Self-Expression in Preschool
The preschool art center is bustling with activity this morning. After tearing strips of colored construction paper into lots of pieces in a self-initiated activity, Addison, a young 3-year-old, happily piles them all in a box on the table. Eyes wide open, she assesses her work, then smiles at her teacher and says, "I did a good job. The box is all full up!"
Preschoolers enjoy the challenges of experimenting with a wide variety of media and tools, using them to express their feelings, ideas, and wishes while sharpening their basic skills. For instance, Addison is fascinated to discover that she can control the direction of her paper tears with her fingers. Clearly feeling joyful about her new found success, she uses her emerging verbal abilities to let her teacher know about her feelings of pride.
Threes and fours regularly use dramatic play as a way to express their ideas and feelings. Frightened by the Big Bad Wolf, Luis, a 4-year-old, suggests designing a house out of bubble wrap that pops and scares away the wolf when he huffs and puffs. This type of role play helps fours feel in control and powerful. Pretend play also allows them to take risks safely as they express their points of view. Threes like to play act scenarios about things they know, such as family situations. For example, they may express their real needs when they pretend to be "the baby" as a new little brother presents a home-front challenge by getting lots of attention.
What You Can Do
- Provide opportunities for children to test their ideas. Be flexible with schedules to nurture the children's spontaneity and curiosity. Give children plenty of time to make decisions, play, and reflect on their discoveries.
- Help children to scaffold and move on to a higher level. Talk to them about their ideas and encourage them to describe how they feel about their innovations and accomplishments.
- Be a good listener. Give the children your full attention as they express their feelings and ideas. Share their excitement. Write down their comments for documentation.
- Share books that show characters expressing themselves in various ways. In the book The Squiggle by Carole Lexa Schaefer, a creative little girl models for her classmates all the exciting things she can do with a piece of yarn. See what the children in your group can do!