Toddler Time @ CMA: Explorations in Programming for Play

Through the looking glass at the Columbus Museum of Art's Center for Creativity's Wonder Room

Through the looking glass at the Columbus Museum of Art’s Center for Creativity’s Wonder Room

So, I’m really excited about a project I’m going to be embarking on during my next stay-at-home sabbatical from teaching.  It has a bit of a backstory, so bear with me.

Last spring I worked with a student on an action research project in her arts-based preschool classroom.  The more I heard stories about what she was doing, saw pictures and heard the voices of her students, the more I wanted to experience what it was like making art with groups of very young people.  I couldn’t help wondering why I was sitting in front of a computer grading papers and wagging my red pen at the format of students’ APA citations when I could be finger painting or playing around with blocks and play doh.  In a way, my wish was fulfilled once Cora became old enough to explore these things with me in our home studio (a.k.a. the kitchen floor, the back porch, the bathtub, etc.).

In another way, I have been exploring making art with young children during Music Together.  As I wrote about here before, these classes have pushed me to reconsider the role of parameters in creative problem-solving and expression.  That program is fairly structured compared with ideas for working with visual art and young children that I’m most familiar with.  I have been amazed at what Cora has learned from the classes and from listening to the music over, and over, and over, and over, and over, and over again.  I’m still not sure what the visual equivalent might be.

I’m about to get a chance to try some ideas out when I help host a four-session toddler art playgroup at the Columbus Museum of Art in April.  I feel so grateful to Cindy Foley and her staff for allowing my friends and me to use the studio in the Center for Creativity as a gathering place.  I’ve already had thought-provoking conversations about working with 2 & 3 year olds and their parents with her and a few of the education coordinators who work with her.  Amanda Kepner and Susie Underwood have lots of experience working with visitors of all ages in the galleries and museum classrooms, and I’m excited to have an opportunity to observe their work and have them support me in my project.

The playgroup will be pretty loose, beginning with time for parents and kids to warm up and explore a few stations – beading, lightbox, large-scale coloring… – followed by a picturebook or time in the Big Idea Gallery, and then the activity of the day.  After we clean-up folks will be free to hang out at the museum to socialize while the kids play in the Wonder Room.  If folks are interested, we can also explore some of the galleries together.  If I were invited to this playgroup, I’d be psyched.

A few of the things I hope to address in later posts about these endeavors include:
Who’s art is it anyway?: The role of parents in young children’s creative development
Ready, Set, Play: Encouraging creativity on demand
Toddlers in the galleries: Big boats, buildings, and boobies

Of course my interests in this area are linked to my observations of Crafty Cora as she develops.  She’s had such an incredible explosion of interest drawing, painting, storytelling, beading, cutting, building, and sorting over the past few months. (The topic of another soon to-be-written post.)  Until now, these have been mostly solitary activities for her.  It’s often one of the few things that will get her to sit still for more than a minute.  A month ago, she sat for an hour with a pair of scissors and sheet of paper cutting a tassle-fringe around the perimeter.  Cora and her pal Maya have long played side-by-side with play-doh and did some finger painting together recently.  But I’m excited to see what happens when she’s in a group of 10 kids, making marks together with their parents.

WARNING: This could get very messy.

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3 thoughts on “Toddler Time @ CMA: Explorations in Programming for Play

  1. How fun! We have only begun to investigate how to tap into the amazing creative minds of Pre-K, and K children. Wouldn’t it be fun to put together a model for Head Start programs all over the country to use? Have fun and keep us posted.

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