There are many fun
projects that we can do with young children. And of course there
are many books and websites out there with great ideas. In fact,
there are almost too many! But how do we know what will be a
hit... and what will be a miss? In 20 years of working with young
children in the preschool setting, here are some guidelines I've found
useful in choosing
a great project:
Process oriented. A project for young
children should emphasize the process of
making it -- and the skills and experiences gained through that
process -- rather than the finished product.
Open Ended. Even
when we do choose a project that produces a charming finished
project, such as the project ideas on our
Holiday Pages, we need to be sure there is room for creative
expression. This allows for artistic experimentation,
individuality and self expression, and the development of creative
self-confidence. The opposite of open ended, is a project that
can only be done way to be "correct". This sort of "follow my
instructions to make one just like mine" approach teaches following
directions, but little else.
Child Centered. There
should be an internal motivation, within the child, for doing the
project. Ideally the project should be open ended enough to allow
children with different temperaments, ability levels, and learning
agendas to connect with it and engage. The project taps into
the child's developmentally based needs and interests. The
child finds it intrinsically appealing, meaningful, and satisfying.
Fresh & Interesting.
A variety of mediums and materials are explored. Certainly we
want to give kids the chance to work repeatedly with various tools
and materials -- this is how they gain mastery. But how
dull would it be to always have the same materials, or even the same
materials each month with only the color scheme changing.
Offering a variety of tools and materials and projects will help
hold children's interest. If you must offer something that is
fairly similar each time (such as easel painting) then also put out
something that is new and fresh.
Can we do this project and keep everyone safe? Maintain our
sanity? Keep the room and its furnishings in an acceptable
condition and still have time leftover to clean up by snack time
without anyone (or almost anyone) wailing inconsolably -- including
this is for home or the classroom we are always striving to provide
quality activities without going over our budget.
Environmentally & Socially Responsible.
More and more we are thinking about the projects we do an their
impact on the environment. What can we re-use, re-purpose, and
recycle? And what are we modeling to the children with the
choices we make?