A Families First Webinar
Presented by Kathryn Snyder, Parent to Child and Therapy Associates. Recorded May 25, 2022.
KATHRYN SNYDER: Let me just hit that I've got it. My screen's telling me. And really just thinking about the way that we can be inventive with everyday objects from your recycle bin, to things that are in your junk drawer, to things that we sometimes find on the street. Sometimes I find something interesting and just can't help myself but stop and pick it up, and take it home, and wipe it off, and see what I can make with it.
So simple art supplies, such as paper, pencils, and glue, will be used. Simple techniques-- folding, cutting, tying, wrapping, gluing. But I hope that you find this all very accessible and easy to follow. This is really important-- the why. So art development-- art and play go really hand in hand in child development. I hope that isn't a surprise to anyone here.
Sometimes I think we leave out the art. Maybe we have our own fear I think that sometimes art becomes a word that seems elevated because we have museums, we have lots of professional artists, we have a history of really refined art making certainly from the Renaissance and beyond. But art is really an essential part of human expression, human nature, and human development. And I hope that we can reduce that sense of elevation or distance from our own experience and give ourselves permission to really explore and be creative.
Art is where kids really learn how to put things together in their world, to make associations, and to see relationships and new and novel ways. It's a place where they express their agency, their ability to make and do things. And we'll talk about that in child development in another slide.
It's where they coordinate the activity of their mind and their hand, which are essential components to reading and writing. Importantly, it's where they can express their inner experiences and their emotions. They can share their experiences, share what they know, start to take pride in the things that they know and do. They can start to take risks, try things out. And importantly, make a mess in a safe and fun way. So I could go on and on about the benefits, but I'll stop right there.
OK. And again, just to introduce myself further, as Denise said, I'm Kathryn Snyder. I'm an art therapist here in Philadelphia. I have been practicing art therapy for over 20 years now as a clinician, focused on young children, children of all ages, their caregivers, family systems, young adults, as well. I've been practicing around the region and opened up my own private practice about 15 years ago, but do a lot of outreach to schools, go into schools to provide services, and offer things like this-- workshops to different community organizations and services to reach a wider audience of families, and caregivers, and professionals.
About four years ago I decided to go back to school as well and I'm pursuing a PhD at Drexel University also in creative arts therapy, and my emphasis there is on the preschool age and supporting emergent literacy-- hand-eye coordination, visual integration, and expressive language development-- through an art therapy program. Yeah, I could say more and more, but I'll keep it to that.
OK. Oh, sorry. I didn't mean to jump forward. So what to expect today? We'll talk about found objects and simple materials. We'll talk about child development through art and play. We'll think about some of the rules of engagement, which are really less a set of rules and really a set of permissions. We'll think about things to have on hand. Things that you can find around your house, your office, your community, your environment.
We'll think about the way we can use paper in novel and inventive ways. Strings and other kinds of things. And we'll put it all together to think about using these things in a variety of ways when we're engaging children.
I included this slide just this morning to give us all just a moment to take a breath and do an emotional check-in. This is a mood meter. As you can see, different feelings are labeled in all of these boxes. And you can see that there's an x and a y-axis.
This is our newest research in emotion psychology-- understanding how our feelings work. I say to people all the time, we're not really born with a glossary of emotions. We think of things in ways that express positive affect, positive experience, or negative affect, that's kind of an inborn trait. Babies cry to let us know they're uncomfortable or needing something, and they start to giggle and coo when they're engaged and experiencing joy.
All of the other words come later as nuances to positive and negative experiences and things that give us a high level arousal or a low level of arousal. Something that kind of disconnects us or disempowers that energy system.
So I love this because this has layered all of those valences with colors. And so I invite you just to look at that color grid. And of course colors can have many associations, just like this. In the positive quadrant calm is labeled as this light teal color. Blues are also often associated with being sad, or blue, or down. We can have our own associations and that is perfectly welcome, but this is one way of starting to have a sense of that.
So look around this chart and just acknowledge where you land today. Sometimes we have more than one feeling at a time. As I said before, I'm arriving here with a heavy heart. At the same time, I'm really inspired to be here and glad to be here as well.
So just take a deep breath, acknowledge what you're arriving with, and I hope that through the course of this hour we can, again, renew that sense of hope and hopefulness, answering the why it is that we're here, the what it is that we all are focused on, and leaning into in our work and in our lives with children.
So found object art. If you know this work on the right, this is Marcel Duchamp. At the turn of the century, just after World War I, he was an artist that really asked us to question the meaning of art or, what is art? What is the nature of art? And I use this just as an example to say, I think that's a question that's still worth asking.
And one of the reasons I like to think about found object art, while I think that we really all need to pick up a pencil, crayons, whatever we have at hand and really link our own hand to our mind through doodles, it doesn't have to be a fine art practice, but I think there's quite a benefit to that. I also like us and encourage us to look around. Look around your place right now. Look at the objects and think about the visual interest, the playfulness. What is something that's on your desk or in your environment that might be used in a different way if you turned it upside down, or folded it, or turned it?
One of the things that I like about thinking in this way is that it gets us to remember that kids, especially in their early stages, aren't necessarily linking an object to its use. They are really looking around and thinking about visual form, the play of light, colors, how lines come together. And I really think that when we think that way, it can also help us to reduce the barrier to thinking about what art is.
I think often if we haven't had an art practice beyond our early years, we'll say things like, I'm not creative. I'm not an artist. And I want us to walk away with a little bit of a mindset shift around that. We're not all here to be professional artists. I have an art degree. I don't think of myself as an artist. I don't make money in that realm. I don't spend my days and nights making my own art. But I think that we are all artists inherently. We are visual creatures. We are tactile creatures. We need these experiences.
And importantly, it's about being playful and thinking about things in novel and new ways, making new associations, storytelling, which, again, is another art form that I think we sometimes hesitate around if we haven't had a lot of specific experience around story development. But I think that it's part of human nature to be storytellers.
We're doing it all day every day whether we really think about it or not. And we're telling stories when somebody asks us a question. Even filling out a simple form if we're going to a doctor's office to fill out a form about our health history. We're telling a story about who we are.
Some stories, of course, are much more interesting and creative than others. Filling out those forms is certainly not a fun one. But I think that telling stories about just simple everyday experiences is something that we really want to invest in with our children and help them learn how to do that.
OK, so we start with noticing. I hope you've taken a moment and just noticed things around you. Maybe it's even something as simple as a post-it note pad. And keep that in mind because there's creativity all around.
All right, so I want to pause and just say a little bit of something about child development art and play. Both art and play follow a course of typical developmental stages, if you will. And I don't really like to hold fast to any kind of stage theory, but it certainly just helps us put some things into perspective.
Kids, again if we recall, babies that we've seen in our lives when they start to coordinate their visual system and look at things in their environment, they start to grasp at things and it delights them. This is the start of play. They start to actually pick up something that looks more like an art tool, like a crayon or a pencil, and start to mimic the lines, and shapes, and just mark making activity that they see in their environment. They start to do that around 18 months of age.
And in typically developing children, and I know that we're going to frame everything in this, knowing that for most of us we are talking about the children in our world that are not following typical norms, but we keep this in mind because that's what we're just kind of putting into perspective. So they pick up this these tools at around 18 months of age.
They start to make marks. It's random at first. They're mimicking things that they've been seeing in their environment. It is on par in terms of child development with about the same age, 18 months. They're standing, they're walking, they're grasping, they're moving around, and they're starting to push away from their primary caregivers and declaring, I want to do that. I can do that.
Obviously, we know that they still need a lot of help to do most things, but they're starting to have that sense of agency. More coordinated scribbles start to come into play as they've been exercising these motor skills by about age two. They're figuring out how to put those lines and shapes together and keep the mark making tool, the crayon, on the page.
Between two and four years, they start to really coordinate that into some sort of closed form and the emergence of a tadpole figure. The closed form becomes their representation of object or figure. They start to really lay out more of an environment in what we call a preschematic stage, sort of like an array of things around the page, but they're starting to tell a story and put things together between the ages of four and six.
And then in typically developing children, by around age seven, we have what's called a schema, a typical way of putting together a human figure. Usually some sort of ground line. And even the sunshine in the corner of the page, a house, a tree. Things like that start to coordinate into typical kinds of forms and relationships on the page.
Again, all of this is done in a playful manner. Art and play at this stage are not separate for kids. They're all part of their learning environment. It builds upon itself. It's a representation of the things that they've been experiencing all day every day, the places they've been going, the things that they've been doing with their caregivers. And it's a primary way for them to really solidify this meaning-making and start to launch that into further learning and importantly language development.
It should all be done with joy. This is fun and engaging for kids. It's not always done with giggles. Kids sometimes take this stuff very seriously. A child's work is child's play and that includes their art making.
All right, so as I said before, I want to talk a little bit about the rules of engagement, which is really about permission. This is an opportunity for you to give yourself permission to step out of that mindset of what you think you can and can't do in art making. It's a time to really set down the rest of the demands that are being placed on you. It's a good time to set down technology and carve out time just to be with the youngster that you're with.
It's important to remember to follow your child's lead in this, too. We, the caregivers, the adults in the room, offer a lot of technical support, but we also want to remember to tap into what are the interests of the child? What are their capacities already? What can they do? What do they need us to support for hand-over-hand learning?
And what I mean by that is if a child is struggling with opening a glue cap because they just don't have those fine motor skills yet, we give them an opportunity to try, while we just gently help them and support them, allowing them to keep their hands on the object so that they're learning those fine motor skills.
It's often our inclination to rush in to just do it for them because it's easier, it takes less time, much less opportunity for making a mess, spilling the glue. And while all of that is really important, we have to think about the environment that we're in. We don't want to get glue all over the rug. Certainly, if we've carved out space that allows for that mess, it's a really important skill for kids to learn. Not only how to open the glue, but how to turn it upside down, squeeze, and get out the right amount. So hand-over-hand is just that phrase to remember. They're in this scaffolded place of learning what do they already know and what do they need a little bit of support for.
So it's an opportunity, as I said before, to let go of that voice of hesitation and let go of any expectations or a set of goals that we want to achieve. Even if we want to support them in working on developing that schema, putting things together in a more coordinated way, we don't want to have a preconceived notion of what it's going to look like. And that's true of any kind of craft project. We might go to the craft store and buy pompoms and think about making a wreath with our child. They might look at those pompoms and think, I'm going to make bugs.
And so we want the time to be creative time and loosen those expectations. Sometimes making that wreath is a great idea, and the child is really involved in that and happy to be present with that. But more importantly, they have a lot of creativity to offer, and we can have this back and forth between offering materials and having some ideas of what we're doing in terms of scaffolding the learning, but also allowing for that creativity to unfold. So it's an important time to just be present, have fun, relax, and enjoy this time with the child that's with you.
Some things that I like to suggest having on hand, so again this is a workshop where I'm encouraging us all to think about found objects, at the same time I know how easy it can be to not have some basics around. So I encourage us to think about making sure that we have some form of glue, scissors, yarn, scrap cloth, strings. I love to save toilet paper rolls and tissue boxes, egg cartons, bottle caps. Magazines and junk mail, that can be such great fodder for making collages and torn paper pictures, images. So think about holding on to some of these things.
I have a box that I keep on my desk that's filled with scraps of paper, little tissue paper. I often just cut out images from magazine. This is a clump of beautiful flowers. Piece of a pie with fruit. I tend to sit around while I'm watching TV and cut these things out. Sometimes you can just hold on to the magazines and take the time together to cut things out.
All right. So paper. Obviously, paper is an essential or an obvious place to start thinking about art making materials. I want to teach you today, and I have this step-by-step instructions, for making a one page book. So that's the image that you see on the right. That's a book that I had made. I have several of them right here. This is what the finished product is going to look like.
So you open it up and there are several pages, It's a very small, simple, simple book. Here's a version where I've taken old wallpaper samples that somebody had given me and glued it on the front and back, just as a little binding. So you can go from very simple to getting a little bit more elaborate. But importantly, it started off just as a simple sheet of paper. This is paper from my copy machine here at home, my printer.
So you can take what you have on hand. You can take lined paper out of a notebook and do this book. So what you're going to do is in paper bookmaking there are two types of folds, and I have this all written out. There is the hamburger fold, which is where you are folding across the midline the length of the page. And then there's the hot dog fold, where you're folding across the length. So the other was folding the middle of the length and this is folding across the width of the paper.
You're going to start by doing both of those folds. So I'm going to start by lining up my corners and doing a nice, crisp fold in the middle this way. And I'm going to open my paper up, and I'm going to do it the other way.
So now I have a simple rectangle of paper folded in fours. Then I'm going to take each of the two sides and fold it into the middle. You want to make sure that when you fold it into the middle, you're not going over the midline. You're going just under because that's where the booklet is going to come together.
So now I have a piece of paper with eight rectangles in it. I'm going to fold it back this way across this hamburger fold. And then I'm going to cut from the folded edge just to the middle. I'll show you what that looks like.
So hopefully you've got nice, crisp lines. And you cut just to that middle line, so that both of these two ends are still intact. And you fold it back down towards the center. You're going to push it together like an accordion. You can see what I'm doing here, holding on to these sides. Push it towards the middle and then all of those fold lines can come together and you've got a book.
A friend of mine is an artist who makes books, and she taught me this years and years ago, and I thought, this is magic. A simple sheet of paper can be turned into a book. And as you see on my desk in this image, this can be a place where you can tell stories with simple drawings, having a child illustrate just with their simple characters. Or you can also use this as a place to collage onto it images of interest. It can be storytelling or it can just be a collection of similar items as they're learning how to categorize things, or label their interests, or even as we're teaching kids step-by-step activities, we can lay it out in a book.
So there can be the title in the first page. We can move from step to step and help kids think about that organization of concept development, but also artistic development, just in a simple place to keep things together. OK, somebody is unmuted. I think it's back to mute.
All right. On the right hand side of the slide is the artwork of Alma Thomas. She's an African-American female artist who passed away a couple of years ago. But her art is making its way around the country again. There have been several retrospectives of her work.
The images are painting, but what I love about it is, and I'm not going to be able to zoom in and show you this closely, but I think you get the idea, that her images are bright colors. Some of them are more abstract. Some of them are a little bit representational. The one on the far is landscape oriented. But they're dobs of paint.
And I have cut up squares of colorful paper, so very easy to do. Just find construction paper. Or again, you can take the colorful pages out of your mail, your old magazines. It's amazing how colorful and bright magazines can be. You can just cut squares of paper and create and help your child create their own collage, their own mosaic collage.
So I love that Alma Thomas' work is so bright, rainbow-like. So it can be very playful. Kids don't have to have a sense that they're organizing their artwork into some thing. They can just take these squares and piece them together.
And again, we can send away those expectations of what we're making and just see what happens as we start to organize those colors and put our own color schemes together. So I've got this mint green, this lilac purple, orange, red. But we can imagine a myriad ways that this can come together.
The other thing that I like to say about paper, and this Alma Thomas me of that as well, is sometimes we can be hung up on a square of paper. Again, this expectation of what art is, how it's oriented in this either landscape or portrait manner. Sometimes I like to break that mold and I will draw on my paper a circle. I was just teaching this yesterday to a classroom of fourth graders.
All ancient cultures have histories of making art in circular form. It's a form that has this kind of holistic earthbound conceptualization. But what I like about it with kids is it breaks that mold of trying to do something that's oriented towards a landscape and it becomes a little bit more playful and an opportunity for doing something that's out of that mold.
As you can see here, this is a journal that I just keep on my desk. And some days I just doodle. So this is just me taking colored pencils and putting them together in a random form. Sometimes I do it a little bit more linearly. But you can show students examples. I was showing them Native American art, as well as Tibetan sand mandalas, which have a high degree of geometry and precision to them, even though they're made out of sand. But just thinking about different ways that they can put together lines, and shapes, and colors, and orient it in a different way.
So these are some of my examples of using paper. The other thing I like to remind us all of is the Paul Klee, who's an artist from mid-century, whose quote is, "A line is just a dot going for a walk." So when we get stuck thinking about, again, the orientation of paper, sometimes I just start with a scribble and just color around it.
And I think that that's a great way to get started and to help kids get over that fear or that sense of expectation. I don't know how to draw a person, or I'm not good at drawing an elephant. Just play around with scribbles, start to move around the page, start to add color. And again, reduce those rules and those expectations.
Strings. There is nothing like saving random strings around the house. Nothing too small. Nothing too random. Sometimes I find strings that are hanging off of clothing and I hold onto it. Packages arrive. This is just a little bit of ribbon from a gift that was given to me. You're getting the impression that I'm a little bit of a hoarder, not much.
I do keep things well organized, but there's nothing like opening up a box of what I call loose parts. So this is one of my little bins at home. It does have googly eyes in it, something that I've purchased, but I also hold on to random bits of string, pompoms, bits of paper. And as you can see on the right hand side, I take those googly eyes and bits of string. This is the plastic tab that holds your bread bag together. We have so much plastic, plastic waste. It's amazing how many of these you can hold on to in a year of bread buying. But I added some googly eyes, and pompoms, and some string, and there you go.
The other thing I do often to create playfulness with kids is I make little puppets. So this is the puppet that's on this slide. Just a simple couple of pieces of paper. A couple of simple lines to create the face. And again, I recognize I've had years and years of art experience and training. You can find simple cartoon eyes, and noses, and mouths online very easily.
Again, a line is just a dot going for a walk. So making eyes in a very simple way, making feet, making arms. This is a tongue depressor or a Popsicle stick. Anything that's in this presentation, again, you can find at a dollar store, or at a Walgreens, or a CVS. I love that they have sections now filled with office supplies and art supplies, so this isn't something that you have to go to the art store to purchase and find, and many things are readily available at home. So I love making these little puppets with kids and using them playfully in the art and playroom.
Other things that I like to do, thinking about strings, sometimes I'll take strings, and I'll dip it into a watercolor, and I'll run that along a page. You can have fun just watching the color absorb onto the paper and move from the strings.
So again, the fine motor skills that it requires are less than using pencil. And it's also not the same as using a watercolor brush, which I absolutely encourage and love to do. But sometimes if we're feeling hung up, again, with this idea that artists use brushes, or I don't even have a brush at home, you can take food coloring, and dilute it with water, and use that as the watercolor.
There are lots of ways that you can get colorful inks, or dyes, or watercolors without purchasing something at the store. Although again, I'm really grateful that CVS carries Crayola bins of watercolor, so they're very easily accessible these days. But taking a string, dipping it in the color, and moving it around the page to see the waves of color or just the new forms and shapes that can emerge. So other ways that we can use string, and found objects, and simple ways of engaging color, and line, and shape, and form, and actively engaging with materials.
I also included on here weaving or wall hanging. I didn't include it in this slide presentation, but there are very easy ways to do weaving just by using a paper plate, and notching it, and attaching string around the vertical of the plate from top to bottom for a couple of stretches, and then weaving strings and even paper together. Again, this is just about developing fine motor skills and processes, thinking about color, and shape, and texture, and simple ways to be engaged and creative.
So the things. The reason this is called paper, strings, and things. Again, I really value holding on to egg cartons, tissue boxes, and other things that we can assemble into found creations. So some of the things that I pick up off the street. Rusty old bolts fall off of cars and trucks all over the place. Some of them are too dirty and too in the muck, but sometimes you find something that's right after the rain and it's cleaned off. And they're really interesting objects.
My daughter used to pick up old washers all over the place. And these make amazing eyes in larger sculptures. But importantly, they can become really interesting assemblages. Putting together, I'm pulling all of this out of an old Altoids tin, which I hold on to all the time. You can easily cover this with a thicker glue and paper so that it becomes your own thing. You can also take rough sandpaper and wear away the obviously you've got the texture of the Altoids because it's in relief, but you can wear away the paint. And then with the rough texture, you can paint on top of it with an acrylic paint and create your own thing.
And I have used Altoids tins to create little doll houses with simple little doors. But also you can start to glue these objects. This is just being used to hold them, but you can glue these objects inside. You can either create little vignettes. This is a little rooster toy. It's left over from years of toy buying at my office and at home, and it's no longer being used, and the bottom has fallen off. But I might glue that in here and create a little vignette.
But also if I'm thinking about putting shapes together, I might just take these objects and glue them into place. And I have an example of that in another slide of a really wonderful art piece that somebody has made using just such found objects. With this kind of thing you can use Elmer's glue, but you'll have to use a lot of it. But there are some other glues out there, even rubber cement, that can really hold that kind of thing in place.
OK. And the other thing that I love to do with kids is get outside. Kids these days-- kids these days, I'm sounding so old. But we're certainly recognizing the limitations that kids are having with tactile, sensory, nature-based activities. We're turning more and more to screens, we're staying inside. And I think that even throughout our city, it was really wonderful for me to, during COVID, explore parks and parts of parks that I had never really spent a lot of time in, in an effort to get outside more.
And while we can look at our gritty city and see all of the corners that are not looking very cared for, and spruced up, and green, we also have a lot of hidden gems. Little pocket parks in neighborhoods. Trees and people trying to plant things. And there's nothing like assembling those textures and those colors into nature art.
So these are some of the things that I really think about that are at the ready and can really create exploration for tactile sensory activity. I love doing leaf prints. You can take a piece of paper and a crayon, lay it on top of a leaf, and do a rubbing. Or you can take a leaf, put a coat of paint on it, and press it down onto a piece of paper or even a t-shirt. And think about the colors and textures that come from playing around with these materials.
And again, just outside you can do an assemblage, like the one in the photo. And again, it doesn't have to be organized around anything. It's ephemeral. You're going to leave it outside and it's going to be kicked around, and moved, and it will be different after the wind blows it away. But it's a fun way to really spend time thinking about organizing colors, and shapes, and playing with the textures, and really getting dirty and not being afraid of touching these things, breaking old sticks, playing around with leaves and things.
Here is that assemblage that I was talking about. I don't know off the top of my head who the artist is. But as you can see, this is an array of old thread spools, washers, old blocks, pieces of rulers, dice, little elements that have fallen off of maybe furniture or buildings. I love this assemblage and thinking about finding the colors.
This is an activity that I often do with kids to help them think about really sorting through and having that visual discrimination. Like how do you look closely, and see where one shape ends and another shape begins, and find out of this array of shapes and colors, how many dice are there? How many washers are there? Do we find any coins in there? Is there a button? So it takes some effort to think about visual discrimination, and focus, and attention, and then labeling and naming what the objects are.
And again, this is something that another artist has created, but I make these in my office all the time with kids. And with that in mind, that this can be a game to also think about coordinating all of those efforts and starting to develop that language and that object identification with.
So with that, I hope that this is encouraging. I hope that this has sparked some ideas of your own. Some sense of imagination and risk taking with trying some new things. And I know that we are a few minutes before the end of the hour, so I'd love to take any questions. Denise, I don't know if there's anything that has come in on the chat.
DENISE: No, no questions in the chat. If you're comfortable with someone coming off of mute and asking a question, we can do that as well.
KATHRYN SNYDER: Absolutely. That is not a problem at all.
DENISE: Feel free. We got about 10 minutes to go. There was a question in the chat with regards to the presentation being recorded, and I did provide an answer. Yes, the presentation is being recorded. I will get this out to everyone who registered via email within the next week. The email will include the PowerPoint handouts and evaluation. Also, the Google link that you provided, as well.
KATHRYN SNYDER: Wonderful. Yeah, if anyone wants to come off mic, happy to answer questions.
DENISE: And I am going to end the recording at this time.
KATHRYN SNYDER: OK.
This session is an activity of the Philadelphia Interagency Coordinating Counsel (PICC), funded by Philadelphia's Department of Behavioral Health and Intellectual Disability Services (DBHIDS) and Elwyn Early Learning Services.