Last month, we settled our Studio into the outdoor classroom space of the Edible Garden. We were excited to enjoy the weather with the kids who wanted to come along and visit us. We had two activities set up on the tables—an arrangement of flowers surrounded by our Nature Observation Journals and a Chalk Art activity.
The chalk art is an example of unstructured “Process Art” where materials are presented in an inviting way and little artists are encouraged to experiment with them. On the tables we laid out various wood materials—slices of tree trunks, tree branches and unfinished blocks alongside baskets of colorful chalk, cups of water, sponges and brushes. Children were invited to color the wood pieces with chalk to see the differences in the methods between wet and dry application.
The kids all loved playing with the materials, seeing the chalk go on the textured wood, building it up thick in places, washing it away with lots of water, using the sponge to dab and erase and blend. It was satisfying to see them get into it.
Soon, a mom, dad and their baby walked up to the table to see what was going on. We invited them to try out some chalk. They were a little apprehensive at first, since their baby was so young. Mom said, “Oh, she might be kind of little for this…she’s not quite a year old.” We gently countered with some encouragement of letting her touch the chalk and feel it in her little hands to see what happens. All the parents needed was the gentlest nudge for their lightbulb to go off about their baby being “ready” to participate in an activity like this. We made sure to present the invitation in a way that they knew it wasn’t about accomplishing a project with any expectation, but just for us to present materials to children and see what they do with them, no matter their “skill level”.
Mom handed her baby a big piece of sidewalk chalk and she took it in her little chunky fist. She showed her a plank of wood. The baby focused her little eyes very seriously, taking in the presentation of these materials, but not putting them together. “Try showing her how the chalk goes on the board,” we suggested.
Mom and Dad sat down and started modeling how you can make marks on the wood with the chalk, and the baby attentively watched. You could see her looking back and forth from the two pieces of chalk in her hands to the board on the table in front of her. Within a few seconds of digesting the instructions, she took the chalk and made her marks on the piece of wood in front of her. The excitement of her parents was contagious as they witnessed their baby interacting with the materials.
“This is her first work of Art!” They beamed and snapped photos to commemorate the moment. Mom and Dad experienced this as one of many “leveling up” type of milestones, where it was clear, “Okay, we can do THIS with her now,” so we brainstormed out loud all the new ways they could bring more baby-safe art experiences into her life.
The specialness of the moment was not lost on us, and we were so excited to provide the opportunity and be an encouraging witness. One of our commitments at the Museum is to deepen our journey of appreciation of children’s amazing capabilities through everyday moments and everyday materials as they explore and make meaning of their world and share their thoughts and expressions with us.