14/08/2014 12:48 BST | Updated 22/05/2015 06:12 BST

Is Your Children's Art Work Theirs Or Yours?

Is your children's art work theirs or yours?

I almost came to blows with the woman running our local messy play recently. She was so frustrated that my three-year-old daughter could not, or would not, paint the entire surface of the fruit-shaped sponges she was supposed to be printing with that she took the brush and sponge out of my daughter's hand and did it for her.

I made a joke of it saying I didn't mind having a fruit splodge rather than a fruit bowl on my kitchen wall, and that I thought my daughter was doing a great job, but inside I was fuming.

How dare she make my daughter think that her handiwork isn't good enough?


I'd much rather take home her less-than-perfect creation than something created by an over-zealous woman.


I'm not sure every parent agrees with me though, judging by the competitiveness I see at my local toddler groups. While some children sit at the craft table contentedly, others are desperate to play yet the parents drag them back to glue, stick, colour and paint.

I've seen many mums sneakily peeling off and re-sticking bits that aren't quite up to their standards and no doubt passing off the finished work to family and friends as all their genius child's own hard work.

Undoubtedly, such small children need assistance with some tasks, using scissors, for example, or even being shown how to do something they have never done before. But what about older and more capable children? Their parents seem even worse!

One mum I know – a professional artist – posted a photo on Facebook of a fortress her child had 'made' for a school project. It was so good it looked like something you'd buy in a shop.

Another friend tells me that when she was younger she won a school competition and a Blue Peter badge with works of art that were her mother's and not hers.

Rebecca, mum of two girls aged nine and eight, gets frustrated by parents not playing fairly when it comes to arts and crafts homework. She accompanies her daughters' projects with photos of the creative process to prove they have made it themselves. She even finds herself making sarcastic comments to teachers and other parents if it is obvious there has been a little too much help.

One recent assignment saw the children making models of their houses. Rebecca admits her daughter's was 'a crazy mess' – but it was entirely her own work.

"Other children came in with proper to-scale houses made from wood, obviously made by a professional," says Rebecca. "I mean, it's not rocket science. The teachers must be aware that a young child cannot use high-tech equipment to design these models of different things. I don't see what the teacher or children gain from it."

Some parents question whether schools and nurseries deliberately provoke parental over-involvement because the tasks set are too complicated for the age group.

Nicola, expecting her second child, says: "My son's nursery made a big fuss about the importance of him doing his own craft. A week later they asked us to produce an elephant hat for a play. He is only three!

"We ended up doing the bulk of it, with him sticking on the eyes. If he had turned up with a scribble on a piece of paper I doubt they would have been impressed."

Thankfully, some schools are rewarding children, rather than parents, for their hard work. Rebecca's daughter won the house-modelling competition because her teacher said it was obvious she had created it herself, and at least four other mum friends have told me the same has happened to their children, winning over other 'better' projects that have obviously had too much parental involvement.

Then there is art work coming home from school that is blatantly made by the teacher and not the child. Primary school teacher and mum-of-one Bex actively encourages her pupils (and her son) to hand-make things themselves – yet gets frustrated that not all her colleagues feel the same.

She explains: "I worked with a teaching assistant who would produce 30 identical pieces of art, even to the point where she would tell each child exactly where to make a mark on the paper.

"It drove me crazy and it didn't matter how many times I explained that I wanted the children to do everything for themselves, and that I didn't care what their efforts looked like so long as they'd had the experience, she would still insist on producing 'perfect' pieces of work."

It is for this reason that mum-of-two Claire has begun to question which art she should be keeping – the ones she and her husband think look good because they most resemble something, but which have needed a lot of assistance, or the ones her three-year-old daughter is most proud of, and which are definitely all her own doing – "currently scraps of paper covered with 'diamonds' and all sorts of bling".

As she points out, if teachers or parents are ever unsure as to who has done the work, you can always rely on the honesty of a child. She laughs as she recalls a conversation she had with one of the children at her daughter's nursery as she admired her Easter bonnet.

"I told her how beautiful it looked. She said 'yes, my grandma is very clever'. I replied, 'Oh, did she help you to make it?' Her response: 'No she did it all by herself'! Children are so honest, it's probably quite easy to determine those who are 'working alongside the parents' and gaining from the experience and those who are not."

As Bex concludes, "There is absolutely no point in children taking part in arts and crafts if they're not allowed to experience the process in their own individual way. Obviously, we can guide them and teach them new techniques and new skills, but unless they have the opportunity to put these new skills into practise, in their own independent learning, then we're not actually teaching them anything and they will not have gained anything from the experience.

"And as for pushy parents?" she says. "They can shove off!"