Arts VS Crafts, Take Stock and Preschool Art Interest Center

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June 2012, Issue # 10

In This Issue:

Article: Art VS. Crafts

Tips & Timesavers: Take Stock

Interest Center Focus: Preschool Art Interest Center What’s New? Search It, Find It, Plan It!

Arts VS Crafts

Typically, the title of an article like this would read ArtsandCrafts rather than ArtsVSCrafts. However, the purpose of this article is twofold: to identify the difference between an Art project and a Craft project (and there is a difference!) and to encourage you to plan for more Art in your classroom than Crafts.

Art is subjective whereas a craft is objective.

Art projects are subjective. According to, subjective is defined as "taking place within the mind and modified by individual bias". This means that you, as the teacher, provide materials and mediums for the children to create with. The children use their individual ideas, thoughts and bias to create.

If you are providing materials for an art activity for your preschoolers, you might suggest that they create something to go along with a theme. However, their creation may result in something entirely different and unrelated to the theme based on their free flowing thoughts as they create. The conversation may look something like this:

Teacher: At the art table today, you’ll find paper, many colors of paint, different sizes of paint brushes and water to rinse your brushes out with. We’ve been learning about farms this week and I thought you might want to create some art work for our preschool walls to decorate for Farm Week!

Child 1: I’m going to make lots of pigs in the mud!

Child 2: I’m going to paint a barn with a cat chasing a mouse!

Child 3: I’m going to paint lots and lots of apple trees on my farm!

When the children finish, you may be surprised at what they describe!

Teacher to children: As I come to you, I’ll ask you to tell me about your painting and I’ll write down what you say!

Child 1’s paper has a lot of brown and blue and what look like many small circles in the middle of the blue. We could, based on his initial reaction to the art activity, assume this is a painting of pigs in the mud. However, he tells you "This is me and Mommy and Daddy and Bobby at vacation. We swimmed in a pond. There was lots of sand and a tire swing. We had so much fun."

Child 2’s paper looks—well, it looks like a barn with a cat chasing a mouse!

Child 3’s paper looks as though they experimented with and used every single color available and created a few of their own. They describe how they went on a long drive to see the colors of the trees changing and this is a representation of what they saw. Now, only one is theme related, however, that’s how art, which is subjective, works!

Crafts, on the other hand, are objective. Defined, objective is "undistorted by emotion or personal bias; based on observable phenomena" ( ). Crafts always have a defined outcome.

Using the same theme as we did above, Farm Week, the using of the paint would be teacher directed (as opposed to child directed as it is in art) with instructions. An example might be:

Teacher: Today we are going to paint trees for our Farm theme!

The teacher would then encourage children to think about trees.

"What is the large part on this picture of a tree called? (the trunk). What color trunk will your tree have? Trunks go from top to bottom or bottom to top. Let’s paint a trunk. Now, where will the leaves grow from? What else do our trees need? (branches). Branches are much smaller trunks that grow out to the right and left and even up and down a little (show a picture of tree branches). Let’s paint some branches on our trees.

Now we will add some leaves to our trees. Will your leaves be big or small? Where will they be (some children may say on the ground if it is autumn!)."

In the end, each tree will be unique and you will have a classroom full of tree paintings to hang up!

There is also a more specific type of craft project where all the children’s items look the same in the end. This is where the children are given specific instruction about where to place, for example, the trunk, branches and leaves (all of which have been pre cut or pre-drawn and the children cut them out).

As you can see, both of these are objective. With the exception of possibly choosing the color of the trunk and the leaves in the painting craft, there is little individual expression.

Personally, I am not a fan of a lot of crafts in preschool classrooms. I love that we have the opportunity to provide a place for the children to explore materials in their own way- paint, glue, scissors (ok, but not for cutting their hair—even I have limits to free expression for preschoolers!).

They will have focused art class or “specialist” time throughout the rest of their K-12 school years. I love that we can give them the time now to explore how each of the materials works!

I realize that encouraging them to draw, for example, a big circle and then think about and add the eyes, mouth, nose, etc. needed to make a face or instructing children to glue items in a specific order or placement that results in a panda bear can help their fine motor skills, eye-hand coordination, practicing staying on task and other skills. I also hear often that these activities help the children learn to follow directions.

This may all be true, however, we have so many real life opportunities to teach them to follow 2-3 step directions during the day (i.e. hang up your coat, hang up your backpack and come to Circle area) that we do not need to do this at the art table!

My philosophy is one of helping children’s development beginning where they are at now and providing hands-on activities that encourage exploration and development.

Crafts are cute and adorable and parents love ‘em. However, they do have a set result and don’t leave much room for this exploration, or for creativity, experimentation and individuality (individual bias).

They require a specific skill set in order to perfect a project (have it look a certain way). This frustrates most preschoolers who are just beginning to develop their manual dexterity and eye-hand coordination.

As you can see, there is a difference between an art activity and a craft activity. Keep these differences in mind when planning for your preschoolers. I encourage you to offer hands on art often throughout the year so your students have the opportunity to explore and use their own thoughts to create.


In last quarter’s newsletter,we looked at how to organize your supplies and inventory. Now that you have completed that task that, take a fresh look at that list!

Can you believe that you have five—yes, count them five boxes of colored craft sticks (with 500 in each box) or a HUGE bin of scrap construction paper and colored tissue paper squares or three boxes of donated fabric squares you forgot about?!!!

As you think about activities for the fall, or for this summer, have this list of supplies in front of you to trigger creative ideas about how to use what you already have!

Those craft sticks could be used for the tried and true face masks or stick puppets. They could also be used to create frames for art work, sorting games for your Fine Motor Interest Center or for counting activities in your Math Interest Center

With both budgets and storage space getting smaller each year, this is a GREAT time to take a creative look at what you have and use it in your planning!

For more ideas for teachersCLICK HERE to go to the Teacher Timesavers Page

INTEREST CENTER FOCUS: Preschool Art Interest Center

What do children learn at the Art Interest Center

Art helps children’s development in many areas. Art can help children to:

Express feelings through manipulation of materials (such as clay, finger paint, etc.); express creativity and individuality; learn about cause and effect; develop the skill to plan (through choosing colors or materials to create); develop fine or small muscles and eye-hand coordination.

How should the teacher prepare for an Art Interest Center?

With art comes paint and with paint comes spills! Be sure to have a water source near your art area or have your art area nearest to the sink or bathroom for easier clean-up! Provide bins with materials that children can access. Many teachers have materials available at this center at all times. Others have only the items that will be available for a specific week out and in bins for the children. Still others place the items to be used out for the children daily. This is your choice based on your space, staffing and schedule set up.

Teachers can offer many items based on themes such as googly eyes to make people or animals, and many art materials.

Materials for the Art Interest Center

The materials to have on-hand are anything that will encourage creativity and imagination.

Here are some ideas:

Themed books or pictures.

The obvious: Paint, brushes, water cups, glue, glue sticks, paper, play dough & clay, shaving cream, different shapes and types of paper.

Markers, scissors, chalk, crayons, fabric, nature items (beware of allergies), glitter, craft sticks, paper towel rolls, confetti, pipe cleaners, etc.

The items to have are only limited to your own imagination! Everything from tooth picks to brown grocery bags to aluminum foil have a place in art!

CD Player—it is fun to have music playing during art! Try encouraging the children to “paint to the beat”!

Large bin with water for clean up; paint smocks and a specific place to put wet art objects to dry on!

Finally, look in your closet or storage area at school (or at home)...what do you have that you may have forgotten about? Place them out for the children to use--and get ready to be WOW'd by their ideas!

WHAT’S NEW? Search It, Find It, Plan It at !

The following pages were added to the website since the last newsletter:

Preschool Library Interest Center

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Until Next Time,