Ripping up the curriculum: Toddler-led graffiti practice

It wasn’t me; they started it. (I was always told to take responsibility for my actions, but they did, they started it.) Toddlers - they started it. They showed interest in stuff hanging in mid-air, and they liked to work with paint.

The hanging stuff was wobbly, so we used spray bottles.  It was hard to paint like that, so we hung the fabric and cardboard against vertical surfaces - and then pulled them off.  The toddlers kept spraying, painting, and ripping it all up like piñatas. I found safe paints and a way to make a transportable graffiti wall that could be used anywhere. It was up to the toddlers - after all, they started it.

They did start it - and I responded the best I could. This response happened in a growing dialogue with my friends and colleagues Emmy Fincham and Tran Templeton and eventually led to a panel presentation at the Reconceptualizing Early Childhood 2015 conference: Graffiti as metaphor for curriculum: Entering the nomadic space of the vandal-artist in a toddler classroom.

Where else but at a conference like RECE would we find the perfect venue for a paper on working with toddlers through the lens of graffiti?

Conference participants played with materials like the toddlers did, vaporizing conference room walls with watercolors, making marks with craypas, exploring fabrics hanging and dangling from above, ripping paper and fabric.

What we presented were not definitive answers or neat findings, but questions and ideas we've been grappling with, stemming from our work with the group of toddlers we share our days with. We continue to question our ideas, working to bring them to a publication that honors that nomadic space of thought.

This was my first RECE conference and Halloweeney Dublin was the perfect place for it - but I'm looking forward to a sunnier one in New Zealand next.