Art Centers do more than promote creativity. In fact, it can be one of a child’s favorite spaces in the early childhood classroom. Just imagine, colored pencils, mounds of crayons, makers in every color, plain paper, glue, plastic scissors, magazines for cutting or tearing, construction in all colors, examples of 3D creations, art displayed, paints of all kinds, clay, easels, smocks, and many other selections. All the items are an invitation to create. (Please note that I did not say anything about coloring books). Don’t use preconceived ideas for the way something should look.
Creativity Come Naturally
Young children have a natural gift to create. I once walked by a child that was swirling her paint around-and-around on the paper. I could see multiple colors going in a vivid circle. “Would you like to tell me about your art?” I asked. She shared that it was the way she felt when she rode the carousal. After she talked about her experience, I understood her art.
Children love to experiment with colors and textures. It is not about the product to them. Just as you are ready to display one of their paintings, you discover that the child has painted over the picture to see what the color red looks like painted over white. “Look! I have a pink picture,” a child might say.
At the art center, children enjoy being self-directed not teacher directed. You might say, “Would someone like to paint a snow scene or use the cotton and glue to complete a snow picture since we just read the Snowy Day?” At least this way, you have given the children an idea about what to do at the art center. But, it should not be restricted to that one plan.
As a New Educator,
In my early years as an educator, I misunderstood the purpose of art. I provided patterns and instructed the children on every step. I took great pleasure on displaying the finished projects around the room. Sadly, the only developmental areas that were enhanced were fine motor skills and following directions.
I read an article that changed my teaching techniques. Through many years of teaching and graduate level courses in creative art for young children, my philosophy is adamant on the process versus product.
The Art Center
The art center should be attractive with good lighting. It should be a wonderful place that elicits creativity. Children love beautiful spaces filled with color. Add fresh flowers, pine cones, sea shells, and other objects in nature to add to the area. It is important to change the natural items often because child love novelty. The space should be in close proximity to water for cleaning up spills and washing out brushes.
Provide plenty of supplies for art materials such as: white drawing paper, ribbons,
pieces of cloth, , finger paints, crayons (a huge assortment), hole punches, Popsicle sticks, paper doilies, peel-off shapes, markers, yarn, pom-poms, craft buttons, paste, glue, construction paper, tissue paper, newsprint, scissors, masking tape, sponges, stamps, stamp pads, rolling pins, play dough, cookie cutters, drying rack, painting aprons, mixing jars, and more.
The Development is Endless!
- Physical development -Children develop fine and large motor skills. This includes the development of eye-hand coordination, and arm, hand and finger muscles.
- Cognitive development – Through visual discrimination, children will learn to identify colors. Also, it takes a mental plan to design their picture or art project.
- Language development- Children love to talk. Encourage multiple children to share the space to enhance language development. As the teacher, walk around and invite the child to discuss their project. “Would you like to tell me about your art?” You can add vocabulary by making statements like, “I love those purple lines that you added. I like those circles that you placed on the page.”
- Emotional Development- Children will feel happy about their art projects in a classroom where the teacher doesn’t put restrictions on their work. Many of the art activities are therapeutic. Think about pounding clay as a way to get-out hostility.
- Social Development- it is important to encourage conversation and have multiple children in the space together.
- Creative Development- Encourage children to create. It is fine to give them ideas. But, don’t provide examples of things that have been made from patterns. For example, you could provide several snow scenes photos. But, it will stop their creativity when the teacher posts several snow scenes that she made with blue paper and glitter or a snow man that has been made by the teacher.
There are many good online supply companies. I ordered from Kaplan, as an educator. Their website provides some start-up advice when setting up an art center in an early childhood environment.
1. Decide on the Size and Location of Your Art Center
It is important to set-up the center based on the size and location. Try to accommodate two or more children to ensure that language skills are developed. It is important to plan the center near a water source for easy clean-up. It can get noisy; therefore it would not work near the book center or other quiet areas.
2. Pick out the Appropriate Furniture for Your Space
It is important to have areas for easy clean-up. Double-sided easels take up less room than two easels. You will need shelves and cabinets to hold paints and tables for making projects. Add a drying rack and bulletin boards for displaying art.
3. Facilitate Easy Clean Up with Splash Mats and Aprons
Make sure that floor services are easy to clean. You may want a splash mat. Have art smocks or aprons to protect children’s clothing.
4. Find Convenient Art Storage Solutions
There are a variety of art supplies available, so it’s important that the materials you choose for your art center are organized and placed in appropriate storage containers. Art caddies, scissor racks, and art tubs are great storage solutions for materials that children need to easily access.
5. Choose a Variety of Art Materials and Tools for Children to Use
You should offer a variety of diverse art materials based on different levels of ability in your classroom’s art center.