Kids in Wonderland

This is what heaven looks like for your toddler: bowls of assorted objects for gluing and glitter, blank papers on the walls for painting, mounds of play-doh for making shapes, beads for stringing, scissors for cutting, finger paints for smearing. No rules, except to respect yourself and others. No aprons. Permission to get messy granted. No wonder my son’s jaw hung agape. He had fallen down the rabbit hole and emerged in a world where mess was good, coloring within the lines was frowned upon, and all the choices were his to make.
Enter the magical laboratory of Boulder’s Clementine Studio (openartsclementine.org), where process-oriented art reigns. Expectations, goals, and tidy projects give way to risk taking, experiential learning, and pure fun. Kids come first here, which they sense and respond to. “Children need process art,” says Lisa Holub, Clementine Studio director and teacher. “Everything for them comes from their hands.”

Holub, who is cross between Mary Poppins and Frida Kahlo, has the gift of eliciting art from anything, animate and inanimate. Her joy in process is infectious, as is her delight in wacky creations. After an ill chosen series of art classes with a teacher who told my son what colors to use, and “helped” him to draw “presentable” shapes, I feel obligated to patch up the damage to my son’s inner artist. Holub is my woman, and Clementine Studio the place.

Art, no less than faith, helps children communicate, connect, and relate to the world around them. When children get exposed to the idea that it’s the process, not where they arrive that matters, light bulbs go on across the brain. Studies on creativity show that it changes neurological patterns to make them quicker and more efficient. As Holub points out, increased creativity translates to every discipline. “We encourage children to become so fluent in their own creativity that they take it with them for the rest of their lives,” she says. And, oh, the places they they’ll go with it.

Elizabeth Marglin is a freelance writer who has recently had articles published in Natural Health, Backpacker, Colorado Home & Lifestyles, and FitPregnancy. She just finished coauthoring The Mother’s Wisdom Deck, an oracle deck designed specifically for mothers, which will be published by Sterling Publishing for Mother’s Day 2012. Before she became a mother her life included travel, adventure, meditation, yoga, rock-climbing, and reading. Now diapers, whining, domestic drudgery, boogie butlering, and stain removing comprise the bulk of her day-to-day activities. Save for the rich vein of never-before-imagined love that flows through her life, keeping her merrily afloat, she would need to be talked down from the edge. She lives with her husband and has two children, Jordan Luca, age 4, and Oriah Jasmine, age 1.