Hands off in preschool

In our zest to help children “create” sometimes it is easy to forget what it means to be creative…

Creativity is inspired when we give children the opportunity to explore the art process and materials without the pressure of having to do it in a specific way…

In an effort to teach children, adults get the idea that if they control a child’s movements or actions that this will help the child be more proficient with the process…

When in reality, controlling a child’s movements or actions promotes a sense of uncertainty and keeps the child focused on whether he or she is doing something right or wrong rather than focused on just doing and creating…

Inspiring a child’s confidence in the creative process calls for the teacher or adult to use a “hands off” approach…

As children are given the freedom to explore cutting, painting, gluing, and other process without an imposing agenda or an expected result – they develop greater levels of skills and greater confidence in their abilities…

Perhaps the hand print won’t end up in exactly the right place on the paper or the child will use a thumb instead of fingers in the ink stamp – but the child needs to be given the opportunity to figure it out without getting the impression that his or her efforts will be judged as doing something right or doing something wrong…

Besides, it isn’t fun having someone else control your movements as you try to create. In order to be creative, a child has to be invested in the process and in order to be invested in the process, the child needs to feel that it is okay to freely explore…

By |2011-06-24T06:00:54+00:00June 24th, 2011|

About the Author:

Deborah J. Stewart, M.Ed. has been working and teaching in the field of early childhood education for over 30 years. Deborah currently owns and teaches in her own part-time, private preschool called The Children’s Studio. Deborah’s deep passion for teaching and working with young children is documented and then graciously shared with millions of readers around the world through her blog and other social networking communities. Deborah believes that young children learn best through play and exploration and embraces this belief in all that she does in her own classroom so that she can effectively and passionately share rewarding, real- life, tried-and-true practices with other teachers, parents, and leaders across the field of early childhood education.


  1. Leeanne A June 24, 2011 at 7:17 am - Reply

    This is often the hardest message to send to the adults in our childrens’ lives. I am often telling other adults to just let the children be – let them have fun. Who cares if the face they just drew has eyes on the top of their head, who cares if the dog is purple. Creativity comes in many forms and so does self esteem and personal gratification!

    • Deborah J. Stewart, M.Ed. June 25, 2011 at 2:19 am - Reply

      I agree and I loved that video you shared on your blog the other day. I meant to share it too!

  2. Scott June 24, 2011 at 7:39 am - Reply

    I wholeheartedly agree. I’m all in favor of askew handprints and wonky frames. When my kids are working on something, I want it to look like a 5-year-old did it, since that who should be doing it. (Of course, some of my own projects look like a 5-year-old did it, but that’s another story.)

    • Deborah J. Stewart, M.Ed. June 25, 2011 at 2:18 am - Reply

      I like kids work to be “wonky” too Scott:)

  3. Bethany June 24, 2011 at 8:59 am - Reply

    I also feel very strongly about this subject. I fully agree that an adult centered learning environment does not encourage creativity in a child and it only produces adult directed work. Children need to be allowed to manipulate their own environment with materials suitable for their age and ability without the distraction of adults telling them exactly what to do.

    • Deborah J. Stewart, M.Ed. June 25, 2011 at 2:18 am - Reply

      Well said Bethany!

  4. Meg June 24, 2011 at 4:05 pm - Reply

    Well said! I am strongly against adults manipulating a little person’s movements…It’s very disrespectful of the little person!

    • Deborah J. Stewart, M.Ed. June 25, 2011 at 2:17 am - Reply

      It really is rather disrespectful isn’t it?

  5. Lori June 24, 2011 at 4:31 pm - Reply

    I totally agree! It took me a few years to realize this truth, but it is so much more fun and fulfilling to see a child create his/her own masterpiece!

    • Deborah J. Stewart, M.Ed. June 25, 2011 at 2:16 am - Reply

      Yes it is!

  6. I agree 100%. It makes me sad to visit an early childhood program and see “art” that was obviously created by the adults in the room, not the children.

    • Deborah J. Stewart, M.Ed. June 27, 2011 at 6:23 pm - Reply

      It makes me sad too for the adults and the children. Everyone misses out!

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