One of the things I strive for most when planning our art sessions is to create a framework that allows children to create work they are pleased with and also encourages them to think independently and take their own path. This can be a fine balancing act. Too much freedom in the ‘brief’ and they can easily lose their way and end up with a finished piece that they are not 100% happy with. Whilst on the other hand, if the guidance is too specific and prescribed, creativity is stifled and it becomes more a test of following instructions rather than an opportunity for self expression.
I like to think that our most recent work has achieved this balance. The creation of the pop-up element of the ‘Van Gogh Chair’ meant that every child began with roughly the same template. From this starting point they were already all on a trajectory towards success. Providing a range of inspiring collage papers also helped to spark their imagination. I provided pens and pencils so that they could draw if they wished but this wasn’t essential – collage on its own was also fine. I think that this flexibility helped all children feel confident that they could create what they wanted in their own way and removed the stress that some children feel when asked to draw something specific.
They all worked so quietly for this project, completely lost in creating a miniature world of their own. Seated around a large table, they were also able to take inspiration from each other (something I encourage – I am trying to teach them that this is not ‘copying’ and that they should be flattered if someone else likes their idea). The creative juices were really flowing for this topic. Nearly every child came up with original ideas and it was lovely to see them developing their problem solving skills along the way. They couldn’t wait to take them home to show their families.