TRC Read to Kids

Welcome to The Reading Connection’s blog, where you’ll find the best guidance on reading aloud to kids. Whether you are a TRC Read-Aloud volunteer, parent or student, the book themes and crafts ideas, child development guidelines and recommended websites will expand your world. For 25 years, The Reading Connection has worked to improve the lives of at-risk kids by linking the magic of reading to fun experiences that inspire a passion for learning. Visit our website at

Monday, February 11, 2013

Focus on the process, not the product

“All young children are great artists. The importance of their art is in the act of creating with confidence and in using their imaginations. It is our sacred trust not to take away this gift from our children, but to encourage and nurture it at every opportunity.” ~ Susan Striker, creator of the Anti-Coloring Books.
All too often when planning art activities for kids, we focus on the finished product and forget to leave room for kids' individuality in their creations. Providing a model for an activity is a good idea because it provides guidance, but it is always best to encourage the children to follow their whims. Some kids will take just a few minutes to add just a bit to what you give them. Others will add and add and add more and more materials. Some of the difference is a matter of age. Some kids just love to manipulate craft materials and use their fine-motor skills. 

We believe open-ended projects help build children's confidence in their skills and their individuality. It is important to praise equally those children who make elaborate extensions to the activity AND those who seem to engage only briefly. Who knows what elaborate extensions may be being built in the second child's imagination?

Open-ended activities work well for Read-Alouds because they are easily adaptable to wide age ranges. A four-year-old will enjoy these projects as much as an 11-year-old, but will likely produce a less ambitious product and spend less time at it. At a recent Read-Aloud at Next Steps Housing, the volunteers read Ten Black Dots by Donald Crews and gave each child dots with which to create an image of their choice. All of the kids, ranging from four to fourteen years old were thoroughly engaged in their creations and loved the freedom of the activity. 

Here are some open-ended ideas that could be adapted to fit a variety of themes.

From ID Mommy blog.
Collage.  Save or collect old magazines, catalogues and newspaper pages. Cut out pictures, paste them together on a sheet of construction paper to make a collage. Kids can create their favorite meal, if reading about food, or their ideal vacation spot, if talking about travel. Libraries often have old magazines for sale for $.25 each. You can also include nonpaper materials. For example, beans and rice, add so much to this farm scene.

Paper cutting. The classic example of paper cutting is making paper snowflakes. Show children how to fold the paper and where to cut so the finished product does not fall apart. Then give them the freedom to create snowflakes in different shapes and colors. Copy paper, tissue paper and coffee filters are great for this activity. 

Papel Picado is another great example of paper cutting. It's a traditional Mexican decoration that is easily adapted for kids. Fold colored tissue paper much like you would for a paper snowflake and cut out designs. These are often strung together to make colorful banners.

Clay and other manipulatives. Give each child some clay, play dough or pipe cleanesr and let her to create something related to what you've been reading. A team at Virginia Gardens last year let the kids create dinosaurs out of pipe cleaners. The kids were so proud of their creations. Have a look here:

Creating a scene. Provide each child with a piece of heavier stock paper as the base and a variety of materials to create a scene based on your theme. If creating a winter scene, provide cotton balls, glitter, pine needles, colored construction paper and stickers and let the kids create winter vistas.

When doing open-ended crafts, there is no "right" or "wrong" result, and it is finished when the child decides it is finished. The focus should be on the process of creating, not necessarily the end product. To spark conversation, ask each child to tell you about his art and what he used to create it. Let each child's personality and skills shine through their art.

For more ideas for open-ended crafts, read this pamphlet by

To receive credit for this online training, please fill out the form here.

1 comment:

  1. What a great post! Thanks for the link-back. We have a big Rubbermaid bin in our house labeled the "project box." I'm always adding stuff to it...empty food containers, clothespins, fabric scraps, egg cartons, feathers, foam, colored paper, etc. My boys often ask to get out the project box, and with tape and glue, they make the coolest things! My favorite part is seeing what they come up with and listening to them explain what it is.