There’s nothing kids love more than running their fingers through sticky paint, kneading soft dough and shaking sparkles through glue. The Artful Child, located at 3036 Dundas West in the Junction, is a hands-on art program for children ages 2.5 to 5. Now owned and operated by Maria Wouk, The Artful Child was passed on to her by her mother, who ran it as the High Park Nursery School.
A small, narrow space, what strikes you immediately when you walk in the front door is the happy laughter of busy kids and the buttons, paint, clay, crayons and myriad of art projects on every surface. The Artful Child is an arts-focused drop-off centre that runs Monday to Friday from 9 to 11:30 a.m. and also has a Friday afternoon SK program from 1 to 3:30 p.m. Maria, whose own two boys are already grown up, runs the centre with a soothing voice, calm manner and an obvious love for the arts.
Education Through The Arts
Lunchboxes, coats and boots are neatly put away in the front space, which also has a shelf displaying some of the lovely jewellery Maria makes and sells. A painter with a degree from OCAD, Maria teaches children that their own creations can be even more special than the commercial products we parents tend to buy way too much of. The Artful Child uses the arts to develop children’s understanding of the foundations of education: numbers, letters, animals, colours, the body, the process of time and how things work together.
In the front room, there is a sand table, art tables, books, and dolls. The back room, large and spacious, holds even more art tables, a water table, easels, a piano, blocks, books and shelves upon shelves of art supplies. Crammed onto every surface are the children’s art projects: masks, molds, reindeer and crowns. The children get to watch firsthand how their handmade creations go from an idea to a gorgeous finished project that they can take pride in.
Though the day is scheduled around snack, music and movement (a piano lady even comes to play and sing with the kids once a week, and they use whatever art they have made to sing, dance and play), the children have a lot of freedom to choose what they would like to do. If they don’t feel like doing crafts, they can sit and read a book, rock a baby doll to sleep or build a giant fortress of blocks. The kids feel pleasure in learning, and the philosophy is clear: messy, creative fun.
Allowing the children to take the intiative and choose what they would like to do obviously works. Smiles, giggles and unbridled enthusiasm radiates out of the 16 children in the program. There are three teachers, including one with ECE training, and they are true artists. With the high cost of daycare and difficulty of finding a part-time space in a centre that parents are happy with, The Artful Child is a veritable hidden gem.
The Artful Child
3036 Dundas Street West, Toronto, 647-504-2119