What's in the Box? A Look inside at-home Art Kits and Early Art Education

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What's in the Box? A Look inside at-home Art Kits and Early Art Education
Setterstrom, Danelle
Place of Publication:
Gainesville, FL
College of Fine Arts; University of Florida
Publication Date:
Physical Description:
Project in lieu of thesis

Thesis/Dissertation Information

Degree Grantor:
University of Florida
Committee Chair:
Kushins, Jodi
Committee Co-Chair:
Roland, Craig


Subjects / Keywords:
Art education ( jstor )
Arts ( jstor )
Boxes ( jstor )
Child psychology ( jstor )
Crafts ( jstor )
Crates ( jstor )
Creativity ( jstor )
Educational research ( jstor )
Kiwis ( jstor )
Parents ( jstor )


At-home art kits provide hands-on activities for young children; but, the question explored in this Capstone Project is “Do art-home art kits provide authentic art making experiences?” Research on the cognitive and creative benefits of early childhood art education support the basic idea of at-home art kits; they provide interesting themes, materials, and projects, for parents and children to experience together. This capstone paper describes the processes I followed to examine at-home art kits and early art education more closely. This research paper provides a case study of four different at-home art kits through five families’ experiences. I assessed each kit and compared them in relation to research on the cognitive and creative benefits of art education to support my findings. My findings and recommendations include guidelines for choosing a kit to best fit each family’s needs. This study culminated in an article to be submitted for publication in a national parenting magazine. The article offers a look at what some current at-home art kits entail and provides general criteria for choosing between them.
General Note:
Art Education terminal project

Record Information

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University of Florida Institutional Repository
Holding Location:
University of Florida
Rights Management:
Copyright Danelle Setterstrom. Permission granted to the University of Florida to digitize, archive and distribute this item for non-profit research and educational purposes. Any reuse of this item in excess of fair use or other copyright exemptions requires permission of the copyright holder.
Resource Identifier:
1039729432 ( OCLC )


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WHAT'S IN THE BOX? 2 ©2014 Danelle Setterstrom


WHAT'S IN THE BOX? 3 Acknowledgements First, I want to thank my amazing husband who supported me and encouraged me to go back to school. I also want to thank my two boys, who were my study buddies on many days when th ey really wanted mommy to play. I couldn't have done it without the love and support of my family. Last, I would like to thank my University of Florida professors, who taught and guided me through two a mazing years of art education. I would especially like to thank Dr. Jodi Kushins, who encouraged me to follow my passion , and pursue this study and capstone project.


WHAT'S IN THE BOX? 4 ABSTRACT OF CA PSTONE PROJECT PRESENTED TO THE COLLEGE OF FINE ARTS OF THE UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA IN PARTIAL FULFILLMENT OF THE REQUIREMENTS FOR THE DEGREE OF MASTER OF ARTS WHAT'S IN THE BOX? A LOOK INSIDE AT HOME ART KITS AND EARLY ART EDUCATION By Danelle Setterstro m Augu st 2014 Chair: Dr. Jodi Kushins Committee Member: Dr. Craig Roland Major: Art Education Abstract At home art kits provide hands on activities for youn g children; but, the question explored in this Capstone Project is "Do art home art kits provide au thentic art making experiences? " Research on the cognitive and creative benefits of early childhood art education support the basic idea of at home art kits ; they provid e interesting themes, materials, and projects, for parents and children to experience together. This capstone paper describes the process es I followed to examine at home art kits and early art education more closely. This research paper provides a case study of four different at home art kits through five families' experiences. I assessed each kit and compared them in relation to research on the cognitive and creative benefits of art education to support my findings. My findings and recommendations include guidelines for choosing a kit to best fit each family's needs. This study culminate d in a n article to be submitted for publication in


WHAT'S IN THE BOX? 5 a national parenting magazine. The article offers a look at what some current at home art kits entail and provides general criteria for choosing between them.


WHAT'S IN THE BOX? 6 Table of Contents What's In the Box? A L ook I nside A t Home A rt Kits and Early Art Eudcation .................. 1 ! UF Copyright Page ................................ ................................ ................................ ........................ 2 ! Acknowledgem ents ................................ ................................ ................................ ........................ 3 ! Abstract ................................ ................................ ................................ ................................ .......... 4 ! Table of Contents ................................ ................................ ................................ .......................... 6 ! My Artful Home ................................ ................................ ................................ ............................ 8 ! Statement of the Problem ................................ ................................ ................................ ............ 8 ! Goal s of the Study ................................ ................................ ................................ ....................... 9 ! Rationale and Significance of the Study ................................ ................................ .................... 10 ! Assumptions of This Study ................................ ................................ ................................ ........ 11 ! Limitations of Study ................................ ................................ ................................ .................. 11 ! Definiti on of Terms ................................ ................................ ................................ ................... 12 ! Supporting Literature ................................ ................................ ................................ ................. 13 ! Early Art Education and Creative Play ................................ ................................ ...................... 13 ! Cognitive Development and Supplemental Activities ................................ ............................... 14 ! Cashing In on Cognitive Development ................................ ................................ ..................... 15 ! Why Young Children Need Art ................................ ................................ ................................ . 16 ! Creating a Climate for Creativity ................................ ................................ .............................. 17 ! Parents Early Influence ................................ ................................ ................................ .............. 19 ! Meth odology ................................ ................................ ................................ ................................ 20 !


WHAT'S IN THE BOX? 7 Subjects ................................ ................................ ................................ ................................ ...... 21 ! Research Sites ................................ ................................ ................................ ............................ 22 ! Data Collection Procedures and Instrumentation ................................ ................................ ...... 23 ! Data Analysis Procedures ................................ ................................ ................................ .......... 25 ! Findin gs ................................ ................................ ................................ ................................ ........ 26 ! Art Verses Craft ................................ ................................ ................................ ......................... 27 ! At Home Art Kits, To Be Continued? ................................ ................................ ....................... 29 ! Confidence in Creating ................................ ................................ ................................ .............. 31 ! Summary Across all Findings Comparing Apples to Kiwis ................................ ................... 34 ! Discussion and Conclusion ................................ ................................ ................................ ......... 34 ! Interpretation of Findings ................................ ................................ ................................ .......... 35 ! Significance, Implications, and Recommendations ................................ ................................ ... 38 ! Conclusion ................................ ................................ ................................ ................................ .... 40 ! Appendices ................................ ................................ ................................ ................................ ... 45 ! Appendix A ................................ ................................ ................................ ................................ .. 45 ! Appendix B ................................ ................................ ................................ ................................ ... 46 ! Appendix C ................................ ................................ ................................ ................................ .. 48 ! Appendix D ................................ ................................ ................................ ................................ .. 51 ! List of Figures with Figure Captions ................................ ................................ ......................... 54 ! Author Biography ................................ ................................ ................................ ....................... 55 !


WHAT'S IN THE BOX? 8 My Artful Home Most evenings in my home are spent taping up drawings of monsters or aliens on the refrigerator, picking up colored pencils and crayons, and putting away scissors and construction paper. There is a small white wicker "art cart" which sits prominently in my dining room, where art supplies and half finished projects wait for to morrow. This inspirational hot spot is where my two ch ildren are free to rummage for " weapons of mass creation, " and to let their imaginations run free. The art cart requires frequent organization, inven tory counts and damage control, but this is a small price to pay when I see the outcomes it provides. As an art educator and mother of two young boys, I have taken on the personal and professional challenge of incorporat ing as much creative play into le arning at home as possible. Art educators understand the importance of art in the creative and cognitive growth of developing minds, and parents who value and support art are often looking for tools to supplement this at home. The importance of art in our home goes beyond coloring books and finger paintings on the refrigerator. While art making and creative play is always fun, I hope it goes beyond that. I hope the artful environment I try to create will instill problem solving skills, promote open ended thinking, and nurture a passion for life and learning that goes beyond what my boys learn in the ir traditional classrooms. Statement of the Problem There are many busy parents with little or no art experience , who wish to promote artful living in their own homes. Homeschool parents also look for art resources to use or supplement with their current art curriculum. While the I nternet offers endless activities and art projects to create at home, parents are often left with a list of materials to purchas e and a lack of confidence or knowledge about how to introduce and execute these projects. This study compare d and


WHAT'S IN THE BOX? 9 evaluate d four different at home art kits , and the experiences had by five families , which include d 11 children , ages 4 through 9 . At home art kits may offer one option to parents who are searching for a ready made addition to their art education at home. This study provides a look inside at home art kits, evaluat es their ability to provide authentic art making experiences, and culminates in an overview of recommendations of how they may be best used. Goals of the Study The goal of this study wa s to take a close r look at the creative content, educational integrity , and the lived experiences of the families resulting from the home exploratio n of each kit. Some a t home art kits claim to provide busy parents with all the materials and ideas n eeded for art education at home, but further exploration was needed. Another goal of this study was to assess at home art kits and their relationship wit h art verses craft and true art making experiences . But are these at home art kits authentic art making experiences, or do they only offer one size fits all cookie cutter crafts? Research Questions Throughout my study, I focused on three main questions that guided my research. They provided a framework to compare the kits, to structure the survey questions, and to organize and evaluate the experiences of the families. 1. What types of art experi ences do at home art kits provide? 2. Are at home art kits something parent's value as educational tools , and are they willing to make financial and time commitments they demand ? 3. How do the at home art kits compare to each other with regard to conte nt, supplies, and price ?


WHAT'S IN THE BOX? 10 Rationale and Significance of the Study This study is significant because there is very little information or research available a bout at home art kits. As a mother and art educator, I felt it was something that justified a deep er investigation . R ecent int erest and success of companies like Kiwi Crate, an at home art kit widely advertised on the Internet and to which I have been a subscriber to for almost a year , also supported the direction of my inquiry. While many mom bloggers have reviewed at hom e art kits like Kiwi Crate, Green Kids Crafts, and former Babaco Box, they only evaluate d them based on a very narrow and limited viewpoint. I felt it was necessary to look at the art educational artistic m erit of these products to find out what they were really about. See Appendix A for a chart I created based on all four at home art kits. I used criteria to evaluate them based on what I feel to be good art education in a box. Outside of the art edu cation world, there seems to be confusion or lack of concern when it comes to art making and how it is defined . I became more aware of this problem as I researched these kits. I became aware of the overall consumer's view point of how a rt for kids is really defi ned . I became increasingly convinced of the importance of this study as it continued because many parents don't see or understand that there is a difference between making a craft, and allowing your child to experience art play or creative play. Some pare nts need more assurance that their children are still learning and making art, even when the final product is not a recognizable product at all. Unfortunately, many at home art kits don't promote this same sentiment. When the final outcome becomes less of a goal, then the path you travel to get there becomes the reward . This study has produced a magazine article that address es this issue, and will help parents choose an at home art kit to best fit their own personal needs.


WHAT'S IN THE BOX? 11 Assumptions of This Study My assumptions heading into this study were mostly based on experience s I had with Kiwi Crate, an at home art kit I subscribe to, and have been receiving since July, 2013. My experience with this kit has been wide ranging and was my barometer for planning this project. One of my assumptions was that most at home art kits offer cookie cutter crafts , following step by step projects with pictures of finished examples, rather than meaningful art making opportunities . Children would simply put things together a s they were instructed . Another assumption would be that parents would enjoy the at home art kits, but not value them. Parents might feel they would be able to save money if they did the projects on their own. Many parents are looking to save money and I felt that monthly subscription type at home art kits would not be something they would not value. My final assumption was that children who participated in the study would enjoy making art with their parents. Some children didn't get to do many art pro jects at home, so my assumption is that they would appreciate spending time with their parents working with the at home art kits. Limitations of Study The first limitation of the study was finding at home art kit companies that were still in operation. F rom the time I began searching for companies to use, two of the four companies went out of business. Eye Can Art was a company that sold art kits in a can , and sent me one of their last cans before they closed. Babaco Box was another company that went th rough a huge transition during the s hort time this study was done. They stopped making at home art kits and transitioned into a reading club. I was able to find several other wonderful companies, but one only offered kits as a monthly subscription and didn't sell them on a separate basis.


WHAT'S IN THE BOX? 12 The second limitation of this study was availability of stores to purchase an at home art kit. I didn't want to limit the study to online monthly subscriptions only, so I include d one in store purchase also . I live in an area of Northern Illinois which does not offer many art and cr aft stores to shop for at home art kits. When I was able to make it to a larger city, I was only able to find one appropriate at home art kit, a painting set from Creatology . I wanted to be able to include one store purchase in my study, and this was all I could find that was aligned with the objectives of this study. Most in store kits were step by step crafts with pre determined final products . Definition of Terms Cognitive development . Cognitive development is the building of thought processes, inclu ding problem solving, decision making, and remembering. Areas of cognitive development include intelligence, language development, memory, and reasoning (Berk, 2001) . Jean Piaget was the forefather of cognitive development and research of the evolving human bra in. Piaget was a Swiss theorist who believed that children moved through four stages of cognitive development from birth to adolescence. He also believed that babies and toddlers think with their eyes, hands, ears , and o ther sensorimotor tools. Piaget believed psychological structures or the ways a child will organize and makes sense of experiences change with age. Piaget referred to these psychological structures as schemes. His theory was based on two processes that cr eate changes in schemes, organization , and adaptation (Berk, 2001) . C reative play . Creative play is defined as open ended exploration, or free play. Powers (2011) suggests the main phases of the creative process are problem finding, ideation, and evaluation. As a child explores and uses their imagination without adult directive, the y begin to learn the process of finding a problem, and thinking about how to address it . A child will often


WHAT'S IN THE BOX? 13 evaluate their choices and often ex periment with other solutions. Creative play makes this process fun with less structure and more freedom to exp lore with unexpected outcomes. T here is a fine line between making art and creative play, with the difference lying in the purpose and goals of the activity . Process art . Process art focuses on exploration and discovery verses a final resulting produc t. For children, the greatest benefit of art exploration is in the experimentation and learning about materials. Process art is a term that describes the action, versus the creation of a final product. It's not until children grow older, that they ar e a ble to see that the product i s part of the process (Kohl, 2013) . Supporting Literature E arly Art E ducation and Creative P lay At home art and craft kits provide opportunities for parents and children to experience creative play and art exploration together . There is little or no research available on these at home art kits, but there is substantial research which shows the benefits of early art education, training, and art play on children birth to 5 years of age. This lit erature review will present research on the benefits of creative play for young children. All information and research gathered for this study demonstrate benefits of early focus on creative play and exposure to art and media exploration in children from birth to five years of age. Information from research on negative or adverse outcomes that occur when parents provide their children with creative outlets is not available, accessible, or it does not exist. Open ended art making and creative play at home, are very positive experiences parents can provide for children. Some authors such as Jean Van't Hul and David Elkind suggest letting children


WHAT'S IN THE BOX? 14 create without preconceived outcomes or expectations. This presents challenges to projects provided in the kits along with a parent's level of art making experience and creativity. There i s a great deal of research (Gazzaniga, 2008) that promotes early art education for children ages birth through five. These early years are crucial in making connections and creating important building blocks in the human brain . Fox and Berry (2013) provide insightful information from many leading scholars in the field of early childhood development. They argue that, "making art is a sensory exploration activity" (Fox & Berry, 2013, paragraph 4) . Fox and Berry (2013) go on to state the importance of touch and feel of media, and the importance of exploring materials. This is how children build upon knowledge of the objects in the world around them (Fox & Berry, 2013) . The information provided in thi s article raises questions with regard to the materials included in the art kits. Do the materials sent in the kits provide new sensory exploration, or will they be media that children have had previous experience with, such as colored pencils or markers? Most families have pencils, crayons and markers, so will the art kits offer more than these basic supplies, or recommendations for new ways to explore them? Cognitive Development and Supplemental A ctivities As stated by Sousa , art promotes cognitive development in the young brain. Sousa (2006) argues that the a rts are not just expressive and affective, but deeply cognitive. "They develop essential thinking tools Ð pattern recognition and development; mental represent ation of what is observed or imagined; symbolic, allegorical and metaphysical representations; careful observation of the world; and abstraction from complexity" (Sousa, 2006, p. 2) . Sousa goes on to address the benefits o f integrating art into other curriculum areas. As stated by Sousa, the most powerful effects of integrated arts education is that it causes both teachers and students to rethink the ways they view art and creates conditions that are ideal for learning (Sousa, 2006, p.


WHAT'S IN THE BOX? 15 6) . Another point to consider is how some of the at home art kits also integrate other subjects and investigate how they are integrated into creative learning. This is an essential component of the evaluatio n process. Diamond and Hopson (1998) note that researchers made incredible leaps during the 1990's in understanding children's brain development and how the brain grows. They also found new ways to nurture greater intelligence by understanding brain gro wth during some of its most active phases. Because of these studies, experts began to view the brain as a "dynamic organ that feeds on stimulation and experience and responds with the flourishing of branching intertwined neural forests" (Diamond & Hopson, 1998) . Early art and creative play can function in an important role by providing new sensory experiences that may benefit cognitive development in young children. The authors also acknowledge that certain entrepreneurs have used this idea to market gimmicks and formulas for increasing a child's brain development. Cashing In on Cognitive Development Baby Einstein is a company created by a mom in 1997 who wanted age appropriate video products for her new born baby that would share her love of art, music, language and poetry wi th her newborn baby daughter. As her company grew, product lines expanded to include DVDs, videos, music CDs, toys, and books. Up until 2006, the Baby Einstein Company website claimed products lines su ch as "Baby Einstein" and "Brainy Baby" were beneficial to babies' brain, and language development. Baby Einstein also promoted more screen time, a complete contradiction to the Academy of Pediatrics, which recommends none for children under two. The Cam paign for Commercial Free Childhood was one of the first to recognize these statements were unfounded and filed FTC complaints against Baby Einstein (Campaign For a Commercial Free Childhood, 2006) .


WHAT'S IN THE BOX? 16 In 2006 , a study was conducted by three researchers fr om the University of Washington, which attempted to debunk the Baby Einstein Empire . A total of 1 , 008 parents of children between the ages of 2 months to 24 months were surveyed by telephone and asked questions about their demographics, parent child interactions, and time spent watching educational type television , DVDs and videos. The results revealed negative findings, in that children who watched the Baby Einstein videos actually fell behind in language development (Zimmerman, Christakis, & Meltzoff, 2007) . In 2009, Disney, (who bought Baby Einstein), began offering refunds to angered parents who felt betrayed. In response to the survey, creators of Baby Einstein, Bill Clark and wife Julie Aig ner Clark filed a lawsuit and demanded the results of the study for closer investigation. They found the results to be deeply flawed and inaccurate. In the end, the university paid $175,000 to the couple to cover court costs (Auge, 2011) . This information is important to this study and the critique of the at home art kits, and to whether they are legitimate and provide real benefits. Why Young Children Need A rt Eisner ( 2002 ) highlights the importance of art and the bene fit it provides to y oung children. His "10 Lessons the Arts Teach", has been an advocacy tool many art educators have often used and referred too when fighting to keep art in schools. Art teaches more than just how to make pretty things. Lessons such as c ommunication, problem solving, team work, interpretation, and how to see the world, are but a few of the roles art has in the education system (Eisner E. W., 1992) . Most states are funding schools less now than they were before the recession, six years ago, according to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities. Because schools rely heavily on state funding, these cuts are forcing schools to make difficult decisions. " More than two thirds of


WHAT'S IN THE BOX? 17 states Ñ 34 of the 48 states analyzed Ñ are providing less per student funding for K 12 education in the current 2014 fiscal year than they did in fiscal year 2008 " (Leachman & Mai, 2014) . As so many school districts are forced to cut programs, art is usually the first subject on the chopping block. Many schools lose their art programs, to the dismay of parents and students, alike. Examples such as Orangeville school district 203 in northern Illinois completely cut their art program and relied of volunteers to come in and donate time and materials. Parents and caregivers need to provide increased creative outlets, and the art kits may be a potential source for this. A finding that was not anticipated through this research process was art and empathy, and the connection to art education. While this doesn't directly impact the research on cognitive development, it does provide another reason parents and educators would incorporate art into a young child's education. As defined by J effers (2009), empathy allows one to identify with other individuals and groups. As young brains develop, art education provides an avenue that allows the integration of empathy, caring, cognitive growth and sociocultural awareness. Creating a Climate for Cre ativity In trying to find connections between creativity, creative play and cognitive development , Powers (2011) suggests that, " cognitive qualities of playfulness (such as fantasy, spontaneity, and ingenuity) are congruent with divergent thinking or idea tion (the generation of new ideas or concepts or of novel associations between existing ideas or concepts), which are widely accepted phases of the creative process" (p. 289) . Powers takes a closer look at pl ayfulness verses play as behavior, and the difference between the two. The importance of Power's article to the study of at home art kits is the idea that playful attitudes fostered at home through creative play can prompt flexible modes of cognition and , over a period of time , can promote a culture conducive to creative behavior (p. 291) . In regards to play, " playfulness, both directly and through playful


WHAT'S IN THE BOX? 18 behavior, can positively affect other emotional (as w ell as physical and cognitive) processes (Powers, 2011, p. 296) . Parents would find this information valuable when choosing the kit that best fits their needs , and th ose of their children. Developing a climate of creativity starts at home. Parents can't expect or rely on public schools to provide enough problem solving or creative thinking in their curriculum. At home art kits may be one tool parents may use to teach these skills at home. "Repeated investigation of and experimentation with art materials help to develop creative thinkers" (Van't Hul, 2013, p. 4) . The climate of creativity has changed significan tly over the last twenty years. Elkind (2007) warns against the overscheduled and hurried environments that many parents subject their children, which pushes them along the developmental cycle too quickly. Children have lost quiet time, and spend the most part of their day in planned activities. H e states that, children have lost twelve hours of free time a week, including eight hours of unstructured play and outdoor activities, which have been replaced with other structured activities like organized sports, watching television or playing video gam es. There are many benefits to creating an artful home, which aids in the creative and cognitive development of young c hildren. An artful home is one that is full of art, beauty, and creativity (Van't Hul, 2013) . Providing new experiences for children including science experiments, taking nature walks, baking together, and p retend play all can be considered artful. Van't Hul states the numerous benefits of artful living. Art promotes creativity and the ability to think outside the box and in new ways. The ability to think and be creative is vital to a child's success, and the well being of the world (Van't Hul, 2013) . When considering the importance of creative play and early art e ducation, it's important to consider one of the first pioneers of the field. Freidrich Froebel based his theories on the idea


WHAT'S IN THE BOX? 19 that children experience and learn through exploration, nature, and play. He had a holistic and religious foundation for learnin g, and felt all things were connected. He believed unity of the universe bet ween humans, nature and God was the basis for all learning (Strauch Nelson, 2012) . The word kindergarten can be transl ated into, "Garden of Children" , which Froebel believed children were. Up to this point, children stayed home until they reached an age that was appropriate for schooling. Froebel felt they needed a richer environment, where they could receive more focused education based on what he fe lt was developmentally suitable for children of that young age. He spent many years observing and studying young children and their learning habits, so his teaching philosophy was focused on the developmental needs of the youngest learners (Strauch Nelson, 2012) . Parents Early Influence The following research findings support the theory that early arts training influences cognition and brain development. Most parents would find significance and importance in providing their children with enriched experiences that may come from using one of the at home ar t kits. However, which art kit , if any, are t he most beneficial? In 2004, neuroscientists from seven universities were brought together by the Dana Arts and Cognition Consortium. The foundation for their discussion was the question of why arts' training has been associated with higher academic performance. They wanted to find out if "smart people" are simply drawn to make art, or if early arts training were the cause of changes in the brain that increase other aspects of cognition. Children between the ages of four and seven were studied. Different types of measurements were done on the brain, including MRI and electrodes on the scalp. These results demonstrated va rying brain engagement activity levels


WHAT'S IN THE BOX? 20 during leaning, and were able to show multiple art activities that were able to hold a child's attention (Gazzaniga, 2008) . Research conducted and reported a basic theory, in which intere st and training in the arts leads to improved general cognition. These events included interest in a subject which that led to higher motivation, and higher motivation led to sustained attention , and sustained attention in conflict related tasks improves cognition (Posner, Rothbart, Sheese, & Kieras, 2008) . The study supports the theory that when a child is interested in a subject, like art, they are more motivated and eager to learn. If parents value and support art, then at home art kits may be one possible tool used to encourage excitement in creative learning. At home art kits may b e a useful t ool . In conclusion, based on the information and research in this literature review, I feel there is substantial support that early art education and creative play benefits cognitive and creat ive development. These finding suggest p arents and children may benefit from exploring what at home art kits have to offer including making more art at home and thinking creatively . However, specific information on at home art kits which address the benefits to particular projects, media explor ed, and overall content of the kits still needs to be developed. This study began that process. Methodology For my capstone project, I conduct ed a descriptive research survey through case study. Through observation, field notes, interviews, and a post observation survey, I gat hered and compare d , critique d , and evaluate d each family's experience they had with an at home art kit . This descriptive research survey investigate d and explor e d five different families and their experiences with one of four at home art kits. I used information gathered from these home


WHAT'S IN THE BOX? 21 visits, along with my own family's experiences, and my professional understanding of comprehensive art education , to gain more u nderstanding of four different at home art kits. Subjects I observed families as they receive d and work ed with one of the at home art kits. To protect the privacy of the families, pseudo names have been used. The parents who participated in the study were all under forty years of age. They all live in or near German Valley, IL. None of the parents are artists, but all are creative and value and s upport the arts. All children who participated in the study att end the same school district. These f amilies are all middle class, and two live on farms. Three of the moms are working, and two stay at home, and all the fathers work full time. E leven children participated in the study, the ages of which ranged from three years o ld to nine years of age. There were four at home art kits involved in this study. Kiwi Crate and Green Kids Crafts are current monthly subscription type kits. Each month they offer a different theme and several projects with all the supplies needed to complete the enclosed project? The third is Eye Can Art, a company that provided art projects in a can. Their motto was, "we wi ll show you how to make art, not what art to make . " Unfortunately, the owners of this company regretted to inform me that they had gone out of business, as they were not able to make it financially sustainable. The fourth at home art kit was a n acrylic painting set by Creatology. It provided five pre printed canvases, one blank canvas, a set of acrylic paints, brushes, easel, a nd pal e t t e . Creatology is a large company providing art and craft supplies, and at home art kits available in stores nationwide like Michaels and Jo Ann Fabric and Craft.


WHAT'S IN THE BOX? 22 Research Sites The research for this study took place in the homes of the familie s who participated. Each family was contacted prior to the observation and instructed to have a clear workspace and to be ready to have fun. When I arrived at each site, I presented the family with a kit, and asked them to pretend they had just received it in the mail. Since three of the four kits were sent via mail service, I felt this was the most appropriate way to begin the observation. In each case study, the mother was the one presenting the at home art kit to the children and reading through the directions. The only exception to this was for the Creatology kit, which was store bought and my husband presented to my own two boys in our home. Figure 1. Example of Kiwi Crate and Green Kids Crafts as they ship to your doorstep.


WHAT'S IN THE BOX? 23 Data Collection Procedures and Instrumentation My case study explored e ach family's experience with their at home art kit . For the purpose of this study, the term "survey" will be a study that uses post observation questionnaires or interviews to discover des criptive characteristic of a particular event or phenomena (Reinard, 2001) . Each family who participated was only given one kit and was only observed one time. At every observation, the families' experiences were documente d with images and field notes. I spent approximat ely one hour with each family. After the kit was completed, I was able to interview and question both the parents and children who participated. Initially, I thought I might need to give the families some time to reflect, but they were ready to discuss after finishing their kit . Since the observations, I have followed up with all the participating families, and two have begun subscribing to Kiwi Crate, as they were very pleased with the kit and wanted to continue this artful activity with their children. During my observations, I took many pictures alon g with extensive notes of what was happening, reactions, discussions, project interest, and time spent on each project. I also conducted post observation questionnaires to gather further detailed information on their experiences, opinion of the projects, and contents of each kit . I used the same questions for each family, along with simplified questions for all the children. (The questionnaire is included in Appendix B ) Some of the questions used to create the questionnaire were inspired by Kiwi Crate. Each month, Kiwi Crate sends its subscribers a short online satisfaction survey . Other questions were based off of a list of criteria I created to evaluate each kit. ( For the list of criteria used , see Appendix C )


WHAT'S IN THE BOX? 24 During my visits, I kept track of th e time, and how much was spent on each activity. For example, during one observation it took approximately 25 minutes to complete one of the projects in the kit, the frog game. During the observation with the Eye Can Art kit, it took about 12 minutes to read the directions and set up, the collage and printmaking took about 40 minutes, and clean up 10 more. The post observation questionnaire was first given to the parent who participated. This information was gathered after the Kiwi Crate, Rainforest t heme kit. Some of the questions and responses from Andrea include: • How often do you and your children participate in creative play or art making activities at home? " About o nce a week. Wish we did more. " • Do you feel like the at home art kit was something you child enjoyed working with? " Y es, they loved it . " • Were the projects open ended enough, or did you feel it was necessary to complete per instructions or as the pictures illustrated? "Used the picture but let them do their own spin on it." • Were the instructions easy to follow? " Yes, the pictures helped a lot . " • What were your first impressions of the products packaging, inside and outside? "Looked interesting Ð nicely color coordinated. Very neat and professional . " • What were your thoughts on the projects or theme? "Pretty cool, not something we have ever talked about at home." • Were all the materials provided to complete the projects? " Yes , except scissors but we had them so it's alright."


WHAT'S IN THE BOX? 25 I also asked the children some questions after I was finished talking with their mom. Some of the questions and responses include: Name: Livi age: 5 • What was your favorite part about the art kit? " Ma king and playing the frog game." • Was there anything that was hard to do? " Pretty easy." Name: Ella age : 8 • What was your favorite part about the art kit? " Making everything." • Do you think you would make more projects like the ones you just did? "Yes, I want to make another game to play with my cousin." • Was there anything you didn't like? "No, I liked it all. It was all fun." Data Analysis Procedures During the course of the study, m y goal was to create simi lar experiences for each family. While it is impossible to avoid unforeseen variables , ( which seems particularly challenging when working with small children ), I did my best to provide the same basic scenario for each family . For each family, I was only an observer, offering little or no assistance or explanation with any of the kits . Creating (as close to possible) a real situation of a family receiving an at home art kit in the mail , and working through it without any help or assistance from myself, seemed to be the most productive way to conduct each observation. Prior to arriving, I explained what I was hoping to accomplish during my visit, and what my overall objective was in regards to my study. On arrival, I gave each family a brief outline of what would happen during the visit so they knew what to expect of me. All of the mothers who participated were comfortable and excited about being a part of the study.


WHAT'S IN THE BOX? 26 During the post activity interviews, I asked the parents to reflect on their own behaviors, and the behaviors of their children in r egard to the kits. When writing the questions for the survey, there are several things I considered , following (Reinard, 2001) : a.) Will the questions influence the participant s to show themselves in a good light? b.) To what extent could the question influence th e participant s to answer in way s they anticipate the researcher want s them to ? c.) Will the question be easy to answer? Will the participant know the answer? (Reinard, 2001, p. 227) Reinard explain s how to write good questions that will be fair and capture exactly what the researcher wants to know. It was challenging to get information I was looking for, without asking questions that might le a d the interviewe e to say what I wanted to hear, or limiti ng their responses with open or closed ended questions. According to Jackson (2009) , creating o pen ended questions allow for a greater variety of responses from participants but are difficult to statistically analyze . On the other hand, c losed ended questions are easier to analyze , but they seriously limit the responses you will get from participants (Jackson, 2009) . When I completed all of the observations, I compiled each family's field notes, questionnaires , and photographs. Using th is data, I began comparing each family's experiences with the art projects their kits provided. I looked at each kit's contents, instructions, and objectives, and then determined whether, in my opinion, it leaned towards being an open ended art making project, or a step by step crafting project. Then I evaluated the feedback from the children and the parents. Findings


WHAT'S IN THE BOX? 27 The goal of this study wa s to take a close r look at the creative /artistic content and art educational value of at home art kits , based on observations and comparisons of five families ' experiences with a selection of kits. Three central questions focused my research and gu ided me throughout this journey: What types of art experiences do at hom e art kits provide? Are the at home art kits something parents will value, and continue to use after the study is complete? And , how do the at home art kits compare to each other with regards to content, supplies, and price value? While these questions were the basis and foundation for this study, the findings were products of real life experiences and observations from the families who participated in this case study. Art Verses Craft When I began this study, I wanted to examine whether at home art kits offered authentic art making experiences or simply guided children through " cookie cutter crafts. " I found both to be true. I define art as an open ended activity that allows for freedom of choice and expression and has no single final pre determine d outcome. Whi le art and craft can both demonstrate c reativity, crafts conclude with predetermined outcomes that are achieved by following step s until the final product looks similar to the example provided in the instructions. Out of the four at home art kits used in this study, three were heavily craft based. They told you what to make, how to do it, and provided images of what the final product would look like. Kiwi Crate, Green Kids Crafts, and Creatology were all very structured step by step acti vities with pre determined outcomes. Eye Can Art, was the only at home art kit to offer directions on how to make, not what to make. Eye Can Art was also the only kit that didn't offer an overwhelmingly positive experience for the family that tes ted it . They felt the kit was confusing and the directions were


WHAT'S IN THE BOX? 28 hard to understand. This mom does not have an art background and the project provided in this at home art kit was a printmaking collage. She was very unsure about the process, and I had to provide her with an explanation before she began to feel comfortabl y prepared to help her children. This finding proved to be an interesting component of art making compared to the step by step process of crafting. Figure 2. Image of the Eye Can Art at home art kit can. The parents who participated in this study did not differentiate between art and craft. Their c hildren enjoyed making the projects in the kits , and most parents seemed to equate the act of using art supp lies t o be art. Some art is better th an none, but it's my belief the at home art kits typically are marketing and selling art education , when they are instead providing craft activities.


WHAT'S IN THE BOX? 29 While the kits may have present ed content as step by step craft s , the children found ways to convert them into art making opportunities. On several occasions, I observed children discovering new ways to use materials provided in the kits. O bserv ing children incorporating creative play and art making outside of the kit ' s pre determined projects, led me to believe they have potential to provide meaningful art making experiences. If children are able to think outside the box, and parents promote this kind of exploration, then the art home art kits are able to provide rich art experiences. Just as a sticks and a rocks may provide endless imaginative opportunities, so can the at home art kits as long as parents are able to let go of directions and embrace the freedom and creativity the kits may potentially offer. At Home A rt Kits, To Be Continue d? All of the parents involved in this study were impressed and pleased with what the at home art kits offered and provided in regards to creative activities. (See figure 3 for example of Kiwi Crate contents . ) They would not have purchased or attempted the projects unless they were provided as completely as they were in the at home art kits. In our location, there are limited sites to purchase quality art supplies. Because of this, two of the families who participate d in the study have since registered for Kiwi Crate. My family also participated in this study, and we have decided to cancel our subscription to Kiwi Crate and begin a subs cription to Green Kids Crafts. The at home art kits go beyond what artful activit ies most parents attempt to do with their children. The parents involved in this study valued what the kits provided and want to continue. The re was only one exception, the family who complete d the Eye Can kit. T his mom did not feel the instructions were clear . As a result, she experienced a lack of self confidence, which I feel was a factor in her final evaluation of her kit. During the post observation questionnaire, she


WHAT'S IN THE BOX? 30 stated, "I would not go out and buy something like this, especially for $29.00. I t wasn't anything we have ever done before but I think I would try to figure out a different way to do it." She did not feel the price justified what the product provided. I did, however, feel the quality of the materials and the printmaking project was something which provided true art education and found my boys really enjoyed this kit. All of the p arents also agreed that the at home are kits were something they would purchase as a gift for other children. One question on the questionnaire was based on this and showed again that parents value art and felt at home art kits were a much needed change from toys and electronics that are often considered first, as birthday or holiday gifts. T hey believed toys r arely hold their children's attention or foster creativity and exploration. Parents felt the at home art kits they received in this study were much more enga ging, and would offer more long term entertainment and creative play than most toys. They felt their child would enjoy receiving an at hom e art kit and more quality time would be spent together making the projects.


WHAT'S IN THE BOX? 31 Figure 3. Kiwi Crate Cityscapes Kit displaying two projects and the materials to make them. Confidence in Creating Parents need to feel confident and assured when working with at home art kits. Parents are ultimately the one s who will purchase the kits. They are also the ones who will sit down and help their children through the activities in the kits. While I feel freedom in creating is important for children, as a result of this study I better understand that parents who do not consider themselves artistic feel more comfortable knowing what the final product should be so they can guide and help their children in the proce ss. I feel this was an important factor in the negative experience of the mother who worked through the Eye Can kit . She didn't understand the collage project , or the printmaking process, and therefore didn't feel confident in helping or explaining it to her children. This led to an adverse opinion of the kit. This may explain why this


WHAT'S IN THE BOX? 32 company is no longer in business. If parents are unfamiliar with the art making process es used in a kit , they will be uncomfortable using it, which may cause them to value the product less and avoid purchas ing it again. Since most parents don't see a difference between arts and crafts, they are less concerned with originality than an art educator might be . All of the p arents who participated in the stu dy were constantly referring back to the provided example images, and were very careful to follow the directions. They needed assurance the ir children were making the projects correctly. Once they were finished, I was able to observe parents and children openly altering and experimenting with projects and concepts. The family that received the rain forest themed Kiwi Crate, provides an example. One of the projects was to make a pond, frogs, and a catapult, and then play a game of flinging the frogs into the pond. The girls completed the project, and played the game for a while. They soon began to discuss how they could make more frogs out of different materials, and alternative ways to make catapults. The girls began gathering supplies and making additional props and game pieces out of foun d materials around the house. This was exciting to see, and reassured me that the at home art kits did provide more than cookie cutter crafts, as long as parents were open to experimentation and creativity.


WHAT'S IN THE BOX? 33 Figure 4. Family making frogs as part of their Kiwi Crat e at home art kit observation. Another example happened with my own family. My husband bravely opened the Creatology painting kit, with acrylic pain ts, pal e t t e , brushes, canvas, and easel and proceeded to paint with our boys. He prefers using tempera or finger paints with the boys, but felt it would be fun to use acrylic paint on the pre printed canvas, which seemed to build confidence, and a safe place to start. They also were nice for young artists, offering clear objectives and fun images to paint like a racecar, airplane, and robot . While the kit provided pre printed coloring book style images on the canvas, my boys soon finished and proceeded to ask for blank canvas to begin new works of art. I feel the kit offered them confidence and excitement for the media , which is what encouraged them to continue their exploration of painting .


WHAT'S IN THE BOX? 34 Summary Across all Findings Comparing Apples to Kiwis A t home art kits have the potential to inspire meaningful art experience s but , unfortunately , most offer si mple cookie cutter crafts. There may be several reasons for this. Parents do value art and want to provide creative outlets for their children at home. However, they don't have time or knowled ge to provide this on their own. The at home art kits do provide a hassle free, and all inclusive tools to achieve this. But, n ot all at home art kits are created equal or provide the same experiences. Just as each family, child, and expectation is diffe rent, so are the kits and experiences I observed. With regard to the research questions and to the findings, I observed children further exploring with the materials they learned how to use, and additional discover y of materials and how they could be alt ered. Several of the children from this study went on to make their own unique artwork based on the ideas, and concepts they took away from the at home art kits. Because I was able to observe children using the at home art kits in alternative ways, and i ncorporating creative play and art making outside of the kit's pre determined projects, I feel comfortable saying they are able to offer true art making experiences. Discussion and Conclusion The goal of my research was to take a closer look into at home art kits, and the experiences of the families who used them. There is significant research that ascertains how early art education can play a positive role on cognitive development in children birth to age five. At home art kits may be one tool f or parents looking to incorporate creative play and art making into their child's primary learning experience s . I found that while the companies who sell at home art kits market them as art making tools, they seem to be heavily craft driven. Most project s are step by step cookie cutter crafts, with pre determined final outcomes, offering little


WHAT'S IN THE BOX? 35 art education . However, t he kits do offer potential for creativity and art making, by inviting users to build upon the skills and knowledge of media they provide . The kits also provide high quality art making materials for families who may have little access or time to find them. Even though three of the four at home art kits used in this study were craft focused, there are still benefits to following directions, concentration, and s tep by step procedures that these crafts provide. While this does not seem ideal in regard to formal art education, there are positive interpretations of these findings that have emerged from this study. Interpretation of Findings I feel art ( in relation to at home art kits ) should be an open ended activity that allows for freedom of choice, independence of expression , and should demand no final pre determined outcome. Art explores creativity, which I consider the process of thin king and then making. Craft, is a pre determined outcome that is achieved by following one step after anothe r until the final product looks similar to the example provided in the box. Little creativity is involved in making a craft, but concentration and direction following is key . While the kits do provide creative projects, I'm not confident they can be classified as art? As a mother, I see value in direction following and concentrating on a single task, as provided in the kits . My children love Kiwi Crate and the projects they create. They are proud of their work, and display them around the house. As an art educator, I find more be nefit and growth in process art and creative play , and not a pre determined final product . Out of the four at home art kits, Kiwi Crate stood out for several reasons. Each Kiwi Crate box is themed, coming with a booklet that includes stories, addit ional online activities, and adventures with their mascot, Kiwi Bird. All supplies needed to complete the projects are included. Each kit is considerably d ifferent, offering themes that can vary from farming to


WHAT'S IN THE BOX? 36 princesses, tropical rain forests to natio n al flags. While Kiwi Crate primarily produce d step by step cookie cutter crafts, there was something interesting that I observed happen many time s . What I observed was the exploration and continuation of creative play after the kit was complete . I witne ssed this with the family in this study who received Kiwi Crate and I experienced this many time s with my own children. Kiwi Crate, "held their attention, and kept them engaged , " reported the participant. She also said they have gone back to the Kiwi Crate and explored it more since our time together , and used the materials in new and creative ways. So, while Kiwi Crate does provide very structured crafts, they do promote creativity and imagination and inspire children to continue to create. The parents who participated in this study are similar to millions in the United States. They strive to provide the best education, and enriching experiences for their children as possible. While art is not the main focus within their educational hierarc hy, it is supported and valued. Two families decided that Kiwi Crate offered something they could not easily provide, and became subscribers to this monthly kit. My family also decided that Green Kids Crafts was something we valued and decided to subscri be throughout the summer and fall. We have also decided to take a break from Kiwi Crate, as I felt they were too crafts focused to fit our needs and interests. In my professional opinion , I feel Eye Can Art provided the richest art making experience, yet it didn't offer clear step by step directions which led to a negative experience from the family who used it for this study. It would be far too difficult to determine if this was a factor in the success of the company, but I believe it may have played a role in the challenges this company faced.


WHAT'S IN THE BOX? 37 Figure 5. My son, Dane, creating a page for his nature journal included in the Green Kids Crafts kit. Quality of materials was another important aspect of this study. The at home art kits used in this study all provided very high quality materials and art supplies. Children value nice art supplies, a long with organized and open work areas. If you provide a child with high quality paint, brushes, and canvas, it's amazin g to see how seriously they will take their work. Neat


WHAT'S IN THE BOX? 38 packaging, bright colors, clean design work, and ample materials were impressive qualities they all delivered. The struggle between the at home art kits offering too much direction and examples, an d not enough , is an issue that needs further investigation. Parents who participated all seemed very pleased with the directions, examples, and images the kits included. Because they did not consider themselves artists, they also did not have much confid ence in creating without clear objectives or final outcomes clearly defined. So, while directions and examples are not optimal for open ended art making, parents who help their children clearly appreciate directions and clear objectives. Significance, Implications, and Recommendations I believe that art and creative play are an integral part of growing and learning. As a mother and art educator, I recognize that the need to seek out and evaluate tools for this process is important. I believe the at h ome art kits can offer authentic art experiences , but only if parents are able to encourage their children to think " outside of the box " and take t he materials and concepts beyo nd what crafts the kits provide. Because of the data and research that support s the theory that early art education benefits creative and cognitive development, I believe that any art or creative play is better than none. Some kits also incorporate rich cross curricular learning, which incorporates creativity into subjects like science and geography. The at home art kits are one simple way to in clude more art practices into the home and provide new creative experiences for young children. The significance of this study to the fie ld of art education lies in where it is conceived, at home. By cultivating a love and appreciation for art in children, they learn to live a life full of the beauty and creative freedom that many seldom get to experience. Whether the at home art


WHAT'S IN THE BOX? 39 kits are found to be a valuable learning tool or not, the experiences that parents and children have while making and creating at home are priceless and irreplaceable. As a mother, I hope that my passion and love for art is contagious, and spreads from my children to their friends, and from their friends to their families. This study may also be of significance to home school curriculum develop ment and the parents who chose to provide their children with an art education at home. While there are many I nte rnet resources for art projects and lessons, parents may wish to explore the at home art kit as a possibility for young children. Parents need to carefully consider if at home art kits are able to provide their families with true art making experiences. Prior to this study, little research ha d been done to evaluate the artistic authenticity of at home art kits. Grounding this study in previous research on the benefits of early art education and creative play, has provided insight into the importance of e arly art experiences to young children. At home art kits are one mode of delivery. This study is significant for several reasons. First, it has provided a breakdown of several popular monthly subscription at home art kits. Second, it may help parents w ho want to incorporate art into their home , and a guideline for choosing an at home art kit to fit their needs. And third, this research may provide art educators insight into what parents consider art, what kind of art they want to provide their children at home, and how they value art at home. Lastly, art educators can use this information to assist parents and guide them to a better understanding of how they can create their own artful home. There is still more research to be done. Our culture has long been confused and has wrongly defined art education. The debate over art verses craft in relation to at home art kits is still an issue and stricter evaluation of kits needs to be done. How can companies like Eye Can Art provide re al art making for children that will be financially beneficial? Has Kiwi Crate


WHAT'S IN THE BOX? 40 discovered the magic equation that allows them to market craft as art, and parents don't know or care? Does it really matter as long as kids are being creative and spending ti me making verses watching television or playing video games? More research into the benefits o f early art education also needs to be done to prove that art is an important tool in cognitive development. Providing parents with proper tools to enhance lea rning through creative and art making experiences should be done with research based findings. By doing this, our culture may begin to place more value and support art beyond extracurricular or elective. Many parents don't know how to distinguish betwee n art and craft, so more information needs to be available. The benefits of open ended art making is also important and more information needs to be available in regards to this. Young children will often create without predetermined outcomes, and pare nts need to be accepting and welcoming when this happens. Not all works of art will look like something but in the eyes of a two year old, they may make perfect sense. Research provides information on the benefits of early art education on cognitive de velopment , but little information for parents on how to achieve this. I would like to do more research and develop programs specifically for stay at home moms and dads with young children. I would like this research to focus on birth through age 3, and w hat children at those ages would benefit most from. Conclusion I beli eve art and creative play are important and crucial element s in child development. This study has made me question what art is, how people view art education, and what is ultimately i mportant when incorporating art and creative experiences into your home. Parents with interest of creating their own artful home but who have little background or understanding


WHAT'S IN THE BOX? 41 of art need help in choosing the best tools to accomplish this worthy goal. T his study has also provided information I have used to write an article, that I will submit to several magazines for possible publication. In so doing, I hope to provide parents with information they can use to help them choose an at home art kit to best fit their family's needs. (See appendix D.) In a world where children are becoming more reliant on electronics and digital media, it's important that parents provi de hands on art and craft activities. Spending time making and creating between parent and child produces special moments t hat last a lifetime. Even the youngest learners can surprise us with their creativity and ability if we give them the chance.


WHAT'S IN THE BOX? 42 References Auge, K. (2011 ). Baby Einstein DVD creators find redemption in documents suggesting negative study was flawed . Retrieved from Denver Post Baby Einstein. (2006). Baby Einstein History. Retrieved from Campaign for a Commercial Free Childhood %20BE%20History.pdf Berk, L. (2001). Piaget's cognitive developmental t heory. Development through the l ifespan ( p. 148 149). Needham Heights: Allyn and Bacon. Campaign For a Commercial Free Childhood. (2006). CCFC files FTC complaint a gainst Baby Ein stein and Brainy Baby; Parents deserve honest information about baby v ideos. Retrieved from Campaign For a Commercial Free Childhood. ccfc files ftc complaint against baby einstein and brainy baby parents deserve honest information Diamond, M., & Hopson, J. (1998). Magic trees of the m ind: How to nurture your child's intelligence, creativity, and healthy emo tions from birth through adolescence. New York: Dutton. Eisner, E. (2002). The arts and the creation of m ind,. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press. Eisner, E. (199 2). The misunderstood role of the arts in human d evelopment. Phi Delta Kappan , 591 595. Elki nd, D. (2007). The power of play, learning what comes n aturally. Cambridge, MA: De Capo Press.


WHAT'S IN THE BOX? 43 Fox, J. E., & Berry, S. (2013). Art in early childhood: Curriculum c onnections. Retrieved from Early Childhood News hood/article_view.aspx?ArticleID=113 Gazzaniga, M. S. (2008). Learning, arts, and the b rain. New York, Washington D.C.: Dana Foundation. Retrieved 2013 . Jackson, S. L. (2009). Research methods and statistics: A critical thinking a proach. Belmont, CA: Wadsw orth. Jeffers, C. S. (2009). On empathy: The mirror neuron system and art e ducation. (L. Bersler, & M. M. Latta, Eds.) International Journal of Educaiton & the Arts, 10 (15), 1 15. Kohl, M. F. (2013). What is process a rt? Why is it creative? In J. Van't Hul, The Artful Parent (p. 15). Boston & London: Roost Books. Leachman , M., & Mai, C. (2014 ). Most states funding schools less than before the r ecession. Retrieved from Center fo r Budget and Policy Priorities http://cen Posner, M., Rothbart, M. K., Sheese, B. E., & Kieras, J. (2008). How arts training influences c ognition. University of Oregon. New York/Washington D.C.: Dana Press. Powers, P. (2011). Playing with ideas: The affective dynamics of creative p lay. American Journal of Play , 288 323. Retrieved from articles/3 3 article power playing with ideas.pdf Reinard, J. (2001). Introduction to communication r e search. New York: McGraw Hill. Sousa, D. A. (2006). How the arts develop the young b rain. The School Administrator, 63 (11). Retrieved from


WHAT'S IN THE BOX? 44 Strauch Nelson, W. (2012 ). Reuniting art and nature in th e life of a c hild. Art Educati on , 33 38. Van't Hul, J. (2013). The artful p arent. Boston & London: Roost Books. Zimmerman, F. J., Christakis, D. A., & Meltzoff, A. N. (2007 ). Associations between media viewing and language development in children under age 2 y ears. Journal of Pediatrics, 151 (4), 364 368.


WHAT'S IN THE BOX? 45 Appendices Appendix A Chart


WHAT'S IN THE BOX? 46 Appendix B Questionnaire Questionnaire used after observation of family and their experience with an at home art kit. Please answer the following questions based on your experiences. Name of the at home art kit you received: _____________________ On a scale from 1 (not at all) to 5 (very much/very likely) please answer the following questions. 1. How would you rate the overall interest your child had today while using the at home art kit? 2. How would you rate your child's interest in participating in creative activities at home? 3. Would you be likely to subscribe to a monthly at home art kit based on your experience with the at home art kit you received? 4. How like ly would you be to use an at home art kit instead of an internet website such as Pinterest for artful activities to make with your children? 5. How likely would you be to recommend or request an at home art kit as a gift for your child? 6. How likely would you be to purchase an at home art kit as a gift for another child? Please answer the following questions: 1. How often do you and your children participate in creative play or art making activities at home? 2. Do you feel like the at home art kit was something you child enjoyed working with? 3. Were the projects open ended enough, or did you feel it was necessary to complete per instructions or as the pictures illustrated? 4. Were the instructions easy to follow? 5. What were your first impressions of the products packa ging, inside and outside? 6. What were your thoughts on the projects or theme? 7. Were all the materials provided to complete the projects? 8. What was your impression of the quality of the materials? 9. Were the projects ages appropriate? 10. Were the projects appropriate for both boys and girls? 11. What would you change about the at home art kit? 12. What would you like to see more of? 13. Is the retail price of the kit appropriate for what it included and provided? 14. Do you feel it's cheaper and ea sier to do it yourself? 15. How likely would you be to do similar projects with your children if the materials and ideas were not readily available, and you had to seek them out and purchase separately? Additional Discussion or Remarks:


WHAT'S IN THE BOX? 47 Question s for children who participated: 1. What was your favorite part about the art kit? 2. Was there anything that was hard to do? 3. Do you think you would make more projects like the ones you just did? 4. Was there anything you didn't like? Additional Discussion or Rema rks:


WHAT'S IN THE BOX? 48 Appendix C Criteria for Evaluating At Home Art Kits What makes a good at home art kit? The following criteria are generated from answers collected from parents and children who received an at home art kit. Clear Instructions The at home art kit provided good instructions, but enco uraged experimentation and open ended projects. Children and parents felt more comfortable knowing what the final product should look like, especially when they had little artistic background. Parents f elt more confident in helping their children and asking them questions when they knew what the objective were. Promote Imagination Projects that promote imagination and play when completed. The children continued creative play after the projects were c omplete. Some of the at home art kits provided more than just a few minutes of entertainment. They stimulated curiosity and generated more questions which allowed for a deeper and more meaningful experience for the children and their parents. Quality Materials At home art kits that provide quality art materials and/or all the supplies needed to create the projects. Children value and like to use quality supplies. Many parents don't have the necessary materials on hand for many activities they find on line. The at home art kits provided the ideas, inspiration, and materials necessary to complete. The best kits were the ones that provided higher quality materials they may not find in local stores. Another bonus was extra or left over materials which c ould be used for further creative play or exploration.


WHAT'S IN THE BOX? 49 Value Good at home art kits provide a nice balance between price and plentiful materials and activities. Some parents felt the at home art kit did not offer the value for the amount of materials or projects they provided. Either they too expensive or parents f elt they could do it on their own using materials on hand, or the at home art kit they received didn't provide enough creativity or experimentation. Encouraged "Thinking and Making" One particular positive aspect of a specific at home art kit was its ability to foster creativity, or thinking and then making. The kit offered information on a topic, or a theme which inspired parents and child to open a dialogue of questions and discuss ion. The projects that were provided in the at home art kits then built upon that hook, and excitement. The children were able to engage in a more meaningful art making experience and were more likely to continue to experiment on their own with the conce pt and materials. Colors and Sounds One answer many children offered in regards to the at home art kits, and what they personally liked, was "colors and sounds". The younger children who participated in the study stated that they really liked painting, and like the colors. Other projects included in the at home art kits which made sounds were also high on the list of memorable activities. Children are drawn to colors and sounds, and love it when they get the chance to create something which falls into one of these categories. Cross Categorical Activities At home art kits that provide multiple learning opportunities or incorporate another subject, such as history or science, into a creative project are a bonus for many parents. When a child is able


WHAT'S IN THE BOX? 50 to m ake a connection through a creative activity or art making experience and then associate it with another field such as science or history, there are numerous benefits for the child. Non stereotypical Art Activities Many children have had experiences with crayons and markers, but the at home art kits which provided new art experiences were highly preferred. Some of the art making activities which children had little or no previous experience with were often their favorites because it was new and exciting. The children had a lot of fun experimenting with media they had never used before or used in a new way.


WHAT'S IN THE BOX? 51 Appendix D Article for Publication THINKING INSIDE THE BOX: CHOOSING AN AT HOME ART KIT THAT'S RIGHT FOR YOUR FAMILY By Danelle S etterstrom At home art kits have become an increasingly popular way to bring more art into the home . The kits are one way parents can promote creativity and imagination at home. From age birth to five years old, making new connections is crucial in cognitive developmen t and the addition of art and creative play can greatly benefit growing brains (Diamond & Hopson, 1998) . There are many companies that sell at home art kits. Some of these include Kiwi Crate, Green Kids Crafts and Creatology. Many kits provide interesting monthly themes that vary from rainforest and nature exploration, to geography and national flags. Finding the on e that best fits your needs and the interests of your child is important. Convenience is Key Companies like Kiwi Crate and Green Kids Crafts provid e a monthly subscription option that keeps the art coming without hassle. Each month, a new box will appea r at your front door with all the necessary supplies to begin your art or crafting experience. Busy moms or dads don't always have time to stop and shop for art materials, and at home art kits take the stress out of creating providing art projects at home. Clear Directions For parents with little art experience, clear directions and examples may be very important, if, there is a desired final product. Wasting materials can be very frustrating because


WHAT'S IN THE BOX? 52 the instructions are not clear. Images of finished pr ojects can also provide a framework for parents, and prevent confusion. Understanding the directions may also allow parent and child the freedom to modify, and to alter projects for multi tiered learning levels and ages. Parents should always be encourage d to break the rules, and experiment especially if they feel the instructions are too restricting. For children who prefer open ended art making, the kits may offer inspiration and new supplies that may open up an entirely new realm of creation. Thinking and Making When choosing an at home art kit, parents may want to consider how important open ended art making is, verses step by step crafts with pre determined final outcomes. Some children prefer the structure of directions and examples, while others favor open ended art making. Allowing children the freedom of creative play and exploration, without the pressure to simply duplicate is important. The project instructions included in the at home art kits do not need to be strictly adhered to, whi ch allows for more flexibility and freedom in creation. If parent and child accept the idea that the instructions are merely guidelines, then it may provide the child with a deeper art making experience beyond cookie cutter craft projects. Quality Mate rials The best at home art kits provide all the high quality materials one would need to complete the projects in the box. From scissors to paint, parent and child have everything needed to begin their art making adventure. Most children are quite famil iar with crayons, glue and markers, but many at home art kits provide new experiences with materials and projects children have never seen before. Even the most creative internet web projects can't compete with the materials and ideas provided in some of these all inclusive at home art kits. Some of the most unique and interesting at home art kits include printmaking, sculpture, collage, and


WHAT'S IN THE BOX? 53 painting . Children love and appreciate real art making materials they seldom get the chance to use. A small easel , canvas and nice paint brushes can truly inspire a young artist to create. When children feel like a real artist, they also begin to think like one. Having quality materials at their disposal generates creativity. Finding the Right Kit for You Parents need to do some research to find an at home art to fit the needs of their child and family. There are many kits currently on the market. If parents are interested in nature and eco friendly themed crafts, Green Kids Crafts may be one to try. They offer a subscription option that will ship a kit monthly, to your front door. For other parents who feel different themes each month may be more interesting, Kiwi Crate is another successful company to look into. Kiwi Crate also provides easy monthly subscripti ons for convenience. For parents who choose to buy off the shelf, Creatology brand sells many different all inclusive art kits. Regardless of the kit you may choose, spending time creating with your child is important. There is simple pleasure in makin g and discovering with your child, and true beauty lies within that. For more information on Kiwi Crate and Green Kids Crafts: References Diamond, M., & Hopson, J. (1998). Magic trees of the mind: How to nurture your child's intelligence, creativity, and healthy emotions from birth through adolescence. New York: Dutton.


WHAT'S IN THE BOX? 54 List of F igures with Figure C aptions Figure 1. Example of Kiwi Crate and Green Kids Crafts as they ship to your doorstep. Figure 2. Example of the Eye Can Art at home art kit can. Figure 3. Kiwi Crate Cityscapes Kit displaying two projects and the materials t o make them. Figure 4. Fami ly making frogs as part of their Kiwi Crate at home art kit observation. Figure 5. My son, Dane, creating a page for his nature journal included in the Green Kids Crafts kit.


WHAT'S IN THE BOX? 55 Author Biography Being raised in an artful home, I grew up with a love of making and creating before I even knew what art was. I have always been a maker, and hope to pass that along to my sons. I have been teaching secondary art at Freeport High School, in Freeport, IL. since 2007. While there are many challenges teaching art in a public high school, I love my students and couldn't imagine doing anything else. I have taught ceramics, sculpture, jewelry, design I and II, computer arts, photography, and AP Art. My cer amics class leads and I organize an annual Empty Bowls which has risen over $10,000 locally to fight food insecurity. I also began an annual Chalk Walk, which has grown in popularity over the last 7 years and students look forward to every spring. I ha ve my Bachelors of Art from Northern Illinois University and an Art Education teaching certificate from Old Dominion University. I enjoy pottery, running, camping and spending time with my family. I am a member of the NAEA and IAEA (Illinois Art Educat ors Association), and school sponsor of our chapter of the National Art Honor Society. I am also the district art instructional leader for K 12 art teachers. My husband and I also enjoy making pottery and alternative firing methods. We have been makin g raku pottery for 5 years and participate in several shows and festivals throughout the year.

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