connected via computer with you and your creative energy. You keep me inspired and reminded of the classroom I used to teach in and the future classroom I long to have again one day. Thanks so much for being you!

Sara said...

I love your blog and read it regularly. My four year old is in a fabulous Montessori school, and I love reading about the work your children are doing. I agree we should let children help decorate their homes with their handmade creations. In my daughter's classroom, it is frequently the children who decorate the room with their random projects, and their teacher allows them to do so.
My daughter loves, loves, loves to decorate our home with her artwork. With each changing season she draws new pictures and walks around the house with a roll of tape hanging her creations everywhere (we go through a lot of tape). It makes me smile to look around our home and see little pieces of her personality. Thanks for the blog, I find it inspiring!