For almost a decade now, I have worked at an after school program with kids ages 5 to 11. It’s an interesting set up as we are run by the county parks and recreation department and use the school’s facilities to host the program. Therefore, all the participants attend the same school and I tend to have some of the same kids for multiple years. I’ve been at my current school about 6 years, so while every year I gain new participants, I’ve known some of these kids for quite some time. Currently, I have 39 children in my program. It’s a pretty awesome job even if some days I feel like my brain has melted.
One thing that I LOVE about working with children is their artwork. Kids draw and create the weirdest things. Of course, you occasionally get oddly phallic and even yonic drawings (“Oh, that’s a string of Christmas lights in the background!”). Those can be pretty funny, but that’s not the weirdo art I love.
Most kids are uninhibited in their creativity. They are not so strict on how things are “supposed” to look nor have they yet reached a point where they are doubting their abilities. Generally, they do their best to create whatever they’re envisioning. They use their extensive imaginations and pull from every day life. For example, I eat a banana pretty much every day at snack time. Thus, there are lots of running banana jokes and bananas crop up in artwork pretty regularly.
One of the favorite activities is “free art.” I just set out random art supplies like markers, glue, scrap paper, scissors, etc and allow them to create whatever they want. Obviously, I have planned crafts as well, but even then I allow and encourage them to make their artwork their own. Our craft time mantra is “there are no mistakes in art.” I love when I overhear one of them repeating that to a friend who has “messed up” what they were working on! I would like to also point out that participation in the craft is totally voluntary.
Yesterday, I did an impromptu craft which has origins in a running group joke. I have a second grade girl nicknamed “Crabby Abbey” (not because she’s grumpy, but because once we found animals that rhymed with our names). Over the last month, this same child has been singing a potato song. As a joke, I made her a paper potato with crab arms this past Monday. Okay, we actually made four paper potatoes. I made two and so did my coworker (one crab, one regular, one dinosaur, and one cat). Everyone thought it was pretty funny. So yesterday I made a potato stencil out of a cereal box and we all made our own paper potatoes!
The results were fantastic! Seriously, I just gave them some brown paper, the stencil, and various art supplies and they conjured up so much weirdness it was amazing. I couldn’t be more pleased with the outcome. I hope you derive as much joy as I do from these awesome art potatoes.
And if you’re super curious about the potato song: