Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Developing Fine Motor Skills in Art: Process Not Product

Summer is the perfect time to create projects with your kids, all the while helping them develop stronger fine motor skills through toddler art. Though you want them to do you proud when you hang them on the fridge, keep in mind that it's not the finished product that's important. There are three basic goals children should achieve when making any project: 1) be creative, 2) learn about using different mediums, and 3) develop their fine motor skills.

The children in our class create some kind of project every day. Most of the time, we hang their work in the hall for a week or two before sending it home. The students take great pride in their artwork and the parents enjoy seeing what the children have made.

While we offer suggestions regarding how the students might make a particular project, we are not concerned with the finished product. That is secondary to the process of achieving those three goals. My favorite projects are those that encourage so much creativity, that other than using the same medium, no two children’s pictures look anything alike.

Whenever possible, we allow the children to choose the color paper or paint they’d like to use. Of course, there are only so many choices available to them, but this fosters decision making. If we are offering four colors of construction paper, and a particular color runs out, some children must make a second choice. This provides a lesson in not always getting what you want, and forces them to make another decision.

Some children love to make art projects and can spend a full fifteen minutes on their craft. They are meticulous about coloring in the lines, and using colors that make sense to them, such as green trees or a yellow sun. When making the Cat in the Hat’s hat, these students insist that the stripes must be in the correct pattern - red, white, red, white - and they work fastidiously to fill the entire hat.

Other children would much rather be playing than creating. We do our projects individually, with a teacher working with just one or two children at a time. The rest of the kids are enjoying free play throughout the classroom. For some kids, it’s very hard to concentrate on putting stickers on a page, when another child is playing with his favorite truck. So, while every child must make the project of the day, the amount of time he chooses to spend on it is up to him. If a child would much rather be playing, he is likely to scribble all over a picture instead of worrying about coloring in the lines, or he might choose to apply three stickers instead of eight. That’s all fine as long as he completes the task at hand. It is not about the finished product, but the process it took to get there.

So for the remainder of the summer, encourage your child to practice cutting - a very important and difficult skill; coloring - great for fine motor skill development; and being creative. Just don't get hung up on the finished product.

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