It was my first time teaching a parent-child art class and something extraordinary happened. A parent came to me recently and told me he had never forgotten this class that I taught years ago because it changed the way he raised his child. We were making baby ducklings out of model magic clay and an egg shell for them to sit in, made from a Styrofoam bowl with the rim cut off.
I passed around chunks of clay and demonstrated a very simple, optional way to make a duck. As the children were working on shaping their clay, parents started taking the clay out of their child’s hands and making the ducks for them the “correct” way. So…I passed around more clay and invited the parents to join in, but to make their own ducks along side of the kids.
When we were finished we lined up the ducks, children’s on one side, parents on the other. I honestly didn’t expect what happened.
The ducklings the children made were wildly painted with stretched necks and adorable, silly bodies and wads of clay. Some didn’t have recognizable parts, but they sure were colorful and special and a child made them. A few were down right glamorous. Some had paper clips. One had lots of eyeballs. Wacky colored feathers, sequins, beads and other bits were attached to many. These were quirky, lovable ducklings. A few even had names and entire life stories.
With the exception of one, the ducklings the parents made were all yellow with yellow feathers and orange bills, very orderly and acceptable ducks. It was as though they had just come down the conveyor belt in a duck factory. The one parent who had made a red duckling had taken notice of what was happening before he finished. He’s the one who told me he would never forget this class. I’ll never forget it either.