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
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
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
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
* 9 x 12 white paper; 3 for the adult and 3 for each child
* pencil, fine tip pen or marker, colored markers or oil
* 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
* 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
* Praise and give attention to child's hard work. Children
may wish to make a family of these puppets for play-