Unit 3 DB: Toddlers And Imaginative Play Have you ever noticed how children can be captivated by looking at objects in the world – shells on the beach, frogs in a pond, pebbles on the playground? In this video, a teacher explores with toddlers an imaginative setting in the classroom to stimulate their creative thinking and encourage interaction with the classroom environment. As you watch, notice how she engages different senses in her activity.
Describe how the teacher in the video encourages aesthetics using sensory exploration. Describe other senses that you could engage in this activity and the techniques you would use with children to engage those other senses. Suggest two activities that you could do with children in another age group (up to age 8) that would help them engage with their senses to build their appreciation for beauty or sense of wonder. Make sure to identify the age group for the activities.
With your peers, discuss the benefits of aesthetic sensitivity in children and expand on each other’s suggested activities. Share one additional idea for an activity for your classmates’ identified age group. Chapter Introduction
After studying this chapter, you should be able to:
· 3-1Define aesthetics.
· 3-2List three things a teacher can do to help children develop their aesthetic sensitivity.
· 3-3List five benefits of aesthetic sensitivity in children.
· 3-4List at least three art elements to discuss with children.
NAEYC Program Standards
Involving families and communities in their children’s development and learning.
Teachers use a broad repertoire of developmentally appropriate teaching/learning approaches.
Using their own knowledge, appropriate early learning standards, and other resources to design, implement, and evaluate meaningful, challenging curricula for each child.
Teachers plan curriculum experiences to draw on children’s own interest and introduce children to things likely to interest them.
Teachers foster in children an enjoyment of and engagement in learning.
Just as creativity is nurtured in the early childhood classroom, a child’s aesthetic sensitivity—the sense of and appreciation for beauty in the world—is cultivated in much the same way. In this chapter, we explore the concept of aesthetics and the ways in which early childhood teachers can create an environment in which the young child’s aesthetic sensitivity can blossom and grow.
The term aesthetics refers to an appreciation for beauty and a feeling of wonder. Aesthetic experience begins with and depends on the senses. It is seeing beauty in a sunset, hearing rhythm in a rainfall, and loving the expression on a person’s face. Each person has an individual, personal sense of what is or is not pleasing.
The Aesthetics Movement in the art world began in early 1800 and lasted the decade. In the art world, the term aesthetics was invented or adapted from Greek by the German philosopher Alexander Baumgarten, whose work Aesthetica was published in 1750. In this particular work, the word was defined to mean the “science of the beautiful” or the “philosophy of taste.” The word was used with its opposite, “Philistine,” which in this context meant “one lacking culture” whose interests were bound by material and commonplace things as opposed to the high-minded spiritual and artistic values of the aesthetes. By 1880, the Aesthetic Movement in the arts was a well-established fact and the name itself became a part of everyday speech.
In the center of the movement was a close-knit group of self-appointed “experts” who passed on to their followers standards of color, ornament, and form for all aspects of art. These standards were in direct opposition to the ornate Victorian style. The Aesthetic Movement preferred the simple and sensible over the ornate. One of the most influential figures of the whole movement was Oscar Wilde, who lectured and spread the word of the Aesthetic Movement. The famous painter, Whistler, was another supporter of the Aesthetic Movement.
Aesthetic experiences emphasize doing things for the pure joy of it. Although there can be, there does not have to be any practical purpose or reason for doing something. The goal of aesthetic experiences is a full, rich life for the child. You may take a ride in a car to feel its power and enjoy the scenery rather than to visit someone or run an errand. In the same way, a child plays with blocks to feel their shapes and see them tumble rather than to build something.
Young children benefit from aesthetic experiences. Children are fascinated by beauty. They love nature and enjoy creating, looking at, and talking about art. They express their feelings and ideas through language, song, expressive movement, music, and dance far more openly than adults (see Photo 3-1 ). They are not yet hampered by the conventional labels used by adults to separate each art expression into pigeonholes. Young children experience the arts as a whole. They are creative, inquisitive, and delighted by art.
Opportunities for aesthetic experiences abound in the early childhood program.
On the contemporary arts scene, multimedia artwork , such as walk-in sculpture environments; mixes of live dance and films; and art exhibitions with drama, where actors move into the audience to engage it in the drama, are all ways adults are integrating the arts. Like young children, they are learning to experience the arts as a whole.
This exciting art form may be novel for sophisticated adult artists, but it is a familiar approach for young children. For instance, in early childhood programs, it is a common occurrence to find young children singing original songs while they paint or moving their bodies rhythmically while playing with clay. Young children naturally and unself-consciously integrate the arts—weaving together graphic arts, movement, dance, drama, music, and poetry in their expressive activities (see Photo 3-2 ).
Children grow in their aesthetic appreciation as they are actively involved in creative learning experiences.
The capacity for aesthetics is a fundamental human characteristic. Infants sense with their whole bodies. They are open to all feelings; experience is not separated from thinking. A child’s aesthetic sense comes long before the ability to create. All of an infant’s experiences have an aesthetic component—preferring a soft satin-edged blanket, studying a bright mobile, or choosing a colorful toy. These choices are all statements of personal taste. As infants grow into toddlers, the desire to learn through taste, touch, and smell as well as through sight and sound grows, too. The ability to make aesthetic choices continues to grow through preschool (see Photo 3-3 ). Preschoolers’ ability to perceive, respond, and be sensitive becomes more obvious and more refined. This is obvious in their spontaneous creations using a wide variety of materials.
The capacity to make aesthetic choices continues to grow through preschool.
To develop an aesthetic sense in children, one must help them continuously find beauty and wonder in their world. This is any child’s potential. In fact, it is the potential of every human being. To create, invent, be joyful, sing, dance, love, and be amazed are possible for everyone.
Children sometimes see and say things to please adults; teachers must realize this and the power it implies (Auzmendi et al., 1966). Teachers who prefer that children see beauty as they themselves do are not encouraging a sense of aesthetics in children. They are fostering uniformity and obedience. Only children who choose and evaluate for themselves can truly develop their own aesthetic taste. Just as becoming literate is a basic goal of education, one of the key goals of all creative early childhood programs is to help young children develop the ability to speak freely about their own attitudes, feelings, and ideas about art. Each child has a right to a personal choice of beauty, joy, and wonder.
Children gain an aesthetic sense by doing, that is, sensing, feeling, and responding to things. It can be rolling a ball, smelling a flower, petting an animal, or hearing a story. Aesthetic development takes place in secure settings free of competition and adult judgment.
Infants and Toddlers: Cognitive Development and Imaginative Play
© 2015 Cengage Learning
1. Using the material from your text, explain how the teacher in this video could expand the children’s aesthetic experiences in her questioning about animals.
2. Discuss how this teacher could involve more of the children’s senses in this activity.
Did You Get It?
· A kindergarten teacher discourages her young student from coloring with black crayons, and encourages her to use “pretty” colors such as pink and purple. From a creativity perspective, what is the main flaw in the teacher’s approach?
1. She is not helping her student fulfill her potential to find beauty in the world.
2. She is expressing ethnic stereotypes.
3. She is placing gender expectations on her student.
4. She is directing her student instead of allowing her to make choices on her own.
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Developing Children’s Aesthetic Sensitivity
Aesthetic learning means joining what one thinks with what one feels. Through art, ideas and feelings are expressed. People draw and sculpt to show their feelings about life. Art is important because it can deepen and enlarge understanding. All children cannot be great artists, but children can develop an aesthetic sense—an appreciation for art.
Teachers can encourage the aesthetic sense in children in a variety of ways. For example, science activities lend themselves very well to beauty and artistic expression. Because children use their senses in learning, science exhibits with things such as rocks, wood, and leaves can be placed in attractive displays for children to touch, smell, and explore with all of their senses. With their senses, they can experience artistic elements such as line, shape, pattern, color, and texture in these natural objects.
Sensory awareness is nourished by teachers who help young children focus on the variations and contrasts in the environment: the feel and look of smooth bark and rippling rough bark, the heaviness of rock and the lightness of pumice stone, the feathery leaf and the leathery leaf, the slippery marble and the sticky tar. Aesthetic appreciation of nature is not confined to the sense of sight. Appreciation of the outdoors may include listening to the song of birds, the smell of newly cut grass, or the soft feeling of moss on a rock. All these are opportunities for expression in the arts, poetry, sound, movement, and many other art forms.
The arts are developed best as a whole. After hearing a story, some children may want to act it out. Some may prefer to paint a picture about it. Others may wish to create a dance about it, and some may want to make the music for the dance. These activities can lead to others. There should be a constant exchange, not only among all the art activities but also among all subject areas. This prevents children from creating a false separation between work and play, art and learning, and thought and feeling.
A teacher can invite, encourage, or stimulate children’s aesthetic experiences by:
· Offering possibilities for firsthand, vivid personal perceptions with trips, resources brought into the classroom, and new materials and equipment
· Asking questions to encourage personal, felt responses
Having one’s interest and energy invited is not the same as being persuaded to move toward a goal predetermined by someone else. For example, holding up a model of a finished product may stimulate the child’s desire to make one like it, or demonstrating how it is produced may invite the child’s interest in seeing if she can do it, too (see Photo 3-4 ). Although these approaches are direct and fast ways to get a group of children to work, by themselves they do not invite the individual child to raise his own questions or to draw upon his own experiences and interests.
Provide children with many opportunities to look at and talk about art.
In the classroom, most invitations to art work are offered in the whole group situation. Yet, the teacher knows that effective aesthetic response is individual and freely given, and not always in line with the group project.
The early childhood environment can be set up in such a way as to encourage this type of aesthetic discussion by implementing the following suggestions.
· In addition to the typical art center, include books about artists in the reading area.
· Include “real” art books in the reading and quiet areas of the room. These do not necessarily have to be children’s books; young children will enjoy looking at artwork in any book.
· Display fine-art prints on bulletin boards and walls so that children can easily see them. Be sure to change them regularly. If they are up too long, they will quickly fade into the background.
· Include art objects on the science table, where appropriate. Geodes, shards of pottery, and crystals are all good starting points.
· Invite guest art educators into the classroom to show children art objects to look at, touch, and talk about.
· Give children an opportunity to choose their favorites from a selection of fine-art prints.
· Display fine-art prints near the writing and art centers.
Suggestions for Aesthetic Experiences with Older Children
Children experience a developmental shift around ages to that allows them to deal with more abstract ideas (more information about this shift is in Chapter 10). At this point, older children not only are able to experience the arts aesthetically but also begin discussing their own opinions, aesthetic tastes, and experiences. Thus, the teacher can engage children in grades 4 to 5 in discussions about what is art and why they consider something to be art or not. The following is an example of a combination th- to th-grade class involved in this type of aesthetics discussion.
This example demonstrates the type of environment for older children in which questioning is valued. In such an environment, students will feel comfortable raising questions about art and expressing their reactions to it. Teachers of older children need to encourage rather than suppress discussion of aesthetic questions as they emerge. This is done by providing students the time and environment for art-related experiences and inquiry.
In their unit on art and history, prints of the work of Civil War photographer Matthew Brady were displayed and discussed. The fact was brought up by the teacher that Brady frequently repositioned and rearranged bodies of dead soldiers and other objects in composing war scenes to be photographed. The teacher used this fact to encourage the students’ responses to her initial question: “Is there anything about Brady’s practice that should disturb us?”
This One’s for You!
Art, Aesthetics, and Nature in the Life of the Child
The outdoors has something more to offer than just physical benefits. Because the natural world is filled with beautiful sights, sounds, and textures, it is the perfect place for aesthetic experiences for young children.
Preschoolers learn much through their senses. Outside there are many different and wonderful things for them to see (animals, birds, and green plants), to hear (the wind rustling through the leaves, a bird’s song), to smell (fragrant flowers and the rain-soaked ground), to touch (a fuzzy caterpillar or the bark of a tree), and even to taste (newly fallen snow or a raindrop on the tongue). Children who spend a lot of time experiencing things through television and computers are using only two senses (hearing and sight), which can seriously affect their perceptual abilities as well as their aesthetic development.
In this overly electronic and technical world, it seems old-fashioned to include nature study in the early childhood curriculum. Yet, sometimes looking back is necessary to move forward for the sake of the child. Looking back to the teachings of Friedrich Froebel, the founder of the kindergarten, can help us see the value of nature study in the early childhood curriculum.
Froebel was a passionate advocate for art and nature studies as well as for their integration. He spent most of his life (1782–1852) in or very near the Thuringian Forest of central Germany, a breathtakingly beautiful area of wooded old mountains, rolling hills, and green valleys. As a young man, he worked as a forester, studied mineralogy, and collected and classified plants—anything that would keep him outdoors.
Nature study was the foundation of Froebel’s pedagogy. He saw it as an essential pathway to understanding the interconnectedness of all things. Froebel believed children’s intellectual, moral, and spiritual development were all dependent upon their relationships with nature. When referring to nature in his autobiography, he wrote, “Every contact with her elevates, strengthens, and purifies (Froebel, 1889, p. 82).
Froebel preferred to engage children in self-directed dialogue with nature, each other, and supportive adult guides. He believed that through nature, children would not only learn the secrets of the world around them but also learn about themselves and their unity with the world.
Today, our students may be quite familiar with how to search for stream beds on the Internet to write a report for their science class, but they might have never seen the phenomenon firsthand in a way that enables them to describe it using their own words or drawings.
When we look back, we find that even this divide between childhood and nature is not a new concern. In 1883, G. Stanley Hall published results of a study focused on what children did and did not know in a variety of areas, including nature studies. He found, among other things, that of – to -year-old children in Boston had never seen a crow, had never seen a sparrow, and had never planted a seed (Hall, 1883).
More recently, Louv holds that children need to interact with nature for the sake of their abilities to learn and create. Nature deficit, as explained by Louv (2008), has highlighted the need to reconnect childhood with nature. Art, as a natural language of childhood, is uniquely equipped to make the connection participatory and expressive, permeated with imaginative problem identification and solving.
So, we have a history full of rich rationale and examples to encourage early childhood teachers to return nature to the curriculum. As we have seen in this chapter, aesthetic development is easily encouraged in a natural setting. Many activities can be taken outdoors for the children’s aesthetic benefit. How much more exciting it is to hear a story sitting on the grass on a sunny day! How much more alive science activities can be when they are taking place in a natural setting!
Now when asked why your children are so often outside instead of in the classroom, you can say Froebel made you do it!
The discussion led the students in many directions involving such issues as differences between “real” photographic art and “staged” art and which was art in the truest sense. They also questioned the worth of Brady’s work in general, with students evaluating each in their own way. Some saw the work as “political” and of little artistic worth. Others saw it as an artist using his “props” just like any other artist does. One student compared it to a still-life painting the class had seen earlier.
Needless to say, this discussion led to a lot of research into Matthew Brady’s life and work. But more importantly, the discussion helped students learn how to reflect upon and present their own opinions of art and to consider the views of others.
This One’s for You!
The Real Christina’s World
Andrew Wyeth’s famous painting, Christina’s World, shows a crippled woman dragging herself across a field toward a farmhouse. A tour of the house, which was declared a National Historic Landmark, offers a fascinating, in-depth look at the real world of Christina Olson and her family. It also reveals Wyeth’s relationship with them.
Wyeth spent producing about works of art depicting the Olsons and their home. Wyeth met the Olsons in 1939 through his wife, Betsy. Wyeth’s father had a summer home nearby. Betsy, whose family also spent summers in the area, was when she met Christina, who was beloved by local children for her cookies and storytelling. After the Olsons died, the house was briefly used as an art gallery.
Wyeth got the inspiration for Christina’s World after seeing Christina crawling across the field in May when it was lush and green. But when he painted the picture, he used fall colors, adding to the painting’s stark and lonely mood.
And though he observed Christina from an upstairs window, heading away from the house as she pulled herself to a garden where she grew flowers, he chose to depict her heading toward the house, up a hill.
Christina was when Wyeth finished the painting, but the figure in the painting is of a young, shapely woman in a pretty dress. Wyeth used his wife and an aunt as models for this painting.
When the work was finished in 1948, the Wyeths hung it in their home and invited the Olsons over for dinner. Not a word about the painting was said during the meal, but afterward, Christina kissed Wyeth’s hand in a sign of approval. The painting was then shown at a Manhattan gallery and was purchased by the Museum of Modern Art for . Wyeth received ; the gallery got .
Christina’s World remains an immensely popular and well-known painting, but experts also consider it a masterpiece of twentieth-century realism in the American Gothic tradition (Harpaz, 2011).
If we could see the miracle of a single flower clearly, our whole life would change.
Did You Get It?
· A fourth grade teacher demonstrates how to make a model of the constellations. The teacher’s approach might fail to ignite a sense of aesthetics because it
1. asks them to view the world around them as something that can be copied.
2. science-based and art-based.
3. shows them something that naturally occurs instead of something that they create.
4. does not invite the children.
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Benefits of Aesthetic Sensitivity
An aesthetic sense does not mean, “I see,” or “I hear.” It means, “I enjoy what I see,” or “I like what I hear.” It means that the child is using taste or preference. Aesthetic sensitivity is important for children because it improves the quality of learning and encourages the creative process. Aesthetic sensibility in children has many other benefits, too.
· Children are more sensitive to problems because they have more insight into their world. This means they can be more helpful to other children and to adults.
· Children are more likely to be self-learners because they are more sensitive to gaps in their knowledge.
· Life is more exciting for children because they have the capacity to be curious and to be surprised.
· Children are more tolerant because they learn that there are many possible ways of doing things.
· Children are more independent because they are more open to their own thoughts. They are good questioners for the same reason.
· Children can deal better with complexity because they do not expect to find one best answer.
Aesthetic experiences for young children can take many forms. They can involve an appreciation of the beauty of nature, the rhythm and imagery of music or poetry, or the qualities of works of art. Far from being a specialized talent, the recognition of aesthetic qualities comes quite naturally to children.
This One’s for You!
Van Gogh’s Yellows
It’s hard to imagine some of Vincent van Gogh’s signature works without the vibrant strokes of yellow that brightened the sky in Starry Night and drenched his sunflowers in color. But the yellow hues in some of his paintings have mysteriously turned to brown, and a team of European scientists has figured out why.
Using X-rays, they found the chemical reaction to blame—one never before seen in paint. Van Gogh’s decision to use a lighter shade of yellow paint mixed with white is responsible for the unintended darkening, according to a study published in Analytical Chemistry.
In some of Van Gogh’s paintings, the yellow has dulled to coffee-brown. The discoloration is serious in about of them, said Koen Janssens, an analytical chemist at Antwerp University in Belgium who co-authored the study.
The problem is the lead-chromate paint he used. It was called chrome yellow, part of a generation of paints that were far brighter than previous yellow ochre shades. Soon after their introduction in the nineteenth century, it became apparent that chrome yellow would degrade under sunlight.
Although conservators took pains to protect Van Gogh’s paintings from the sun’s ultraviolet rays, the gradual darkening continued. The effect was unpredictable, afflicting the yellow in some works, while sparing others.
What was causing Van Gogh’s sunflowers to wither and the golden tone in his daylight scenes to dim? And why did the victims appear to be picked at random?
After trying other tests without success, the researchers hit the paint with a high-intensity X-ray. They found that the colorfast samples were made of chromium in its pure, crystalline form.
The darkened sample contained sulfates, which are associated with white pigment. Those sulfates, Janssens said, probably helped reduce the chromium’s oxidation state from chromium- to chromium-, taking on an increasing greenish hue that contributed to the overall darkening (Van der Snickt et al., 2009)
For instance, let us consider art appreciation . What adults have come to regard as strictly a “museum-type” experience—seeing and appreciating good artwork—is an enjoyable experience for young children whose fear of the “intellectual” is not yet developed. Art appreciation can occur in the early childhood program through the combined experiences of learning to look at and learning to create visual arts. Introducing young children to art appreciation should be a series of pleasurable experiences with time to look, enjoy, comment, and raise questions. It is a time when children learn to “see” with their minds, as well as their eyes. They begin to feel with the painter, the sculptor, or the architect and to explore their ideas and techniques.
As early childhood teachers, we don’t ask ourselves whether language appreciation should be emphasized in our programs. We automatically encourage children to express themselves verbally and reflect on the words used by others. We want children to have fun with language, to appreciate its variety and its shades of meaning. Why should we not do the same for visual imagery—that is, encourage children to go beyond art’s functional aspects and find satisfaction in its aesthetic possibilities (Epstein, 2001)?
Early childhood teachers have a responsibility to provide the very best our culture has to offer by introducing young children to a range of fine art by recognized artists, not merely what is easiest or most familiar.
Most children have plenty of exposure to cartoon characters, advertising art, and stereotyped, simplistic posters. These do not foster aesthetic development and are sometimes demeaning to children. Teachers often say, “Children like them,” but the fact that children like something—for example, candy and staying up late at night—does not necessarily mean it is good for them. Children might never have seen a Van Gogh sunflower, a mother and child by Mary Cassatt, or a sculpture by Henry Moore. Yet, young children can learn to appreciate such fine art as these, as well as arts and crafts from many cultures, if introduced to them in the early years. From such experiences, children also gradually learn the concepts of design.
Colors speak all languages.
— Joseph Addison
3-3bMulticultural Aesthetic Experiences
Aesthetic experiences can also be multicultural aesthetic experiences. Multiculturalism is so much more than curriculum—it is a worldview. Art is an ideal means of conveying multiculturalism. Multiculturalism honors heritage, community, and tradition. Art objects from different cultures expand beyond their mere physical experience. A Pueblo pot, a Peruvian textile, and a Celtic illumination each represent centuries of culture and civilization. Works of art are valued for their artistic contribution, originality, purpose, collective identity, and universal appeal. In using art reproductions and actual art objects such as pottery in the early childhood program, you are not only providing amazing aesthetic experiences, but you are also bringing the cultures of the world into children’s daily lives.
In the past, roll sheets that once listed Billy, Betty, Jack, and Sue are now joined by Jamar, Okezie, Shanta, Esperanza, and Thuy. Every one of the names on the roll sheet brings tradition along with hopes, fears, and dreams. Each student brings the gift of self and of culture. What a thrill to see a big smile grow on the face of a shy student who is new to the United States when the art activity or object is a familiar reminder of family and home! We all want to feel valued and recognized. Pride in cultural heritage helps students learn. Art is a reaffirmation of who we are. Thus, multicultural art objects provide more than aesthetic experiences to young children.
The work can wait while you show the child the rainbow, but the rainbow won’t wait while you do the work.
— Patricia Clifford
Did You Get It?
Thomas, age , is concerned when his friend Luke starts to cry. He 3-4aSome Other Art Terms
The following list includes more art terms to use in the classroom:
· Foreground, middle, and background. The areas in a piece of art that appear closer to the viewer, next closest, and farthest away.
· Contrast. This is created by putting lighter colors next to darker ones.
· Light. The illusion created with lighter colors such as white.
· Design concepts. Three design concepts in art are pattern (repetition and rhythm), balance , and unity .
1. Pattern (repetition and rhythm) is created when a particular shape, color, or motif (design) is repeated in a rhythmic way. Patterns provide harmonious or decorative effects in works of art.
Example: “Tell me how you made that pattern around the edge of your picture.”
2. Balance is the principle of design that deals with visual weight in a work of art (see Photo 3-7). Balance may be symmetrical, radial, or overall.
When a child adds trees to each side of her drawing, she is creating balance.
Example: “Adding flowers on both sides of your house gives your picture balance, Sally.”
3. Unity is the feeling of wholeness or oneness in an artwork that is accomplished by using the elements and principles of art (see Photo 3-8). A unified artwork seems harmonious; nothing should be added or removed.
A unified artwork seems harmonious. Nothing needs to be added or removed.
Example: “Rose, that round grouping of flowers gives your painting a sense of unity, bringing it all together.”
Teachers can make children’s art experiences meaningful through thoughtful dialogue. For example:
· Use descriptive rather than judgmental terms when talking about art. Say “I see …” or “It makes me think of …” rather than “I like it” or “It’s pretty.” Praise such as “Good work!” sets the teacher above the child artist in a superior judgmental position. It may leave the child artist anxious about whether you will at some later time announce that you do not like the child’s efforts. And if you inadvertently pass over one child, does this overlooked child then worry that he or she is not “a good artist”? Respond to the child’s efforts not from your head, but from your heart. Rather than pronounce a judgment, try describing your heartfelt response to the art. Use, “In your art, I feel (an emotion)” statements. For example, “I feel happiness, sadness, fear, love, power.” You will create a better connection with the child by saying “I feel an emotion” rather than “I feel THAT YOU are showing (an emotion).” The “that you” makes an assumption. Thus, avoid phrases such as “I feel … that, like, as if … you are showing ….” Using your own emotions, no one can argue about what you feel (see