Crafts for Kids: Making Art With Food

If you've read some of my posts, you know I'm a huge advocate of open-ended art and not teacher-directed projects that are standard in classrooms today. Open-ended art stimulates the three i's: imagination, independence, and innovation. Each piece is unique and reflects the personality, emotions, and message of the artist. Open-ended art is powerful and provocative. Teacher-directed projects are what you see on bulletin boards. It's neat and uniform but lacks originality, creativity, and passion. It's typically art that's copied from a teacher's sample.

Unfortunately, arts education in schools has suffered with the push for academic rigor, standardized testing, and more accountability. Most teachers receive little or no instruction on how to teach art to children. They have no philosophy on why art is important in a child's life and in society. For most busy teachers, art is about having something to put on the bulletin boards to impress visitors and to offer as gifts for parents on holidays. Teachers never ask: What should children gain from the experience?

That's why I urge parents – whether they're homeschooling or supplementing their children's classroom experience – to have their kids do open-ended art at home. This project with food is a fantastic example of using what you have on-hand to challenge youngsters to make something remarkable based on their unique vision. Let's get started.

  1. With your child, look in the pantry to find food items for the project. My son and I chose mini-marshmallows that had gone stale, broken ice cream cones, broken eggshells, and parsley flakes. Other good options include popcorn (popped or kernels), rice, beans, cereal, raisins, and dried pasta.

2. I don't believe in spending money on art supplies. I like to use recyclables and other materials on-hand rather than rushing out to buy something new for each project. However, I always like to have a supply of googly eyes because they make any project come alive. I bought this packet at Hobby Lobby.

 3. Besides goggly eyes and food items, you need a piece of construction paper, crayons, and glue. For most projects with kids, I highly recommend using glue sticks. However, when dealing with these awkward-shaped food items, Elmer's glue works better.

 4. Given the food items he's chosen, have your child decide what to make. Have him draw an outline with crayon.

 5. If your child made an animal, person, alien, or monster, have him add googly eyes.

6. Now step back and let your child create with the materials. Open-ended art means giving control to the artist and letting him make his unique vision. It's all about process, over product. 

Tah-dah! Be sure to ask your child about his creative decision-making when he's done!

Do yourself a favor and buy some googly eyes for your art cabinet. As a former preschool teacher, I used them all the time and the kids loved them. It's amazing how they make a project come alive, adding personality and charm. You'll get impressed at all the creative things your children do with them.

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