I have been reading a fascinating book called, How Children Make Art: Lessons in Creativity from Home to School by George Szekely. There is a fascinating section in the book about pre-service teachers making home visits to document and discuss their students’ collections in their bedrooms, as a way to help future teachers balance the study of adult and child art.
The author points out that all young children start off as artists and collectors, and that their bedrooms are the home to rich and varied, yet carefully curated collections. The author argues that children lose this passion and love of art when they come to school and find no connections between their home art and school art. So, as art educators, what do we do to encourage the connections? How do we as adults honor their playful and un-adult eye for design?
I started by looking at my own two children’s rooms for ideas on what I can do to encourage their collections.
This book has been a timely read, as I recently helped to take apart a childhood collection site of my own – a glass case shelf where many priceless treasures were stored. I did not photograph this lovingly curated shelf, before taking it apart. Items had been in certain locations for so long that I can still close my eyes and see the arrangements.
My children sat with me, in absolute amazement, picking up each object one by one, treating each thing as sacred and precious. They asked question after question, cataloging my responses as insights to my own childhood experiences, making connections that their adult mother was once just as imaginative as they are are now. Revelations to my little humans!
My 8-year old daughter has a more elaborate system of set-ups, comprised of animal figurines, dolls, dollhouses linked together, scarves, washi tape, rocks, glass beads, shells, wrappers, and prize bin items. There are constantly items all over the floor, which at first appearance may seem random and messy, but upon closer inspection, they are set up in a deliberate and playful manner. She HATES the weekly floor clean up, in order to avoid her precious collection from being vacuumed up.
My 5-year old son, on the other hand, likes to keep his collections stored in a series of boxes, which are then in turn put inside his nightstand drawers and on his book shelf. If given the opportunity, he will pass on letting friends play in his room, because he likes the floor clean and free of items.
Enter a solution that comes from my hybrid roles of mother and art teacher – under bed platforms for each child’s room. They can hold train tracks, cars, Legos, fairies, ponies, dolls, furniture, or whatever is being curated at the time.
We just so happened to have two nice pieces of plywood in the garage, casters in the basement, and kids who wanted to help in this process.
Eric had both kids help him to measure, mark, and screw in caster wheels to the bottom. We left the wood natural, knowing that at some point they may paint them, tape paper on, or layer their own playful surfaces. Now their curated collections can be safely stowed away to be returned to again and again.
This book has been an on-going source of ah-has for me and has helped me to honor the creative ideas and art making of my own two children. My next step is to find more authentic ways to bridge the home art and school art of my students.