Not too long ago, in the summer of 2014, Kabir had his annual term break. He and I had time on our hands and we wanted to spend it together. I did not want any gadgets or devices to come in the way of this time. I wanted to make the most of it. Just us and what we create together.And so we did Art! We drew, we painted, we danced, we sang, we did gardening, cooking, we made our own sensory play stuff, created our own games, and had fun. There was very little direction in each of these activities. We had our materials and our imagination. We didn’t worry about anything going wrong, because there is no ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ in art! There was joy while we did what we did, and a contentment that would prevail even after the activity was over.Every evening we would showcase what we did that day and would eagerly look forward to the next day’s activities. I wouldn’t really spend a lot of time preparing or planning. I simply like to imagine situations that would be fun and try to create activities around them. In case of Kabir, I had a few sensory and fine motor goals in mind, which helped me along in deciding what to do in addition to having fun. But ‘fun’ was the key!
The vacation was over before we knew it, but we had created beautiful artwork and myriad memories. I decided to share the pictures of our summer fun on Facebook. Soon, my friends mentioned how much they enjoyed the art work, and became curious to know how we did it. This was very encouraging.
And then, one of the friends, asked me to come over to Snehadhara Foundation, and introduce the same activities with a group of children at the centre. I was nervous. I am not an artist, nor am I an art teacher. And I have very little experience doing any artwork myself! With encouragement from the staff at Snehadhara, I decided to give it a shot.
I created the session plans for the first month and showed up for my very first session. The experience was nothing like I had expected it to be. Both the facilitator and the children were new to each other. While I had a plan to execute, I tried consciously to not lose sight of the key elements of communication and fun. I tried to talk to the children and keep them engaged in the activity, incorporating songs and staying spirited. I did encounter issues of anxieties, interests and readiness but they all became takeaways and guidelines for the future sessions.
The response from the children themselves was nothing short of overwhelming! They welcomed me with an open heart, with love. They were willing to walk that extra mile of trying to work on new projects, new materials even if they were not the most comfortable with them or did not have the readiness to work independently. They were willing to try and they’re the ones who encouraged me. I get to research and plan for new activities and the experiences they would offer. I have begun to understand the children’s needs and interests and expectations from a session so I am able to better structure my activities around them. I am able to create a balance between familiarity and novelty so that the children can sustain interest and also participate as independently as possible.
An important part of my sessions is display and appreciation of the created artwork. It is one of the most rewarding aspect of the activity, to see the kids’ faces light up as their work is displayed and their efforts is appreciated. It gives everyone involved a sense of accomplishment and a natural closure to the activity.
It’s been over three months since I first started these weekly art sessions, and today I look forward to each one of them. What started as an idea to keep Kabir engaged during summer break has now become a very significant part of my life. Each of the sessions have been emotionally enriching and deeply motivating. Through these experiences I have come to learn so much about art, myself and life itself. And each of tis has given a new dimension to my interactions with my son, Kabir.
I am sharing with you what I see as learnings from this experience:
• Being a non-verbal medium, children engage with art spontaneously and their involvement is complete. There is no greater connection that you see a child involved in an activity he/she enjoys.
• The process of creation is experiential in nature. Engaging in making an artwork is both relaxing and cathartic. Asking the child as to what they have made may not yield answers as it is not the child’s need to tell, but our need to know. The child has already expressed what he/she wanted to say through the artwork.
• Every child is an artist. The problem is how to remain an artist once we grow up- Pablo Picasso. Art has great significance in fostering independence, individuality and helping children become more like themselves instead of like someone else. It also has a bearing on our role as facilitators. While we can direct the children, we should not instruct too much so as to not hamper the child’s inherent creativity and spontaneity. Conformity is never the goal if creativity.
• There is no right or wrong in art. The “process” is where the magic happens. It is more important than the “product”.
The best part of the experience has been watching the children engage with art. The children work without judging themselves, they paint freely, they enjoy the process whole heartedly, and they live in the moment- that is the greatest gift.
Oh what wouldn’t I give to be able to paint like a child…again!