Many young children aren’t trying to make something when they do an art project. They are trying to experience something. They enjoy being in control of their project, making the choices about what to use and how to use it. They enjoy the process of manipulating materials and watching their “canvas” change. A texture collage is a great activity for those experiential artists, because it adds a tactile aspect to the activity. Provide a wide array of materials with a variety of textures. I usually just cut them in random, geometrical shapes, and provide scissors in case the children want to alter them. Some favorite materials: sandpaper (cutting it actually sharpens your scissors!), feathers, fuzzy fleece, tulle, corrugated cardboard (with one side peeled off, exposing the bumpy ridges), foil, tissue paper, silky fabrics, ribbons, acetate (overhead paper). As the children glue the pieces on to their papers, you can ask them about which textures they like, and how they feel, exposing them to new vocabulary like rough, smooth, silky, bumpy, ridges, wrinkly, and more! In addition to language skills, this activity promotes creativity, small motor skills, and sensory awareness.
Some children will turn this project into “something”, and that’s great too, but avoid asking them what they’re making, just ask them to tell you about what they’re making. That way you’re not imposing an expectation that it be something, and they can simply explore and create in an open-ended way.
Here’s a quick tip for gluing, particularly with collages, that I picked up while working at the university. Young children are notorious for leaving glue stick caps off, and often can’t get enough glue from them to hold heavier collage objects anyway. Expecting them to be able to squeeze and control a bottle of glue rarely works out well. Instead, put the glue in the lid of a baby food jar, and allow them to paint it onto the paper using small watercolor brushes. It’s much easier for them to control where the glue goes and to get enough to hold their objects.