Back in 2017, Amplify shared an interview with Bambini of Lilyfield centre director Anmol Lohia, whose powerful belief in creative arts education had led to many positive outcomes for the children at the centre, and the local community. This included a fundraising event where artworks created by the children helped to raise thousands of dollars for charities.
Two years on and the centre has launched ‘Bambini Atelier’, a dedicated studio space where children can express themselves artistically through a variety of mediums.
This week we catch up with Ms Lohia to find out how children are benefiting from the new space, and share insights into how you can create an art space in your own service.
Creativity becomes more visible when adults try to be more attentive to the cognitive processes of children than to the results, they achieve in various fields of doing and understanding.
- Loris Malaguzzi
Bambini of Lilyfield is a Reggio inspired service that believes in setting up the environment as the third teacher.
“We believe that educators are resources for our children who scaffold them and guide them through intentional teaching,” says Ms Lohia.
“Early exposure to art is critically important and, if left un-nurtured, may be difficult to recover,” Ms Lohia explains. “You may have paints and crayons out, but not intentional teaching.”
A permanent space for creativity
Now that the visual art areas have been consolidated into a permanent space, an even greater emphasis is being placed on ensuring that children benefit from the exposure. Educators use provocations for their intentionally planned art experiences. This could include using flowers from their garden to facilitate watercolour painting or a fruit bowl with different coloured fruits to draw using oil pastels.
“Each room can use the atelier whenever it suits them within their daily routine,” says Ms Lohia. “They often play music when painting, to further inspire creativity. All art materials are displayed at the children’s level and the centre has created a cabinet to store art resources so that educators can easily access them without leaving the space.“
Ms Lohia shares that the educators at Bambini are pro-active and a great importance is given to research; hence it is common for the educators and children to go on a journey and explore the artworks of great artists such as Picasso and Monet. They will often combine their art sessions with music, to allow for ‘synaesthesia art’ – the union of two senses or the interchangeability of sensory perceptions.
The benefits of art in early childhood
Ms Lohia explains that Bambini prides itself in delivering a holistic curriculum, one that is focused on play at its heart.
“Arts is also intertwined with play, which is the basis of Belonging, Being & Becoming: The Early Years Learning Framework for Australia,” says Ms Lohia. “Children experience learning through play via the arts curriculum such as sensory painting with hands, and clay work which helps strengthen muscles and fine motor skills.
“So, if play is the basis of our curriculum, then the arts must definitely have an important place where experimentation, creativity and imagination can open up endless possibilities. Within the Reggio Emilia approach, this relates to the
100 Languages of Children.”
Ms Lohia and her team are advocates of the benefits that art can have on brain development, something that has been backed by research studies1. The arts, especially in the early years, can stimulate both sides of the brain and help with:
Fine motor skill development
Appreciation of numeracy
Acceleration of brain development
This painting was created in the babies room as part of a Silent auction to raise funds for WIRES. The painting was called ‘Bulada’ – Snake in Darug, the Aboriginal language group for most of the Sydney region.
Parents have been very receptive to the space, which is situated in a covered indoor-outdoor area with lots of light.
“My 18 month old’s first experience with the Atelier space was for the children’s art exhibition that Bambini’s organised to officially open the space,” says mum Carly. “The grand opening made the space seem exciting and interesting to her. She was proud to show us around, and to see everyone looking at the artworks she had contributed to.”
The space has easels which are adjustable to suit different ages, and space to display artworks in order to make learning visible to families and to empower children to view their artworks as valuable contributions to learning.
“Isabelle is very proud of the space and that she made a big piece of art for the bushfire concert,” says mum Robyn. “Having a place to go for art is beneficial because it shows the kids how important it is and allows it to be important to them as well.”
The Atelier has been invaluable during the pandemic, helping children to deal with what was going on around them.
“There was a period of time that the children were out of their comfort zone,” says Ms Lohia. “Their regular teachers, peers and the Bambini that they normally saw as their happy place was all different. During this period the Atelier was a place where the children still had control. It was a space where they could express their emotions through the colours of their creativity without having to use words.”
How to set up your own art space:
A typical craft table where items are laid out and children can only use these items impacts on things such as their thinking, creativity and imagination and independence.
These are times when a well thought out provocation for children can inspire their learning, however, the art studio or atelier has more resources and opportunities for children to be creative and develop autonomy by selecting art resources and engaging in their own artistic expression.
1. Reflect on your ideas, values and beliefs
Before you get started, it’s a good idea to reflect on and discuss your own and your team’s philosophy about art spaces as it should guide your practice:
What are your personal beliefs and philosophies around art spaces?
What is your image of the child? Do you see them as capable and confident?
What do you imagine children are doing when they are being creative?
How is your thinking influenced by your own art education when you were at school?
What is your role in the teaching of art?
“When you draw it for me, cut it for me, paste it for me, put it together for me, all I learn is that you do it better than me.”
Inadvertently this can happen and we need to acknowledge that. The attitudes of the educators is what can make a difference in the quality of environments that we set up so your role is very important.
2. Consider the practical elements of the set up:
When children are in control of the process and the materials they use, it’s more likely that they will engage, stay focused and become passionate.
Should children have access to all of the supplies or just some at a time?
Should all art resources be on display and accessible or should they be packed away at certain times of the day/week?
How will you manage clean ups and spills?
How will you organise the space so that children can easily access what they need?
3. Go beyond the obvious when choosing tools and materials
Think broadly about how you can incorporate surprising materials into the space – this can open the mind to endless creative possibilities.
Some ideas to get you started:
Allow children to craft their own paintbrush using unusual items such as leaves, sponges, feathers, pompoms and wool held by hand or a peg, or tied to a stick – see a tutorial on
DIY paintbrushes here. Head outdoors and use
bubble blowers to create some bubble art, or string/wool/ribbons to create interesting patterns. Use a large window as a canvas with
easy clean paint made from food colouring, cornstarch and hand soap. 4. Come up with a name for your space
It’s a great idea to name your art space so that it has its own special identity. You can engage fellow educators and the children to brainstorm names for the area.
Ask yourself, if you don’t have space for a full atelier, what opportunities do you have in your space where children can be creative and fully independent? And remember, the importance of art is not only in the instrumental benefits, but the enjoyment that happens as a result of the activity.
How the Arts Develop the Young Brain. David. A. Sousa, 2006
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