Faith CoLab: Tapestry of Faith: Spirituality and the Arts in Children's Programming: A Resource for Religious Educators


Think of yourself as the leader of an expedition into new interior territory. You want to prepare the expedition so that you and the children can have as meaningful an experience as possible.

You need to set up activities so that children can feel both safe and successful. The younger the child the more limited the materials need to be; older children require more interesting choices for their arts experiences.

You will need to have all materials ready and accessible for the children. Make sure that the markers and paints aren't dried up and that the appropriate materials are available for drama. Don't spend time searching for materials while children grow restless and bored. This means having the paint ready in containers that won't spill easily, choosing brushes that are an appropriate size to the activity and age of children, and making sure that the materials will be easy to use not frustrating. Have a place to put excess paper for sharing or for later projects. Have clean-up materials readily available including a broom and dustpan, sponges, a spray bottle of water, paper towels, and containers for all materials to be stored. Clean-up is part of the process, and children need to leave the space the same way in which they found it.

The materials are the structure that the children use to make their art. The best way to give children the freedom to do their own work is to offer several different types of activities that they can choose from. Research on multiple styles of learning supports this set-up.

The next-best way to offer choices is to have a variety of the same type of materials to choose from. For visual arts, individuals may choose from large paper or small, crayons or markers, watercolors or tempera. Children who are writing might choose from colored or lined paper and a variety of writing implements. For drama or movement, offer a large number of lengths of fabric or percussion instruments, or a box of interesting props. In some cases you may wish to limit the amount of materials to help children understand what it means to share and cooperate with one another. It is also good to offer children unfamiliar materials.

Talk to your religious educator before your classes begin. Make sure that you have a list that includes everything already available in the Religious Education storeroom or art shelves or ask to visit the storeroom; this will make your job much easier. Find out whether you can request new materials for your classes what the budget is if you plan on purchasing materials yourself. Find out if you may ask for donations from the church congregation either by putting a notice in the newsletter or making an announcement on a Sunday morning before your classes begin.

Take good care of the materials you have. Make sure that brushes are washed with soap and water and stored with the bristle end up to dry. Return all unused paint to the proper container and put clay in containers so it doesn't harden. Store all drama materials folded neatly in a box or basket. If you teach the children to take care of their arts materials, they will be ready for them the next time they wish to use them.

Have a finished example of any visual arts technique available if possible to show the children. It could be a sample that you have made instead of a photograph from a book. It is more important to have a sample that it is "done from the heart" than to present a perfect model; seeing a perfect example may discourage some children from even trying the activity.

Keep instruction to a minimum to let the children's natural creativity flow. Take them quickly through the steps to utilize a new technique, then get them working. Show them, don't just tell them. Too much explanation or a complicated procedure can bog down the process. With older children, you can demonstrate one part, let them get started, then show them the next step when they are ready.

Remember that you are showing them a process which will become the container that they can pour their own creativity into. You will need to leave the content open to the children's own experience and imagination. Encourage their sense of creativity and fun rather than a finished product that is similar to yours. Insist on some quiet time for the children to sit with their art or writing at the end of the process, especially if there is a way to move from the individual to a group process and put their responses together.