Here’s the scoop on crafts versus art in preschool

How to incorporate meaningful art experiences in your preschool classroom!

I just finished listening to the Bam Radio Show titled, “Arts versus Crafts in ECE: Which Matters Most?” The guest speaker was author MaryAnn Kohl who has written a whole collection of books all dedicated to promoting process focused art in the preschool classroom. The interview explored the differences between arts and crafts and touched on what is considered developmentally appropriate for young children.

The Scoop: Arts vs Crafts

Let me begin by inviting you to hop on over to Bam Radio and hear for yourself what MaryAnn Kohl and Rae Pica have to say. You will hear what MaryAnn recommends as her pick for the top two process art materials you can offer your students (which I think will surprise you).  Then head back here to read my take-aways on the topic below…

MaryAnn Kohl
MaryAnn Kohl

Here are a few take-aways I pulled out from the Bam Radio show…

What are Crafts?

MaryAnn uses words such as “following directions, following steps, closed-ended, pre-planned, and product” to define the word crafts.

What is Art?

MaryAnn uses words such as “spontaneous, open-ended, no focused-product, process, discovery, exploration, and experience” to define the word art.

Which Matters Most?

MaryAnn explains that young children need process over product when it comes to creative experiences. If you like to do both crafts and arts with your students, then keep the focus on process art at least 90% and the focus on crafting to 10% of time throughout your school year. In other words, there is room and even some value in crafting, however the bigger value in terms of overall growth and development comes through time spent in process oriented art experiences.

Craft versus Art

Deborah’s Thoughts

Now let me share with you a few of my own thoughts on this topic which, by the way, has been a controversial issue in early childhood education for as long as I can remember.

The Process Scale

When it comes to early childhood, there is a scale (so to speak) that shows art is far more complex than the terms craft or art. I will call this The Process Scale.  On one end of the process scale is pure craft while on the other end of the scale is pure art. Most of us, whether we like to think so or not, fall somewhere in the middle of that scale. Take a look at the chart below…

The Process Scale by Deborah Stewart, M.Ed.

This is by no means a scientific scale but I think it can help you gauge for yourself where you are in terms of providing pure art versus pure craft experiences.

Craft versus Art

As for right verses wrong. I can tell you that I slide back and forth between #4 and #5. On a rare occasion, we throw in a #3 day like on holidays, but I am working my way up the scale on those occasions, too. You see, I know that what matters most to young children is the experience and the freedom to explore – I know because I see it every single day. I also know that through experience and exploration young children build confidence, new skills, and a true inner joy for art. I am proud of what we do in our classroom and the experiences we provide, however I recognize that I still have room to grow in my own teaching practice so I will continue to expand my way of doing things – one day at a time.

Craft versus Art

For those of you who would like to see some of MaryAnn’s books, check the Amazon Links out below!

Deborah J Stewart

Deborah J Stewart

Every time I think I know everything I need to know about teaching young children, God says, "Hold on a minute!" and gives me a new challenge.

Let me tell ya...

With each new challenge that you overcome, you will find yourself better equipped and more passionate about teaching young children.

God didn't call wimps to lead, teach, or care for His children. Nope, he has high expectations, so get ready. You will have to give your very best but after teaching for over 30 years, I can tell you that it is a wonderful and rewarding journey.

Whenever your calling feels hard, just remember, 'He who began a good work in you (and in the children you serve) will be faithful to complete it.'

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