Children’s “Craftivities” vs Authentic Children’s Art
by Deanna Daly 2016
Nothing hurts my artistic soul more than indistinguishable children’s art. We’ve all seen it at one point or another. A school art show with cut paper of all the same shape, size and color, meticulously glued in the same spot for each project. You see a wall of caterpillars, houses, or penguins all looking like carbon copies of themselves. Honestly, can we even call it art at this point? Those projects are what I like to call “craftivities.” With craftivities the creativity is lacking and we see no authenticity coming from the students.
Creativity is the most important aspect of art. I truly believe that all children benefit from practicing creativity. The definition of creativity is the use of the imagination or original ideas, especially in the production of an artistic work. While doing a craftivity, the use of imagination and creativity is non-existent. Working creatively also means problem solving, using critical thinking skills and thinking outside the box. Young children are more prepared for the future when these skills are nurtured. Art educators need to develop lessons that teach students to develop their creativity before its too late.
The opposite of a craftivity is authentic art. When it comes to children’s artwork, what do we mean by “authentic?” This means that it is genuine, real, true and overall can be distinguished between another child’s artwork. It is also art that has been done by the child and not a parent, guardian, teacher, older sibling, aid etc. We have all seen that science fair project that was “heavily supervised” by someone other than the student. Why do adults feel the need to adjust or tweak their student/child’s work? That is a topic for another post. Bottom line is, artwork that had help from an adult might be creative and imaginative, but it is not authentic.
I understand the use of craftivities in other classrooms (other than the art room). They can help teachers observe how well students follow directions, and help students practice fine motor skills, but they do not help with creativity. Another negative result of a craftivity is the pressure on students to “get it right.” Craftivities can be frustrating and can actually hinder a child’s natural creativity. The end result is supposed to look exactly the same as everyone else’s, so when one student’s work is slightly different, they question their abilities. With authentic art, there is room to make mistakes. Authentic art makes students think and create without constantly comparing their work to the teacher’s final product. I will leave you with a quote about craftivities from Dr. Carol Russel from the ETSU Early Childhood Conference 2014. She says, “Although these activities may have some merit for developing fine motor skills or hand-eye coordination, they lack artistic and creative merit… and should not take the place of authentic creative art experiences. They should not be labeled as “art” in the curriculum.