Our latest blog post has been written by guest blogger Kylie from Love Early Education.
Kylie is a mum to 2 boys Luke (4) and Liam (3m) and lives in England. She is a qualified Early Years Teacher and Primary Teacher and has been working with children for the past 10 years. She is currently completing a Masters in Education.
Kylie started her blog Love Early Education 5 years ago whilst studying at university. She is passionate about playful learning, learning outdoors and the importance of reading for pleasure. She loves writing and one day hopes to publish a children’s book. She shares her world on Instagram as @loveearlyeducation.
It is a well-known fact that for children mark making is the first step through the door to writing. It allows children to develop the muscle dexterity and fine motor skills to hold a pen and pencil correctly and begin to form shapes, which will one day develop into the curves and flicks of letters. But mark making is so much more than that to children, it is an expression in its rawest form, allowing them to explore and create. No matter the scale of mark making and expressive arts and design, it has many benefits for children and for adults.
Art is considered to be calming and relaxing and can be used as a therapeutic outlet that is good for emotional wellbeing. It is often used to allow children to express emotions and events that they are unable to verbalise.
Sadly within early years settings and schools, art is typically created with the practitioner's outcome in mind, encouraging children to follow a set path with the resources available.
Crafts are wonderful for those who enjoy them and often provide the physical benefits that a practitioner is aiming to develop. These might be scissor skills or a set skill they are aiming to teach from the curriculum. Unfortunately, these types of activities often hinder a child’s creativity and do not allow children to indulge in the fascinating process that art can provide.
I remember a very wise university lecturer talking about visiting an early years' setting to observe a student during an adult let activity in winter. He was devastated to watch each child be given black card and white paint and encouraged to create a snowman based upon a template, each using the same tools.
His lecture was the first time I had ever heard the term 'process art' and it changed how I looked at mark making and art as a professional and a parent from them on.
I have found that over the past 6 years since that lecture that nothing can beat the experience of large scale mark making outside, as it lends itself so well to process art. As children, I’m sure many of you were perfectly happy with drawing with chalk on the pavement, experimenting with colour and shape but never worrying about the rain clouds that would soon wash the chalk away. Instead, you were in the moment, enjoying the process and this is the benefit of large scale mark making outdoors.
What is process art?
Process art at its very essence is the process of creating art. It is considered to be a contemporary artistic movement within the art communities of the world and dates back to the 1960s. It is basically art that allows you to learn from its process, rather than worrying about a preconceived notion of what it should look like.
Process art shouldn’t have a set outcome in mind and children are typically given little to no guidance on what the outcome should be. Although, sometimes stimuli may be provided, whether this is an artist, a picture or just the resources provided. But the children have artistic freedom to experiment and carry out the process and learn from it. The most important part of process art for children is that it is enjoyed and revelled in without restriction.
Common benefits of large scale mark making outdoors:
Mark making and expressive arts and design allow children to use a variety of tools that help them develop fine motor skills and muscle dexterity. But when art is created on a small scale such as your typical A4 piece of paper, the impact of the larger motor skills is hindered. Allowing children to create marks outdoors means they are able to indulge all of their muscles and motors skills at once, as they can create small and large movements with the same tools.
Creating outdoors means the range of resources, tools and even the ‘canvas’ itself suddenly becomes broader and more exciting. Rather than it being paper, paint and some brushes it can become a large sheet, paint (whether liquid or powder) and spray or squidgy bottles, brushes, rollers, hands and feet!
Creating outdoors allows children to enjoy all the benefits being outdoors can bring to their health and well-being, whilst taking part in playful learning and artistic exploration.
Creating art outdoors allows children to use nature as their natural stimulus. They might be inspired by what they see in their environment, such as trees, sand, wildlife, shadows and light. Or it may be they physically use what is in their environment to actually create the art, such as leaves, berries and pebbles.
Creating art outdoors allows the breadth of language and discussion to be a lot wider. It gives children the opportunity to think outside the box and paint outside the lines, their only limit is their imagination.
There is also a benefit to carers and parents when the fun is finished, as the clean up is typically a lot easier! The artwork can be washed away or in some cases, may need very little resources to start with.
Examples of large scale mark making and process art outdoors:
If you are nervous, about the sheer mess that you imagine letting a little one loose in the garden with art supplies could cause, the best supplies to start with is water.
Water mark making is a fantastic process art as on a sunny day it can be difficult to finish a piece of art before it has dried and gone forever. The joy of this is that it is impossible to make a mistake as this art is not permanent but allows all the physical benefits of using tools with paint.
You can still use paint brushes, rollers, sponges and even a mop. I have spent many days outdoors with a mop and bucket forming letters on the floor in the sunshine. The best thing about water art is the children can explore mark making on any surface, whether this is the pavement, glass, brick or the bark of a tree.
Our favourite outdoor art in this household is painting, we are just a family that loves to paint, the messier the better! For us, painting outdoors means we can use a large range of tools we couldn’t use inside, without worrying about the furniture or mess. It means we can create on a much larger scale.
We often use a sheet or a big piece of cardboard but recently experimented with using boxes outdoors, as it allowed for a 3D canvas.
One great tool for outdoor mark marking is good old fashioned chalk, just drawing on pavement or walls, on trees or wherever you feel comfortable letting the children draw. You can use chalk as it was intended or you can crush it into a powder or even make liquid chalk in spray bottles.
Nature is also the perfect artistic brush for creating art outdoors. Allow children to create mandalas, scenes or portraits by using what they find in nature such as leaves, berries, sticks, pebbles, shells, whatever is available.
Think Art Attack! Think anywhere! Art doesn’t have to be at home, it can be anywhere. A great place to create art is at the beach, all you need is a stick or a feather, but you can also use shells and other found objects to decorate and create.
These are just a few ideas, let your imagination and that of your little ones guide you. There are so many opportunities to create once you get outside.
It is a well-known fact that for children mark making is the first step through the door to writing but please don’t forget the many other doors it can open for children.
Opening the doors to outdoor mark making and art lets children know that they can express themselves artistically and creatively, wherever they are and that art isn’t restricted to the canvas. Art is part of life and its beauty can be found wherever we go. Children love art and the outdoors and hopefully, you can see now that they naturally go hand in hand. So quick, get outside and get creating!
There is so much creative outdoor fun in this blog post and I love the 'process art' concept. It is a concept I discovered a few years and one I have been keen to use with my boys as I have been more of the 'end result type' of arty mum. However, this is definitely a way to get your kids creating in their own style and there is less pressure on them to produce a 'piece of art'.
Thank you so much, Kylie, for your wonderful guest blog contribution. You have made me want to get out all the paints, cardboard boxes and get my boys creating art outdoors this weekend, without using any 'Pinterest' ideas (lol)!