Wednesday, July 22, 2009


The theme of this week at Open-Ended Art was “Yellow and Paint”. Well, on Tuesday evening I got out yellow paint and brush, handed them to Anna and told her to paint whatever she wants. For some reason she always looks really annoyed when I suggest open-ended activity, and missing her nap didn’t help matters. She reluctantly took the brush and made these splashes of paint. After 3 minutes she said that she is done, and that she wants a “real project” now. Oh, she said that those splashes of color are “yellow stripes”. To be honest, “the masterpiece” went to the trash can shortly after this picture was taken.


Well, I decided to try again on Wednesday. Anna missed her nap again, and her ability to focus plummets when she is tired. I was tired myself – I had late night meetings every night this week, and I was functioning on 5 hours of sleep. Nevertheless, I had a presence of mind to take Anna’s shirt off before starting this project. I took her outside, put some tempera yellow paint into a dish and showed her how to paint with rocks and sticks. Alas, she was not at all interested. She wanted to do handprints. To be exact, she wanted to put her hands into paint and smear it everywhere. I wish I could say that she was enjoying it, but she kept her troubled expression on her face, as if July22_OpenEndedYellow2 she was telling me – why am I doing this? I suppose that this can be explained by my own lack of enthusiasm for this messy project. Did I mention that I was tired, and that the thought of an upcoming massive cleanup didn’t appeal to me? At some point she did try to paint with the leaf, but it mostly meant putting the leaf in the paint, then washing the leaf off in the pail of water, then deciding that she wants to wash the paper in the pail of water too and see what happens. At this point I declared the end to this project and got out the water hose to wash off the worst of the paint.

In retrospect, maybe the experience wasn’t really that unsuccessful. After all, the goal is to focus on the process, not on an end result. However, so far our forays into open-ended art appear a little forced. I keep thinking that either I am doing something wrong, or maybe my daughter is too young for it or maybe she doesn’t have enough exposure to possibilities to be able to create something on her own. I guess I need some guidance and encouragement here. Anyone?


Zonnah said...

I think you are doing great :) Some days are harder then others. Also, some things they just will not be interested in.

Orange Juice said...

AWE! You seem like you're really beating yourself up. Maybe, I'm just misunderstanding but honestly sometimes that's just how it is!

If she is not used to this kind of thing her reaction is really normal. Continually doing this will make it easier for her as well as you. Little interest or enthusiasm doesn't mean it was unsuccessful though. Open ended means on her terms and it was her terms. She was done.

Just continue giving open ended art to her but maybe instead of themeing it, give her all the colors and brushes and sponges, let her use her hands and let her explore. It will give her the opportunity to first enjoy the process of art/painting then challenge her to theme it.

Do you feel like your daughter is like you? If she is, I can see why she would want a "real project." It would be making her think with a different part of her brain, the part she's not so comfortable with (I think you understand my meaning here). I think in that case it's a process for both of you. Don't be discouraged, just keep persisting and find a way to make it work for the both of you. :)

Christie Burnett said...

I agree with Orange Juice's comment about giving her a selection of paints and some brushes and just letting her go for it. And then repeating this same experience more than once, that way her involvement will become more focussed over time as she masters that one art medium (like you did with the collage).

You don't necessarily need to keep changing, just stick to paint or collage and then introduce something new. As she really enjoyed the collage, maybe you could just mix some yellow paint in with the glue for a change to the experience.

When she starts an experience, instead of saying, "Do what you want," try asking, "what do you think we could do with this yellow paint? Mummy is stuck for ideas. Can you help?" and then when she is working say things that acknowledge what she is doing, I can see you are making a big painting and you’re working very carefully,” or "Which part of your artwork do you like the best?"

Good luck,

The girl who painted trees said...

She's definitely NOT too young for open ended art, as that is what I have been doing with my daughter since she was 12 months old with great success. Open ended means on her terms, and a chance to explore. Don't ask her what she is painting - it doesn't have to represent anything. If it's blobs, let them be blobs... instead talk about the colors, the shapes, or the lines she is using instead. Compliment an especially curvy line or a super bright or thick blob, or how certain colors overlap and have created another color. This will help her get comfortable and secure in this new "freedom."

Remember, art for toddlers and preschoolers is just a wonderful opportunity to get messy, try out new supplies and "tools" (like the rocks and sticks). If she wants to paint with her fingers and smear it everywhere, (well, on paper), let her explore that sensation. Talk about the feeling of the paint. Ask her how it makes her feel.

I agree to offer her more colors and a variety of paintbrushes, and then after a time you can introduce a new "tool" ( a leaf, a sponge roller, a plastic disposable fork, a stick, etc) and ask her how she could use that in her painting, just as Christie said in her comment. Give her ownership of the activity.

If she is not used to this activity ... persevere ... eventually she will come to be comfortable with it.

Another thing...
Maybe paint in the morning, when both of you are refreshed. There's no way I would even attempt messy stuff with Bear if she hadn't napped because if she hasn't napped, I'm not as calm and the session isn't as fun for Bear. We always paint within the first 3 hours of the day.

Teaching My Little BookWorm said...

I agree with the previous posters. she is at the perfect age for open ended. I just say to my LO "hey you want to paint with Yellow" yesterday she said yes but i want purple too. so we added purple!

Maybe keep the paint available in the morning like a previous person said.

We've been doing this since my girls were each 12 months, my youngest probably younger then that cuz of big sis!

I think her paintings were great check out the post i just added her all yellow there is no key picture there just her painting. :)

don't beat yourself up just have fun and the more you do open ended art the better times you will have!

if you have any questions just email me! I don't want you feeling bad! your doing a great job at offering it to her so that is great

Autumn said...

What I do when Tommy decides after 2 minutes he's done with an activity is set a timer for 5 minutes and tell him he can be done with the timer goes off. This usually focuses his attention and gets him interested in the activity at hand. Generally, he forgets all about the timer and continues on with his activity for up to 10 minutes. This works well with coloring and crafty activities.

Chic Mama said...

Maybe it's just because she is a girl! She sounds orderly- structured, this could be a stretch for her but a good one! Keep trying! Maybe she will enjoy a different medium better next week!

Nicole {tired, need sleep} said...

I wonder if it would help to let her choose the color? Maybe she just really doesn't like yellow, lol. :)

Actually I think there are a couple of things you can do. If she wants a "project" tell her the project for today is to make a placemat (sandwich the finished artwork in some clear contact paper and you have a placemat)and she can make it look HOWEVER she wants (really stress this point). Ask her what color she would like to use, would she like to paint, cut some colored paper and glue it, or what? Let her make a lot of the decisions and she may get into it a little more. You are getting a finished product, yes, but she's learning new techniques (painting with a roller or whatever, glueing and cutting) and the "placemat" will be an open-ended art project in the sense that it will be an original, completely designed by her.

You can do other things too - mix glue and paint and paint on wax paper, then stick another piece on top and you have a suncatcher. Tear tissue paper and stick it on contact paper and you have another suncatcher. This kind of thing works with my lo sometimes when he isn't interested. Hope that helps. I think you are doing a great job, btw!!

Little Nut Tree said...

I know how you feel! Froglet frequently does the "I'm done now after about ten seconds" thing, and it drives me crazy. And he does it with structured projects too! (then he says "I'm done now, you can finish it Mummy".) I'm hoping it's just a phase. His and my levels of tiredness and also hungriness definitely play a big part though.

Thought the timer was a good idea, might try that next time. Another thing I intend to try is getting out my own set of paint or whatever and doing my own thing alongside him. Then if he wants to draw ideas from what I'm doing, he can.

Hope things go beter for you this week!