Welcome to the third AtoZ blogging series on the blog. The whole of this month, I am going to talk about the Things that really matter to Children.
A for The Art of Emphasizing Art for Children
When my son started using crayons and water colours, it was more a playtime than anything close to artwork though it took a while for me to get this point. I would teach him how to colour within the outlines of pictures in colouring books. Even though I didn’t force him to do, I had indirectly set a boundary to what he was to do with the colours. He would try, but when he happened to smear colours out of the way, it would build a sense of frustration in him. And one day, he asked me if he can forget about the outlines. There, at that moment, I realized the futility of colouring within outlines for little children – figuratively, the futility of a boundary in art and creativity for children!
Six years into the learning now, I see that it’s an art – how we emphasize art to children is an art!
At two years, children like to test what happens when they try to dab paint on the paper, on the wall, floor, books and their own bodies; they like to fill paint boxes with water; they like to colour the doll’s hair, the car wheels and the bedspreads; they like to scribble wherever possible, walls being their favourite; and they like to make colourful footprints and fingerprints anywhere and everywhere. What matters to children is the freedom to explore and experience the medium of art!
And they want to be allowed to do what they like to do while we may like to keep them away from creating mess, spoiling the bedspreads or wasting paint. Of course, it is not always easy to clean the mess, but if there’s one thing we can do to promote the love of arts in very young children, it is allowing them to do what really matters to them.
In the next stage of artistic development, after they are done exploring the medium of art, they begin to use art as a medium of expression. That’s when they try to give form to their thoughts and stories. Their coconuts can be squares, but still they are coconuts for them. What matters to them is that their coconuts are given a form and shape – some form and shape – and not necessarily the form and shape of real coconuts.
My son would often call me excitedly to show what he has drawn on the wall. And he would have his own stories in his creations. I bet you can’t locate in the picture below a women standing with an umbrella in the rain or a car zooming fast . But my little boy has drawn all that, in his wall art 😆
So, when he calls me to show what he has done, how I respond to him is another art I had picked up through the years. In the first few days, my common questions used to be, “Wow, what is this?” or “Is it a car?” Well, I was again only trying to emphasize that there must be a meaning in what he has done. However, it doesn’t matter to children if something sensible is attached to their expression every time. I began to understand that it is a better way to talk about the process of his creation than his creation itself. Asking, “Nice, so how did you do it?” helped to shift the focus to his work instead of his outcome.
In the next stage, by three years perhaps, their expressionism gets a defined clarity though it may not be close to reality.
When my son was three, we visited his friend who was of the same age. The other little guy drew a face on a paper. I mean, a real face! A circle with eyes, nose and mouth in it! And he declared it was he. I felt amazed. That was the first time I witnessed a young child drawing something meaningful. In the conversation that followed, I learned that the mother had been teaching him to draw a face.
On the way back from his place, I was thinking how right or wrong I was, in not teaching my son how to draw. My boy hadn’t yet then attempted to draw anything defined – not even circles. All along, I was waiting for the moment when he’ll make his first creation. And I strongly believed in not interfering with that process.
Six months later, one day, he came to me with this sketch. He said it was he, and in fact verbally labelled his parts on his work.
And this one, a couple of days later:
That was my first bold parenting experiment in arts for children! It wasn’t about what exactly he had drawn but the process of decoding an imaginary form to paper, that moved me.
Between four and six years, he began to connect to his innermost emotions through art. If he had a scary dream, he would draw it on paper. His collection of drawings became a tool for me to look into his deeper layers and his understanding about the world around him. Recently he had drawn a carrot tree and guess what, his carrots were hanging from the tree like mangoes 🙂 So, that gives me a clue of his perception of ‘carrot trees’.
Now as I watch my second little one exploring paint in her hands, I allow her to do what she likes to do. There are no boundaries for her and there will be no cross questions on her artwork!
Through all their growing-up stages, I also make sure that there is always a dedicated space at home for art. The art corner has their favourite and latest creations displayed. When there are guests at home, I usually take them to visit the art corner. I believe this gives children a feeling that art is an important component of home and that their little creations add value to the artistry of home.
Here are the first and the most recent art corners of our home:
Most often, we want our children to produce outcomes that are meaningful and convincing to the eyes of an adult. In the process, we sometimes ignore the development that happens within them in a way and pace of their own – a thing called creativity! Sadly, when this thing of creativity is budding, we nip it with our expectations and anxieties, and later rely on well-marketed products to ‘boost’ creativity.
Not interfering in their natural process of artistic development in children is just enough, for that is what really matters to children.
List of posts in the Series
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Header Image Courtesy – Firstcry