There is little emphasis in early childhood programs on “drawing”, however, drawing is so valuable in establishing habits that aid the whole process of learning.
Concentration is vital in every field of study, now and in the future. Drawing aids concentration and very young children who draw on a regular basis achieve long periods of concentration.
Children who are not active in recording their own experiences come to rely on the symbols of others. Drawing is an opportunity for children to meditate on what they have internalized, and express their individual “take on life”. The outcome is an untangling of the many impressions that flood their world. The realisation of what the impressions mean to them comes through their “work”. Their wonder and inquisitive nature finds an outlet.
The immersion of the spirit through drawing needs to be a continuous process and in this way the skill grows with them. Children will naturally draw if given the opportunity, but it is often not valued and takes second place to reading and writing.
Without the understanding of the value of the arts the process is spoilt and not developed. The scribbles they make are foundation building and important. When developed, it is a skill children can utilise in any field or profession later in life. It enables them to sketch a plan, construct an idea or record a moment. It is a wonderful opportunity to bring understanding to the child. When parents miss this important aspect of education they are denying the child a richer life.
COLOURING BOOKS VS ART AND IMAGINATION
Colouring-in books have rules, but there is no right or wrong way to draw. As children see the copied forms when colouring shapes they become imprinted in their memory and remain with them as being the ideal, approved by the teacher or parent. This influence inhibits the child’s own expression. The way lines are made impose restrictions in activity books but in drawing “line” has no such restriction.
Cartoons are often used to illustrate colouring books. These cartoons present stereotypes that can invade the child’s psyche and influence their style. They then pop up in their stories, their play and in their drawings and paintings.
Colouring in lacks the challenge to think creatively.
The cat he colours in becomes the symbol for all the cats he draws. The cat sits in a particular pose and the idea that the cat can also be depicted running, jumping or lying never occurs to him.
Stick Men – Of all the stereotypes, this is perhaps the worst.
The child quickly forsakes his own concept when introduced to the stick man.
Competition – There are few things more damaging to the development of children’s art than a competition.
It is in childhood that we form most of our beliefs. The mind of a child is open and susceptible to influence and suggestion. Unless parents monitor the content of what their child is watching or seeing, they are exposing him to the danger of being programmed by others. The program will dictate his future decisions and determine every outcome in his work and the way he presents it.
We enjoy the chatter of a child when he is talking about imaginary worlds. But when these fantasies are imposed on him they can reflect an unhealthy and disorderly mind. When it is a reflection of his own imagination it is a healthy step in overall development.
True imagination comes from direct contact with nature as seen in the minds of great artists, poets, and scientists.
The child certainly has a great imagination and it is delightful to see him use it. There is great scope to use it in his drawings and paintings, telling his own stories, in movement to music and in drama. Free play is an important part of childhood where we witness a flurry of invention. Watch a child looking at a beetle through a magnifying glass and see how absorbed he is by the experience. How excited he is when the seed he planted starts to appear as a seedling. Free play and contact with nature will keep him balanced and allow him to use his imagination in an original way.
His mental capacity is not limited by what he sees; he can picture things that are not directly visible. Children can imagine what happens in space and in the other countries. They can use this great gift of imagination as they learn about the world.
At this stage of life when the child is constructing himself, others should not direct the imagination. It should be stimulated by rich experiences in a natural environment, where there are many opportunities for inspiring thoughts to be followed up with a chance to express them in his own way.
In language, by describing what he experiences, in art as he expresses the experience, or in the way he brings these experiences to his play by himself or with others.
Imagination can be directed towards what is real, as he is inspired to find out more about what he notices in nature. The mind of a child is able to create new and exciting worlds. The imagination can flower of its own accord, beyond our own limits. Young children are busy orienting themselves in the world and this is challenging enough for them.
For children of this age fantasy stories can become a lot of nonsense and delay their sincere desire to find their way. Fantasy tales are better understood and enjoyed by older children. Children under 6 years can be confused and distracted by them. The big hairy monsters can terrify them. Their enquiry should be directed more to natural phenomena, such as volcanoes, the solar system, dinosaurs, insects, life cycles, maps, the study of animals and plants etc.
I have no doubt that you have seen your children delighted by cartoons and so you do not want to deny them the pleasure of watching them. But it is best in moderation. Young children need to use their hands and bodies to improve coordination, become orderly in their habits, begin to concentrate and improve their possibilities to adapt to life. Passively watching fantasy has little benefit when there are alternatives.
Recently I witnessed a 2.5 yo talking about the marks she put on the paper. They are symbols of a plane and daddy and people saying “goodbye”. The marks are definite and they vary in size and structure.
I even see a principle of design “repetition and variation” as a natural consequence of drawing on a regular basis. Another habit I noticed is that she returns to her own earlier drawings and notices that it is an earlier attempt, and she assesses what she sees. There is no attempt to add to the image but she sees that it is an earlier recording and she values it as such.
The pure engagement in drawing is often not permitted. It is often destroyed by offering guidance in “how to draw” and suggestions “what to draw”, dismissing the real value in allowing the child to express herself freely.
We mustn’t miss the opportunity of tapping in to a procedure that helps the child relate to the world.
As you start to draw with your child you may not be convinced of its value. He may not impress you with the marks and may not stay with the exercise for more than a minute. However, as you provide a favourable atmosphere for the drawing to flourish the sessions get longer and a good habit is established.
Let the child record what he sees and feels, from the time he is taking notice of the world around him. Form the habit of recording in pictures what you and the child experience every day.
A good way to start drawing is described in these previous blogs –