Tuesday, 18 May 2010

Draw, make and play... your own way

I note with interest that the strap line on the CBeebies Art magazine is, 'Draw, make and play... the CBeebies way! And boy, do they mean it.

I find this art and craft magazine aimed at children rather unsatisfying, irritating actually. It is too prescriptive and too detailed for my liking. It has play tips and tidy tips, idea tips and making tips, and its design is overwhelming with every page telling you to get stickers from one place, to stick them on another, to cut here, to fold there, to do this, to colour that. It tries to be the canvas for the art activities as well. There's just too much going on; so much text and too many messages. And it also manages to be patronising, for example, one of the pages has a picture of a submarine to cut out. Its text explains, 'Make a submarine to play with.' I'm so glad they told me it was for my children to play with. What would we have done without that handy hint?

Surely this way of making stuff is just a lesson for parents in how to follow a set of instructions. I find it hard to see where the creativity is in that. Daisy confidently takes what she wants from these magazines and tangentially creates just what she fancies. But my five year old (a reluctant crafter at best) is totally turned off by them; getting him to make things has to be achieved by a stealth approach, so this magazine is a big no-no for him. There must be children and grown-ups who enjoy this way of making things but for me it just doesn't leave any space for nurturing children's creativity. At all.

However, this weekend we happened upon one such publication. Having been ignored by both my children, I tore off its 'free gift' bag and spread the contents attractively on our table to see if either of them would bite. And the picture you see above was the result; a rather lovely collage made by my three year old Daisy. Look closely and you can see that everything is pre-cut and pre-themed. All the materials were supposed to be used to make an underwater mobile - with a set of instructions on how to make it, of course. But she took one look at the pile of goodies and announced it was going to be 'an under-the-sea picture.'

She then put her own plan into action and it was a far more creative and satisfying an activity for it. Daisy herself decided how to use the materials. In fact, if you look even closer at the photograph you can see her picture's story - which emerged with commentary as she built up the collage.

'The shark is just about to eat the baby starfish, its mummy is swimming in to save her. There is the seaweed, and this blue shiny bit is the deepest dark sea. And look, these bubble stickers go here and here, so all the sea creatures are doing parp-parps.'

Love it.

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