Refuse. Resist. Rebuild.
The Facebookiverse is filled with images of hand prints and foot prints. It started way back in early November 2014 and continued all the way up until Christmas. 2 months, 8 weeks of hand and foot craft disease.
I have seen this first hand: the production line of seasonal craft. The adult sits at the table with a child’s hand in theirs. They dip the child’s hand onto the sponge soaked with festive appropriate coloured paint in the tray. The adult then stamps the child’s hand onto the paper or whatever surface is to be decorated. The child is passed to another adult, who holds their wrist in their hand, and they more or less drag the child to the bathroom, being careful not to contaminate the learning environment with wayward handprints or drips. The adult then washes the painted hands clean, being careful not to leave paint on the tiles, the tap ware or the sink. The adults repeat the process over and over with each child in the group. Paint, stamp, wash. Paint, stamp, wash. Paint, stamp, wash. Paint, stamp, wash….
Usually the adults add to the hand prints to create a product other than a hand print. A few adult painted lines for antlers or a circle stamp for a nose to create a reindeer or the some other Pinterest sourced favourite. Then there were the foot print stamps to make an adult abstract product of a North American tradition using mistletoe, which looks to me like a child has been strung up by their ankles with string tied in a sweet little bow. To be honest, I think it is more than a little bit creepy.
I just don’t think using children as human stamps so that educators can adulterate them by cutting them out and adding bits and pieces to them is a worthwhile venture. It is not craft for children. The adult is the one doing the crafting not the child, certainly not the children in the nursery rooms. And there have been plenty of shares of nursery craft.
What do we do ourselves at home? Do we paint our family members and stamp them on paper? Well I certainly don’t. We may decorate our entire homes or we may not. When celebrating, we generally share food and spend time together with those people who matter the most to us: family and/or friends. There may or may not be gift giving. Each family’s unique way of celebrating may not look like their neighbours. Why not do what we do at home? Why not celebrate any significant day as we would with our family and friends? Why do we feel obligated to cutesy it up and create a product to give to parents?
Children are not tools to be used for adult pursuits, and structured craft is an adult pursuit.
Just because a child says ‘yes’ doesn’t make it right.
Would you paint the hands of your colleagues and use them for craft activities? Would you use the parents? Can you picture yourself taking off a parent’s shoes (even with permission), painting those feet and then using them to stamp onto paper? No? Then why are you doing it to children? Children are people – vulnerable people who need us to be strong advocates for their rights and their bodies. Using their bodies as a tool that is manipulated by an adult (which let’s face it, is what is being done) isn’t respectful.
Would you paint the child’s bottom and stamp that upon some paper? Their face? Their genitals. Yes, I am getting extreme. But a child’s body, is a child’s body regardless of which part you are using. If we are using a child – for ANYTHING – we are using them. Children should not be used.
There is some argument that this is educational. That the child is learning about art, the texture of the paint, following directions, developing their sensory awareness, participating in a cultural event, learning about gift giving etc. But honestly, I don’t see it. I see more learning in a child doing a painting or drawing without any adult involvement whatsoever.
In regards to the argument that this supports children to feel like they belong to the community: the impression that their body part leaves is not who they are as a person. I have a shadow. We all do. The shadow my body leaves upon the ground is not me. It doesn’t help me to feel a sense of belonging to the footpath, the road or the earth. Casting my shadow in Richmond doesn’t mean I feel a sense of belonging in Richmond. It is simply an impression of my physical body in space and time. I am not my shadow. I am not my fingerprint. I am a complex being made up of many moments, elements, thoughts, feelings, and parts, as are children.
We should acknowledge children for the unique young person they are, not the impression that their body part leaves when slathered in paint and stamped upon a surface.
I beg you, remove the child’s body parts from the paint and walk away …
I don’t see art. I don’t see craft. I merely see an adult using a child to create a product that the adult then further manipulates into something to be given to parents. They are a parent pleaser, nothing more.
Decades ago I once used children as human stamps. I won’t lie to you. I used their handprints to decorate magazine boxes to display information. I haven’t since felt the desire to use children as stamps.
Cultural events and days of significance are becoming ridiculous. I feel this way when I see any day celebrated with ‘cute’ adult designed and adult created craft. I feel very uncomfortable with these handprints. Why?
It feels to me that we are teaching children that it is ok for them, for their bodies to be used by adults. And that honestly makes me feel sick to my stomach. Just because a child consents does not make it acceptable. We have power over children and we should exercise that power with the utmost respect at all times.
© Jeanne de Clisson 2015
Anarchy & the EYLF Pirates
Refuse, Resist, Rebuild