Oct 16, 2014

Toddler Art Class: Yarn Wrapping (or not...)

In which I learn how complex this seemingly simple activity can be...

Art Project: Yarn Wrapping
die cut animal shapes from cereal boxes

  cover art Extra yarn / Barnett, Mac
This book is really too complex for toddlers.  The third class got a quick summary of each page and the part about the evil archduke was quite edited.

*Note:  I do three sessions of this class, back-to-back each week.  This week, I tweaked the set-up for each class after learning lessons in earlier classes.  For the first class, I distributed cardboard shapes, scissors, yarn (some pieces cut in about 18" lengths, but also small balls of yarn), and tape to each table.  Here's what happened:
Class #1
There are a number of older siblings (3-5 year olds) in the 9:30 class, so I saw a few animals that looked like this:

 And even one very talented (and yarn-loving) 5 year-old who made this lovely strand of finger-knitting:
 But the kids in the actual toddler range were more interested in cutting yarn:

 (I like this turtle's shell-wig)
 Or covering their animal with tape:
 Or tape and yarn:
Now, all of these activities were lots of fun and very engaging, but since we'd just done tape projects the week before and since a lot of the kids actually seemed to be doing a lot more, um, unfocused activity, I thought I'd try to tweak the set-up a bit for the second class to see if I could "improve" the experience.  Part of the frustration with the project that I'd seen was that the 18"ish yarn pieces really only wrapped around the animals a few times, and that's pretty unsatisfactory, so I thought that perhaps giving some longer yarn options might work better. And I tried to limit the tape options so that the focus would return to the yarn. The 10:30 class got cardboard animal shapes with a piece of tape on the back already, and buckets with small (2-3" diameter) balls of yarn.
Class #2:
It started off innocently enough.  I loved that this artist wanted to try to thread the yarn through this giraffe's eye.
 And a few kids tried to wrap yarn around their animals:
 But then things started to unravel.

 Unwinding a ball of yarn is surprisingly satisfying!  And working your fingers through it feels SO nice!
 And then the yarn-wrapping of the toddlers themselves started.

 Hey look!  There's some yarn-wrapping on an animal shape! (and yes, that is tangled on a toddler foot...)
 This particular artist was using her scissors to hold her yarn as she wrapped it around her horse.
 And wrapped...

  And wrapped...

 And wrapped......
 Although it was fun to see the kids interacting with the materials in this way (and a few yarn-loving parents noted that they had a few junk skeins at home that they wouldn't mind donating to the cause of destruction if it engaged their kids for this long, hooray!), I didn't relish the notion of untangling and re-winding my entire crafty stash of yarn and, again, this still wasn't quite what I'd had in mind (not sure why I was having such a hard time letting go of "product" this week instead of rejoicing in "process" as I usually do...), so I thought I'd try one more tweak.  The 11:30 class got cardboard animals with one 24"ish piece of yarn taped to them.
Class #3:
This was what each artist was provided with:
This was the most "yarn-wrapped" result (other than the tidily yarn-wrapped examples that the adults in the room couldn't resist making!):
 I liked how this artist made some extra holes in his sheep to thread the yarn through!
 Turns out, when you limit artists' resources so severely, your art project is a lot less interesting.  Class #3 was a bit of a blur for me.  I think there was a lot of leading animals around by their leashes (fun!), but still, not really much wrapping going on.  There were also a large number of first-time Toddler Art Class students, which always adds just a bit of extra chaos.  I hope those parents will try us again next week!

Hindsight Tip:  SO MUCH HINDSIGHT with this project! 
--I've already listed a bunch above (I learned SO much from the class this week!), but as it pertains to this particular project, I learned that wrapping yarn is a tricky concept to explain without showing someone exactly how to do it, and even then, it's not really at toddler skill level.  This would be an excellent project for four year olds or older kids.
--I learned (in general) that I don't like projects where I get obsessed with what the kids are producing instead of whether they're having fun and learning something through the experience (scissors!  tape! the sensory joy of unwinding a ball of yarn! These are all valid art experiences!).
--I learned that when I narrow the parameters of a project down so far that there's really only one outcome, the results are either success (predictable and kind of boring, to be honest) or failure (frustrating) and there's less room for serendipity and creativity.  Lesson learned.  Go with the flow.  If we did four weeks of tape projects, we'd probably have some pretty happy children.

Adult Challenge:  "Big Hands off the Art."  Yeah, this one was a challenge for me too.  Sorry, folks!

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