Developing Art Activities Where The Children Can’t Fail

I’m coming to the end of my time with the toddler group. It’s been an exciting three-year journey and I’ve learnt so much from the children. I’d like to extend my thanks to all the children, and their mums, for letting me experiment on them.

When I started, I used to have long conversations with my husband about what I should do with the children. Being the one who had looked after our own children when they were young, having a theatre degree and having worked for a short while with youngsters he was a great sounding board.

‘Make sure they can’t fail’ and ‘learn the children’s names’ were the best advice he gave me.

Make Sure They Can’t Fail
I don’t know if nursery age children have had the chance to develop a fear of failure but you sure don’t want them developing one when making art.

Art projects should be about developing confidence in their choices and helping them to be curious and experimental.

Craft projects, on the other hand, have a pre-conceived idea, so the children are learning processes and to follow instructions rather than developing their creativity.

It’s important you understand the difference between art and craft so you can develop appropriate activities for your planned outcomes.

Setting up an activity where the children can’t fail is easier than you may think. It’s all about expectation and process rather than the final product.

It’s Easier Than You Think
For example, the very first activity I gave the children was making a collage with circles. Because at that stage I didn’t know the capabilities of the children I pre-prepared all the circles from a variety of papers and materials. All the children had to do was choose which circles they wanted and where they wanted to place them on their pictures. In your setting though you could get the children to cut the circles.

Through this process they learned a variety of things. For example, how to apply glue to make their circles stick, that tissue became transparent when PVA was applied and the colour of film looked different when laid over another colour.

I also noticed that the children weren’t constrained by the border of the card and would let their circles drift over the edge making some very dynamic pieces. This is a technique I sometimes take over into my own pictures!

Children have a freedom when making their pictures as they are not constrained by pre-conceived ideas and methods. Once they know how glue works you can leave them to it. Do discuss their pictures with them. Describe their pictures back to them and ask them what they like about what they’ve made.

If you focus on the processes rather than the final product then the children can’t fail. If something goes wrong then they’ve learned something and sometimes a great discovery is made. Hopefully they will also start to have an understanding of the creative process which will be a great asset to them far beyond the realms of making art.


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