“Arts and crafts” is a common label in the early childhood world. And while the label implies that they are two different but similar categories, it is unfortunately used too often as one overarching label. But the two have subtle differences: the difference between process and product, creativity and the created, following inspiration and following directions. Of course there is rarely a black and white separation of these two, rather a spectrum of sliding degrees. While I would never want to completely exclude one in order to elevate the other, one must be cognizant of the differences in order to be intentional in the creative experiences that are planned for the children we love and teach.
Blogger Christie Burnett, of Childhood 101, recognizes this difference and has written a wonderful ebook, Art Not Craft, with a wealth of information and inspiration for providing creative art experiences for young children. Though Christie and I live in opposite hemispheres, we have built a friendship in the blogosphere, linked by our common passion and shared perspectives. I was fortunate enough to receive an advance copy of Christie’s ebook, and I was thoroughly impressed! It’s a resource I know I’ll go back to again and again.
Rather than outline a list of specific crafts with planned outcomes, Christie features a variety of art approaches and techniques, such as drawing, painting, print-making, collages, and scultpure. With each category, Christie not only provides information about implementing the technique in multiple ways, but also gives suggestions as to how you can maximize the experience through discussions and extensions. The focus is on experience, creativity, thinking, and reasoning rather than solely on motor skills and aesthetics. (Though there are certainly plenty of opportunities for those as well!)
Art Not Craft also includes loads of practical tips for minimizing messes and organizing materials. Christie also shares how she set up the shared art area in her own home, a space I am absolutely in love with!
Filled with lots of full-color pictures, bullet lists, and step-by-step procedures, Art Not Craft is a quick and engaging read and also a well-organized ready reference.
Art Not Craft is available for sale through Childhood 101, at a discounted price of $12.95 ($3 less than its listed price). But the discount offer only lasts through April. So if you’re looking for more inspiration for maximizing the creative art experiences with the children you love and teach, I highly recommend you grab this resource!
Top photo by Tibor Fazakas.