The World is Our Canvas – Celebrating Creative Freedom in Early Years
From a hand-crafted enchanted forest to a room inspired by the likes of Monet, Raza, Mondrian and more; from painting with natural materials like twigs, stones and leaves to building 3D sculptures, crafting mosaics, and weaving; from open-ended messy art to elaborate canvas painting, Tod Canvas – the annual art festival of Toddler’s Den was a celebration of the freedom that creativity offers. Held this year at our Mumbai campus, the event offered numerous opportunities for children – and adults – of all ages to engage in structured and unstructured art explorations. This blog post will take you on a tour of some of the magic:
The Outdoor Garden
Art helps us express our thoughts and feelings. The outdoor garden was designed to facilitate this process. Children had the opportunity to engage in mirror work, observing their reflections as they mixed different colours using paint brushes as well as their fingers. Some sprayed colour over the walls while others explored the effects of sponges and rollers on easel boards. In the background, I noticed a few parents quietly spending time with themselves as they painted some pebbles – the scene perfectly captured how art can pull us into the moment and offer an opening for peaceful mindfulness and self reflection.
Mosaic Table & Weaving Station
At the mosaic table, children and parents alike could pick out different coloured tiles and place them onto a large collaborative frame, adding their bit to a constantly expanding piece of work.
At the same time, at the weaving station, learners could try their hand at weaving any patterns of their choice -on ropes suspended from the wall, on tyres, as well as on weaving nets. The different kinds of ribbons, wool, and fabric offered endless possibilities for exploration and observation.Such collaborative activities where children contribute to one large common piece of work open up the imagination and spark connections as they think about what others have done, reflect upon how they can add to it, consider different ideas, and finally end up with a unique end product.
In the enchanted forest, children painted their own ‘mystical fort’, built out of cardboard boxes. They had an opportunity to use brushes crafted out of natural materials like leaves, flowers, twigs and branches. Children enjoyed the new perspectives and challenges involved in working on the large ‘walls’ of the ‘fort’ as this was quite different from painting on paper or canvas. Moreover, the use of twigs, grass, leaves, and petals added a unique effect that encouraged children to freely experiment. In the enchanted forest, there was no fear of making mistakes and the unrestricted opportunity to explore new textures, materials and techniques.
The Sculpture Studio
Sculpting cultivates attention to detail and helps children see a finished product as the sum of its parts. In the room of sculptures at Tod Canvas, children and parents worked together to use a plethora of materials such as coloured pasta, crazy straws, play dough and pipe cleaners to build and create shapes and structures. For instance, on one side, children worked on connecting cardboard circles with colourful pipe cleaners – a seemingly simple task that is wonderful in its capacity to keep growing into whatever the creators imagine it to be!
On another side of the sculpture studio, children stood on little stools to string wool using board pins -a sort of connect-the-dots activity in which they could see the background gradually grow into shapes and patterns they recognised – leaves, flowers, clouds, grass, triangles, and circles. There was much excitement involved in creating and then identifying each pattern. Further, in a corner sat a professional potter who explained his process and techniques to each child in turn, guiding them in shaping their own little clay pots on the pottery wheel.
It was interesting to see children engage in conversations about the shape that material takes and the various combinations of textures and colours they explored. After such an enriching process of creation, children got to take home a beautiful sculpture of their own.
The Neon Room
The neon room was a crowd magnet! It was mostly dark, with UV light projected onto light tables, where children used neon coloured highlighters to trace and colour fantastical unicorn and rainbow patterns. Glow-in-the-dark colours captured the fascination of young learners as they explored the effect of neon paint on the dark walls and experimented with Jackson Pollock-style abstract art. Quiet background music added to the mysterious mood, allowing children to fully immerse in the glowing lights, shadows and bright colours.
Art Attack – The Messy Room
From climbing up a slide to drop paint-soaked pom-poms onto the floor, to using fly swatters on the bees drawn on the walls, this room was nothing less than a free painting party! We had turned the entire space into a blank canvas, lining the walls and floor with white chart paper upon which children and parents unleashed their creativity!
They had a blast making – and becoming – a colourful mess as they walked in foam paint, used their bodies to create art, and sprayed colour all over the walls. They walked out reluctantly, covered in paint, faces alight with grins that were testimony to all the fun they’d had.
It was a joy to hear several parents remark:
“This was too much fun! Look at us dripping with paint!’
“We’ve never let our children paint so freely! “We always ask them to paint a complete picture, or paint within the lines!”
Not surprisingly, children couldn’t resist the fun and kept returning to the Art Attack. The room we used is the Pre-K learning area and I heard several children wonder out loud: “Will our classroom be like this tomorrow as well? Can we do this again tomorrow?”
Art From Around The World
This space was inspired by art maestros, famous stories and world cultures. It simultaneously exposed children to renowned works like Raza’s geometric Bindu, Piet Mondrian’s abstract art, and Claude Monet’s Water Lilies. Children also tried techniques like Rangoli, tape art and marble paintings that each originate from different cultures or places. Each little centres of artistic inspiration allowed children to follow simple instructions to try out famous artistic techniques and styles.
The Dot Room
Peter Reynolds celebrated children’s book, The Dot inspires people of all ages to “just make a mark, and see where it takes you…” This is precisely what our Dot-inspired room was dedicated to. It featured everything we could imagine a dot could be – a bangle, a coin, a plate, the sun, small dots, big dots, glittering dots, and more. Children could freely paint any type of dot they wanted over the walls and tables to add their own mark to this colourful space.
The magical thing about art is that the more you imagine and create, the more ideas open up and spring to life, leading to infinite possibilities of what can be achieved, even with the simplest of materials and tools. Our mission with Tod Canvas is to grant children the creative freedom the they’re often denied in conventional education systems – so that they can tap into their unique potentials and imagination without the fear of making mistakes. This sets them up for a lifetime of confidence in their own abilities and innovative thinking that paves the way to make them empowered thinkers, problem-solvers, and creators of tomorrow.