Toddler Time @ The Columbus Museum of Art: Day 1

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As predicted, I left my first time hosting a toddler art playgroup with things I’d like to improve. But, I also left with a real sense of accomplishment. The parents who brought their children all seemed genuinely appreciative of the chance to have their child experiment with a bunch of materials, in a short period of time, in a new space that someone else would be cleaning up. The time passed quickly but I never felt rushed. I had scheduled a program that was well-timed and sequenced.  Noone cried and nothing spilled.

My reflections are still blurry. I’m looking back as a parent and educator.  I’m looking back through my previous experiences with, and limited knowledge of, the participants. Here are a few emerging points of focus.

I remember that all the kids were engaged for the duration of our time together.  I’m not sure I can say that about any teaching experience I have ever had before.  Of course, everyone left when they had had enough, they didn’t have to wait for a bell to ring to tell them it was okay to move on.

The kids bounced around from station to station for the first 20 minutes and I bounced around with them. Giving brief introductions to the materials (beads, lightboxes, and oil pastels). Cora got pretty clingy when she realized I wasn’t giving her my undivided attention, and this made me feel I had to refocus, to step out of the facilitator’s role and back into the role of Cora’s mom. Like I wrote this morning, it’s all a grand performance and I had two parts to keep track of today. This kind of multitasking isn’t really that great for meaningful teaching or parenting.

I wish I had done a bit more in the way of basic explanation of the activities I offered. These would have been directed at the parents, while the children were working. I intended to have some simple recommendations for engaging and collaborating with kids at each of the opening stations, but didn’t get to pulling anything together. (Goal #1 for next week.) When I introduced the main activity, I should have said more to clarify my intentions, to share some insight about my choices and how parents can translate the experiences we had together to their homes.  As my friend Alison reminded me, and as I wrote about here before, that’s what our music teacher does so well.

I want to go into the galleries with these kids and their caregivers.  I think it is important, given that we are meeting at the museum, and something really special to see. Amanda and Susie from the education department have some ideas for how to do this that I would love to watch them try. I so value the conversations I’ve been having with them – it feels rewarding on various levels.

While I knew that the majority of people knew one another from our local library’s storytime, there were two families I knew from elsewhere.  However, Columbus being a mid-sized city with a small town feel, it turned out everyone knew a few other people in the group, and there was a lot of catching up between folks who hadn’t seen each other in awhile.  I’m wondering about the importance of that social interaction for parents with young children and whether it benefit what we did with children or got in the way.  There were lots of times we were interacting with one another’s kids in ways we might not have if we didn’t know one another in advance. (It takes a village to raise an artist?) But, with those connections established and re-introductions now out of the way, there might be more space for the kind of instruction I hope to share.

I’m already looking forward to next week.

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8 thoughts on “Toddler Time @ The Columbus Museum of Art: Day 1

  1. I loved reading about your experience at the museum and am looking forward to hearing about how next week goes. From the photos and what you wrote, it sounds like it’s going to be a great experience for everyone.

  2. In 2000 I moved to Wooster, OH from Columbus as a stay-at-home dad. I can assure you that library hour spent with the kids was as much for me as it was for them. At least in theory. Not to go off on too much of a tangent but in that socially-conservative town, library hours (or any activity aimed at kids during the day) were dominated by female care-givers and I found it difficult to find women willing to engage in conversation (or even small-talk) based on what I can only assume were our gender differences. At least, I don’t like to think of myself as creepy or stand-offish. That lack of connection with the other adults definitely affected my enthusiasm for and regular participation in those activities, so directly or indirectly my kid’s participation was affected by my interactions (to finally get to the relevance to this article).

    • As I was writing this post, I intentionally wrote parents/caregivers when the reality was that we were a group solely comprised of moms. I wish we had some dads in our group. It would be great to have their energies, interests, and talents in the mix. (If only you never went back to work, Mike E.!)

  3. Jodi, I can’t thank you enough for including us in this project. I was really glad you sent out the email about the reasons behind using the two colors. That made a lot of sense and I loved learning your thoughts behind it. I think if it doesn’t happen in the moment that’s okay. You are wearing two hats and that’s not easy. I think a pre or post session email filling in the blanks is fine. Our music teacher is not parenting a child in the class so it’s easier for her to focus on the messaging and take home benefits. I also think it’s great that you are reading books that explore art in the outside world. I’m all about trying to create associations for E and that helps facilitate that so well.

    Not only are you creating a space for our kids to explore various mediums of art but you are a community builder. You’re creating community for us as parents and for our kids. I’m grateful. I hope you give yourself credit for that.

  4. I could so relate to this post! At one point I was teaching coop preschool with my younger son as a class member. He would be so clingy at times, and then naughty at other times. I ended up sending him to a different preschool where he was a model citizen and really flourished, and I could visit frequently and be just a mommy.
    Recently I’ve been offering a preschool art class for 2-5 year olds. I’ve had very few attendees. I’ve been offering the class from 10-11:30, but am thinking of switching it to afternoons. (I thought kids would be napping or tired, but it seems mostly they’re already at preschool!) So what is the magical time you’ve selected?
    And I loved your photos! I’m looking forward to seeing what you do next week!

  5. I’ve had experience setting up workshops with children before and it’s true, when you leave it undirected in terms of the materials and projects they can make, the kids will satisfy themselves with the diversity of projects they come up with. Of course, I always add in a bit of direction as in, here’s a model of what one can make with these… but I always try to encourage open-ended creativity. Other than that, circulating around the stations and checking to make sure they are always fully supplied or organized or peaceful with each other (:p) is the only sort of order I implement. But it looks like you had a wonderful turnout and a great event to show for it!

  6. Pingback: Toddler Time @ The Columbus Museum of Art: Day II | Outside The lines

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