Summer of Learning: Open Ended Art for Children

Do you remember doing an art project as a kid that you absolutely loved? My favorite memory of doing artwork is finger painting at preschool. I got to pick my paint colors, move my hands however I wanted, and decide when I was finished. This activity is an example of an open ended art experience.

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Sometimes it is great to do a craft that is already predefined. But there is something to be said for letting children create a project without the limits imposed by traditional craft projects. Open ended art focuses on the process rather than the end product. Children are allowed to creatively express themselves, explore different options, and decide when their project is finished. Implementing open ended art projects at home is quite easy — all you need are various art supplies. Use what you have on hand and some amazing artwork will be created.

So you may be wondering how you would facilitate an open ended art project for your child. You can pick an activity, set out the necessary materials, and then let your child take the lead and see where she will take it. You can engage with your child by asking open ended questions about what they are creating. It can be as simple as asking them to tell you about their piece of artwork. Try to make concrete statements about their work when you are observing it. Instead of exclaiming that you love their picture, you can tell them something specific like, “I see you made a tall tree with five green leaves.”

Here are some examples of open ended art activities:

  • Watercolors
  • Finger painting
  • Easel painting with paints and brushes
  • Use different tools to paint with such as bubble wrap, tooth brushes, or combs
  • Collage, using any and all materials such as beads, yarn, ribbon, pipe cleaners, paper scraps, leaves, and recycled materials
  • Stamps and ink
  • Play dough, clay, and and other homemade dough such as gack
  • Create structures using cardboard boxes and tubes

Pinterest is a great resource for ideas. You can find boards with a lot of open ended art ideas and activities.

There are also books that highlight open ended art experiences for children. There is First Art: Art Experiences for Toddlers and Twos and Art Lab for Kids. The possibility for open ended art projects are endless!


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