Dei'ah veDibur - Information & Insight


Window into the Charedi World | Mordecai Plaut, director

















Home and Family
Creativity Corner:
The Imperfectly Imperfect Puppet Project

by Devora Piha

Little Shoshana enthusiastically hands her mother the art work she did in kindergarten as she walks through the front door. Ima responds, "It's so-o-o nice! Tell me what it's about. I love the bright big flowers and the happy look you drew on the faces of the girls." Hopefully, Shoshana did this creative work herself and did not watch her teacher do it for her. If the ganenet did it, then the praise that Shoshana would have gained for the work of her own hands would have been lost. Along with this, the satisfaction of doing the project herself would have also been lost.

One of our children's goals in life (and ours as well) is to know who we are, to recognize our unique abilities and talents that Hashem has intended for us as Torah-observant Jews. This is acquired through accomplishments, tests, guidance and mistakes.

The young years, from two until six or seven, are a testing ground for children. Pre-school is full of opportunities for perfect-imperfect moments. It is a time where children learn about the physical world around them in concepts and action. While arts and crafts are not always an end in themselves, they are a vehicle for young children to increase their understanding of the physical world with its sensations and limitations. This is the time for balancing the children's physical senses before they enter the academic world of first grade or cheder.

Arts and crafts may be a substitute in our technologically advanced times for handiwork that was common fifty and surely one hundred years ago. Handwork, that was done out of the necessities of living: baking, sewing, embroidery. Spontaneity in playing games with available sticks, small stones, balls and so on, was the product of happy necessity before the advent of costly mass produced and uniform toys.

Arts and crafts time is part of this arena of play time. The impression or image they make with the materials is lasting (even if temporary), whereas other types of play are imaginary or role playing.

Let the children do as much of the projects on their own, at their own level, as possible. This often requires an adult or older sibling doing a demonstration first, more than once, if necessary. It is important for the adult to stress that "This is my work. I am showing you how you may do it, but you don't have to copy exactly how I do it. If you need help, I'm here. Let's see what you can do on your own." Give them projects that can be done in a variety of ways with accceptable results. Show them at least three different variations of the final project and let them choose the one they identify with. Results should not be carbon copies of the teacher's example if in school, or the parent's or siblings, if at home. Children will attempt to copy the demonstration models which is fine, but the emphasis of the project should not be on the final results but on the small successes along the way.

Two and a half year olds and up are more capable than we expect of them. Given explanations, simple facts, options of basic techniques, materials and styles, they will surprise us with their hidden talents, originality and vibrance. The normal process of education requires children to do much of their school work on their own. They write, read and answer the questions to the best of their ability. This is true in the realm of arts and crafts. Children can do the work themselves.

There are many talented and creative preschool teachers who enjoy offering their small students a variety of arts and crafts projects. More important, though, are those who have the patience and stamina to watch a child struggle and experiment while making his own mistakes until success is achieved. Gentle words of encouragement and direction from the adult are a necessity as well. Success may come as a silent accomplishment such as making a slanted line intentionally or mixing a beautiful shade of purple from red, blue and white. Success may be leaving a hand print on a slab of clay or forming a bowl to hold salt.

Teachers often worry about how the parent will respond to unfinished work in gan, so they do it for the child. The child or the parent may worry that the art work is not as nice as the neighbor's child. The message to the child should be, "You did this painting of our home. It is wonderful because you did it. It is perfect for your age!"

Self esteem is a reward for children that try out new or difficult techniques and succeed regardless of how imperfet the results are. It is up to the adult or teacher to motivate them to try on their own. Let children use their time in gan to the fullest by doing the work of their hands themselves and by making their own perfectly imperfect mistakes.

The PERFECTLY IMPERFECT PUPPET project began as an idea for a Purim clown for four to six year olds. The emphasis switched along the way from producing a finished puppet to concentrating on the children's ability to copy or approximate the shapes I showed them and to color, put in features and cut out their puppet on their own. The four-year- olds drew in their typical `uncontrolled' fashion and came up with puppets that almost resembled clowns. Their efforts were concentrated and serious and the results were unexpected and lovable.


* 9 x 12 white paper; 3 for the adult and 3 for each child

* pencil, fine tip pen or marker, colored markers or oil pastels

* scissors, 6 brads (paper fasteners) per puppet

* hole puncher or glue


* On each one of the 3 sheets of paper - adult draws 2 parts of a clown: 1) head and hat, 2) torso and arms with hands, 3) legs with large shoes. Draw each item separately, large, clear and with a thick line.

* Encourage child to do the same on their own 3 sheets of paper by his or her self. Praise the child regardless of accuracy.

* Let child color and cut out shapes.

* Arrange parts of clown. Punch holes at hat and head, head and torso, torso and 2 arms, and torso and 2 legs. Or glue together.

* Praise and give attention to child's hard work. Children may wish to make a family of these puppets for play- acting.


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