Children’s Art (2)

8 Oct

Adults, parents and many teachers, often look at a child’s art and then ask the question “but what is it?” I once watched a little boy of two years draw a picture. It started out as an ordinary scribble – but it was not what this toddler was drawing that caught my attention, but what he was doing while drawing. Every now and then he would stop, look at his scribbles and then carefully add more circles. He suddenly changed his approach by taking a crayon and started to go over the already drawn lines while he made noises like a car. He ended this session by adding blue dots. He then put his crayon down and looked at his picture with great satisfaction and a wide smile on his face. To anyone looking at the picture it would have been a scribble like any other scribble. I, however, knew it was a planned picture and that although his language was not adequate he gave meaning to his scribble.

Once a child has named a scribble and an adult, parent or teacher, treated that moment with interest and respect, the true development of children’s art takes off. Between five and six years (sometimes earlier) children start to use the space on a piece of paper much more realistically. This is also the time where they can look at reality and give their interpretation of reality.

Look at some of these artworks by kindergarten children:

This is a very exciting phase because it is the start of the child’s ability to observe, to think and to put his thoughts on paper in a planned and creative way.  The success of this phase rests on the encouragement and acknowledgement of the emotionally important adults in the learning environment (teachers) with regard to the investigation of the previous phases.  If you allow the children to discover for themselves and you praise them for their investigation and discoveries, without letting it appear that you think they are wasting time and paper, they will reach the schematic phase and almost burst from their seams with creativity.

The characteristics of the schematic phase

  • Increased detail:  If the children are encouraged to observe and discuss their observations, you will be able to see how the use of detail in their artwork improves.
  • More realistic use of colour:  You will still see blue trees and an orange sky, but colour gradually becomes more realistic.  However, don’t think that a certain colour is a mistake and don’t comment about it.  Just applaud them!
  • Realistic improvement in the use of space:  Here and there the figures will still float, but most of the drawings are anchored to the boundaries of the paper. 
  • When children trust their own abilities you will notice that the space is utilised maximally.  Initially a drawing may be skew because the figure was started without considering the size of the paper.
  • Gradually the problem of space is solved.
  • By the end of the year or a bit later in the case of children with limited pre-experience, you will notice the beginning of baselines.  This is an important phase of development.  Baselines indicate that the child is slowly getting ready to organise drawings as well as to write on a line.
  • In the schematic phase you will also notice that each child develops his own scheme for feet and hands.  In the following picture of the human figure there is such a scheme.
  • Remember that boys’ development of art progresses a bit differently from that of girls.  This does not mean that they are behind, they are just different.

 I will write some more about children’s art in my next blog!

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