My family: Family portraits

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By Robert WattsProgramme Convener for the MA Art, Craft and Design Education at Roehampton University, London

In the first of our ‘Crafty kids’ series, Robert Watts provides a selection of ideas for art and craft activities based on the theme of ‘My family’

Around the age of three, children’s experiments with mark-making begin to evolve into their first attempts at creating representational images, and they will naturally want to make artworks that depict important figures in their lives. If you talk to a child about the haphazard collection of circles and squiggles they have drawn on the page, they will confidently explain to you that you are, in fact, looking at a portrait of their mum.

These activities are designed to inspire children to experiment with some of the key elements of art, craft and design – line, tone, colour and texture – through the processes of drawing, collage and sculpture. They can be carried out in any sequence – try setting each group a different task during the same session – and will generate a range of artworks that can be displayed together.

The amount of adult support necessary for each of the activities will inevitably vary depending on the age and ability of the children you are working with. For each activity, try to encourage the children to take responsibility for as much of the process as possible, and to make decisions about their work, whether they are deciding which colour crayon or paper to use, or where to place an image on a collage. The sooner that young children take responsibility for such decisions, the more varied and interesting their artwork will be, and the more confident they will become as learners.

As is the case in many activities with young children, much of the learning takes place through talk. Take plenty of opportunities to extend the children’s vocabulary by asking them to describe what they are doing.

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