Programming in Imagination Station is always changing because we use it as a place of creation and exploration. What does your child learn while they are cutting, painting, gluing, or drawing? Read below to find out!
Depending on which materials are available in the Imagination Station, your child will use and develop different muscles while they are exploring. This area mostly uses fine motor muscles, like the muscles in the hands. If your child wants to color with markers, they need the grip strength to hold the marker and then make it move where they want. The more your child colors with a marker, even if they are just making scribbles, the stronger their muscles are getting for future drawing goals.
If there are scissors in Imagination Station, your child can work on their scissor skills which takes coordination and muscle refinement. It can be tricky to use one hand to cut, keep the thumb facing the sky, and use another hand to hold the paper. We have a couple of different options for scissors to support scissor skills, whether it is the standard open and close scissors or the squeeze scissors that spring back open on their own. In addition to maneuvering the scissors, how a child uses scissors is also related to development. A younger child will just make snips along the border and an older child might cut the paper in half or turn their sheet into confetti. All these choices are strengthening those hand muscles!
In addition to the fine motor skills, while your child is exploring they are working on motor planning. For example, if they are gluing pom-poms onto paper, it takes motor planning to put the glue where they want and then to place the pom-pom on the glue. Repeated practice and experience make their movements faster, more confident, and more intentional. Watch your child play, and, depending on their age or experience they will execute a project differently. A young child may just scribble and drop pom-poms onto the paper, but an older child may draw a flower and add glue and a pom-pom to each petal. Letting your child explore how they want to, even if it doesn't have an end product like a picture of a flower, will provide a learning experience and opportunities for development.
Related to motor planning, a child has to be happy with their product or have the time to try again with another sheet. When trying to draw a picture or using art supplies to recreate something from imagination, it can be frustrating or disappointing when the final result is not as intended. It takes emotional regulation to accept that disappointment or calm down from frustration and then make a decision on how to fix the art. Or, decide it is time to start over and try again. The more opportunities a child has to regulate their emotions, the more regulation skills and independence develop for future experiences.
There may also be a need for children to share materials while creating in Imagination Station. We often have bins of materials in the middle of the table, not set aside for each child. This creates opportunities for talking about how many squares of tissue paper are needed, or if the bowl of pom-poms can stay in the middle of the table rather than right next to the paper. You might need to encourage your child to solve a problem with another child, "I see you have all the sparkly pom-poms and it looks like they would like to use one, which one can they have?" Or if your child wants a bottle of glue that someone is using, and all the rest of the glue options are glue sticks, encourage your child to try, "When you are done, I would like to use the bottle of glue for my project."
While playing with your child, paint or draw with your non-dominant hand. This will provide you with more of an idea of how it feels for your child to draw with less motor control. It will also make your handwriting or pictures look less refined, and your child won't look over and feel like theirs is bad or worse. This provides you with the opportunity to say, "I can see you worked so hard on that picture! On mine, I worked really hard drawing all the grass on the ground. Tell me about your picture."
This is another part of the museum where you can work on counting and focusing on how many of an object: subitizing, ordination, and cardination. Subitizing is where you look at a group of objects and know there are five without counting each individually. Ordination is the one-to-one ratio when counting, each object is one number. Cardination is knowing the final number when counting, "One, two, three, three markers!" All of these skills are used when exploring art materials. "I used three colors today, red, blue, and purple." Or, "How many googly eyes are in your hand?" The more you use numbers in conversation the more your child will be developing those skills.
Did you consider how science is present in art? The glue dries and water evaporates. When you glue objects onto paper, they might droop. When you drop objects, they fall. When we put out water and chalkboards, it is both an art and science activity. Visitros can create with the water on the chalkboard but they can also watch their creation evaporate. What happens when too much water is used? The chalkboard gets saturated and doesn't dry quickly. Then it is time to problem solve and maybe absorb some of the water so the chalkboard can be used again.
Of course, Imagination Station has opportunities for learning about and exploring art. Every week there are different mediums to create with or explore. There is paint: acrylic, watercolor, or finger paint, and will your canvas be printer paper, construction paper, a paper plate, or something else? All these opportunities for different types of paint and surfaces to create provide a different opportunity to explore art and how the paint feels, how the brush moves, and how the final product looks. The same is true for markers, crayons, colored pencils, and chalk. Other weeks we put it all together and have paint or markers, glue, and embellishments. This creates the opportunity to create using both flat and three-dimensional creations, bringing in texture and exploration of how much one dot of glue can hold.
There are other opportunities for art outside the creation you can take home. Sometimes there are blocks or play dough in the space. This creates an opportunity to sculpt and create a three-dimensional product from the imagination. Other times there will be puzzles out in the room. That is a chance to analyze photography or drawings while the puzzles are put together. There are opportunities to talk about how the pieces look, what is on each piece, and what the final picture looks like.
Does your child always say, "Look what I made!" or, "See what I did?" What is your initial reaction? There's a high likelihood it is, "Good job!" Then your child will come to you with every paper, ask you to evaluate every tower, and the list goes on. This is your child looking for external gratification, the reward for their hard work. When they are used to hearing "Good job!" they will continue to look to others for validation. If you try, "You look like you worked so hard drawing that airplane!" or, "Wow I see you used all purple paint today!" the child will start to think about what they did, or internal gratification. This encourages them to always look inward and say, "Do I feel good about this picture?" "Did I work hard enough, or should I keep going?" Try making observations about their effort or specific pieces of their creation and see how they respond. It also shows them you were listening, watching, and present. Another follow-up question you can try is, "Tell me about your picture." You might get a whole story or just a few details, but it will make your child feel valued in a different way.
Imagination Station is looking for a sponsor! Contact Lindsey Hemker at 507-218-3104 or firstname.lastname@example.org if you are interested in sponsoring this exhibit.