While watching “Orange is the New Black” last week, I heard a quote about ancient Tibetan sand mandalas. I can’t find the exact quote online, but it spoke to the fact that mandalas are created with the intent to be swept away at the end.
Even when reading the Wikipedia about mandalas, it says that the sand is collected in a jar at the end and then released back into nature later. The creation and dismantling is about the ceremony and the process.
When it comes to children’s art, the same is true – for young children, it’s all about the creation.
In this blog post from A Montessori Musing Place, a teacher documents a child making a painting. It’s a beautiful story, but what sticks out to me at the end is this:
“When she was finished, the child matter-of-factly cleaned up and went on to her next activity never giving the painting another look.
I wonder if she even remembered to take the painting home.“
As adults, we are focused on the product – the finished piece of art. The crayon scribbles. The paper with a name lovingly scrawled across the top.
But for young children (preschool aged and below) it’s about the experience and exploration.
When I was a toddler teacher several years ago, we often took paintings straight off of the easel and put them into the recycle bin. The toddlers never noticed – it just wasn’t about that to them.
Even as an adult, I still really love to draw. Honestly, my art isn’t that good most of the time. However, the experience is still valuable for me.
As an adult looking back on the art my parents saved, I don’t have a lot of finger paintings or scribbles – and I really don’t mind. I’m not saying not to save any of it – however, keeping it all generally isn’t of any benefit to anyone.
To me, the things that have been the most interesting looking back have been my journals from Kindergarten and on. At this point, I could see my ideas forming, and can remember how I felt when doing them. I can see how my ideas were starting to form and how my creativity evolved.
Next time your child is doing artwork, think about it as a mandala: a beautiful and creative experience that will still remain, even if it does get swept away afterward.