My children attended the same preschool as they grew (my daughter is still there), and have so far had the same teachers. So when I opened the package of gifts my daughter made for us at school this year, I found the same gift that my son brought home three years ago: a decorated hot plate. When I put them both up near each other, Husband and I noticed some striking differences. I'm sure you will too.
This is a portion of my daughter's plate:
You can see that she carefully glued on the sequins, spreading them evenly throughout the branches in rows. She pasted a star exactly at the top. To the right of this beautifully decorated tree, she wrote her name long ways down the side. It's easy to read and includes mostly lower case letters. When she made this, she was four years and one month old.*
My son was four years and two months old when he made his hot plate:
Now, we weren't actually in the room while he made this, but Husband and I are pretty sure we know how this art project went.
Teacher: "Squeeze out a little glue where you'd like the sequins to stick."
Boy: SPLLOOOOTTTT. SPLOOOTTTTTT. SPUH. SPUH. spuh. wheeze.
Teacher: "Very nice, everyone! OH. Oh my. That's a lot of glue, Boy. Wow."
Teacher: "OK, now place your sequins as you would like them on your tree. They are supposed to look like ornaments so you might want to put a few on each branch, but do it however you want."
Boy: DUMP. Shake shake. "DONE!"
Notice that The Boy actually has a star on the top of the tree as well. It's pretty terrible to admit that when we saw that his sister did that, we thought she was a genius, but when we saw that he did it, we came to the conclusion that the teacher must have suggested that they all do that. And probably helped them with it.
There's no doubt that my kids are wildly different, particularly in terms of art projects. The Girl revels in a good art project. She calls it "crafting." At any time she might ask, "Can we craft today?" Our house is decorated in pictures taped to random walls all at kid level (I curse the day she learned to use Scotch tape). She brings her creative eye to drawings, paintings, photography, and fashion.
The Boy thinks art is something that you have get done with in order to get to do fun things. Make a card for someone's birthday? No chance. Slap a little paint on a Christmas ornament for a relative? You'd think that I was asking him to write a novel using all his spelling words and illustrating each page. In pre-K, his teacher had a rule that the kids had to use at least three colors on the pictures they drew every week in their journals. And every week, The Boy asked if he could use only two colors "just this time." (The answer was always no, but she gave him points for persistence.)
In fact, when he was a toddler, The Boy worked hard to make art projects into sports. For example, we once had a pack of new markers and I encouraged him to draw. He'd make one line with each color on his paper, replace the lid, and bowl the marker across the kitchen tiles. As each marker slid into another, he would cheer.
The Boy will probably never be an artist. But children are encouraged to color, paint, draw, and play with clay not only because it helps develop creativity, but also because it builds small motor skills that will later be used in writing, shoelace tying, and shirt buttoning.
The Girl has fantastic small motor skills. At about age 18 months, hers were equivalent to a four-year-old's. (I only know this because her health problems required extensive testing. I don't make small-motor skill evaluations part of my regular regimen.) And, as you might guess, The Boy's small motor skills are exceptionally poor, to the point of needing to learn to type soon so that he can keep up with his first grade school work. Now, his Tourette's Syndrome and related disorders play into those deficiencies, and most likely, one of the reasons he hates creating art is because it is always a little harder for him than for everybody else. But if he'd have enjoyed it and actually worked at it a bit, I'm sure he'd be better off than he is now. If only I could have invented some competitive marker-ing sport....
So, the moral of this story is... keep your kid's Christmas art? Try to make your kids draw and do other art projects so that they will have good small motor skills? Poking fun of your kids' shortcomings in print can be fun? Tourette's Syndrome sucks?
Not sure. You pick. Happy Holidays!
*If you look closely at these photos you can see the reflection of my hands holding the camera. I'm so professional.
(For crap's sake, buy your kids some markers. And make sure they are washable. You'll thank me later for that.)