Performers and Characters


Project work with toddlers is fascinating. It is such a wonderful experience, similar but different from project work with preschoolers. During the Wheelock Curiosity Conference in Boston an educator asked me how I sustain project work with toddlers. I said that it is very similar to Preschool project work, but that you must view yourself as more of a researcher, uncovering where they want to go next in the project – rather than simply asking and discussing it explicitly with them (not that you can’t also do this with toddlers!). I am in the midst of doing so right now.

Before the performance group started, I decided to focus on the play I observed and decide if I thought the focus was musicinstruments or performing. I settled on performing. Now, I am noticing the focus narrowing to specific performers.

Yellow Submarine has been a class favorite for a long time. Wanting to maybe get a glimpse into what the underlying interest is, I brought the performance group to the studio to listen to various versions of the song while they had paper and sharpies to draw.


While their representational drawing skills are obviously not developed yet, it is more about the act. The phrase, “process not product” is even more important to hold on to when doing art with toddlers. While they primarily scribbled on the paper, they talked while they did so – giving me an idea of what they were thinking about this song.

Here is Ringo when he was little!

This (version) is even quieter. 

Let me get a present for Ringo. 

Me: What present would Ringo like?

The sun!

I made his beard. 

I made his mouth. 

I drew Ringo’s beard. 

I drew his present. 

His present WAS the beard. 

I made his arms. 

Here is his mouth. 

This Ringo!


While I shouldn’t have been surprised, I still found this experience helpful in framing my thinking about what the underlying interests are.

  • Musicians as characters.
    • Knowing the musician bonds us with their music.
  • Music as a connector.
    • Knowing your music makes me want to know you.
  • Becoming a musician, and who can be one.
    • They talked a lot about Ringo when he was little.
    • Are they wondering, “How did Ringo become a musician?”

With these new questions in mind we planned a library trip to get books about specific musicians or types of music where we could introduce new ones. The books we picked up are:

Charlie Parker Played Be Bop

Hip Hop Speaks to Children

Drum Girl Dream Girl

The Deaf Musicians.

I wanted to get a book about Pete Seeger, but they were all checked out. I plan to look for a few more books about specific musicians next time we make a trek out to the library.

Another way we plan on exploring the ideas of characters performing, is doing a collaborative studio with the Cooking Kids. We are going to project some clips of Julia Child’s cooking show, while offering clay and cooking utensils. I am curious if they will grasp on to Julia Child in their play as well, of if it is solely musicians they are interested in.

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