Five-year-old Jason, decided to draw and color a picture of flowers for his mother. Working at the kitchen table, he continued until he felt his picture was the best possible. When finished, he walked over to his mom with a big smile on his face and said, "Shut your eyes and hold out your hands. I made something beautiful for you!"
When his mother looked at the drawing, she asked, "Well…what is it?"
"They are flowers," replied Jason. Buttercups. Your favorite kind."
"Now Jason, I would never recognize this picture as buttercups. And you certainly know buttercups aren't red. Why don't you draw me another picture that really looks like buttercups? And this time, color them yellow--like they are suppose to be!"
Is it any wonder that Jason didn't want to draw or use crayons again? And he hated the color red.
* * * * * *
According to W.Lambert Brittain, author of Creativity, Art, and the Young Child, "The child's personality often shines through loud and clear when he or she draws or paints, for example, the little red-headed boy who drew red-haired boys in stripped T-shirts. No one doubted whom the drawings represented. Drawings by young children are typically egocentric." Brittain says that "Art activities not only reflect a child's inner self: they help form it."
The final form, the finished picture, the beautiful painting is not the goal of art for young children (Schwartz and Douglas, 1967). The goals of art for preschoolers is to:
1. Express their thinking, knowledge and ideas;
2. Explore, try out, and create with new and different kinds of media;
3. Experiment with colors, lines, forms, shapes, textures, and designs;
4. Express feelings and emotions;
5. Be creative.
Parents and teachers have many opportunities to help children develop mentally, socially and emotionally. Art promotes creativity, builds self-confidence, teaches task analysis and participate in group work as well as individuals.
Art Promotes Creativity
One of the goals for art education, whether in the home or school, is to make children more creative regardless of where their creativity will be used. Parents know that even siblings are highly individual. No two youngsters express themselves the same way. Creativity brings out the child's personality. Viktor Lowenfeld, in Creative and Mental Growth, says, "To suppress these individual differences, to emphasize the final product, to reward one youngster over another, goes against the basic premises of creative expression."
When parents view their child's artwork, they realize the creative process involved is of great value to the developing child. In other words, the process is more important than the product.
Parents may encourage their children to experiment with art products in the following ways:
· Avoid coloring-book-type line drawings or workbooks.
· Have faith in your child's art work and tell them so.
· Refrain from doing the work yourself, or offering too much help.
· Accept a child's creative products without placing a value judgment on the item.
· Make positive comments as to how the child solves a problem in relating to his work.
· State the confidence you have in the child to make the product unique.
Art Builds Self-Confidence
Parents who encourage the creative skills of pretending, imaginative thinking, fantasizing and inventiveness help their child deal with the world in which they live. And these skills will help in problem solving, getting along with others and understanding their world. When used in art and other areas, these skills build self-confidence--essential for now and for the future.
Answer the statements by "Always," "Seldom" or "Never."
· My child feels good about her art projects.
· Asking to "play" with the art materials is one of my child's favorite activities.
· My child thinks of different ways to use art materials.
· Our family has a special place to display our child's work.
· We encourage our child to share their products with the extended family and friends.
· We experiment with a wide variety of art mediums.
Art Teaches Task Analysis
What happens when adults are faced with an unfamiliar project--one that has several difficult parts and no prior experience? We either break it down into smaller, manageable sections--or give up. Children who do not understand this process often quit. Art is an area that teaches a task analysis. Learning how one begins a project, then continues to the end must be taught. Parents must realize this process as a learning experience and an important part of child development.
Guide a child to understand how a larger part can be broken down into smaller parts by asking:
1. What should we do first?
2. What comes next?
3. What is the last thing we will do to complete this project?
4. Can you think of a simpler way to perform this task?
Art Promotes Group and Individual Projects
One of the developmental task for young children is to help them grow from egocentric individuals into youngsters who can work and play cooperatively. Art projects allow an opportunity to work with others. In 1932 M.L. Parten identified a classifying system of play that continues to be used today. When children see "art" as "play" they move in the same parallel direction. For example, look at how using clay shows the stages of play. In adjacent play or social coactionpreschoolers may play or work near others but seldom come in contact. Children may sit near others, yet work on their own project. In associative play, they may borrow or lend clay to a child nearby. Then, there is the higher form of play known as cooperative play. In this form children really share ideas and work together on a project. Perhaps they make a collage from clay, use all the pieces to make a road, or create a design with everyone involved.
For some projects, individual art is best. Creativity cannot be commanded. It needs time. The creative act for most children includes four stages; (1) preparation or the necessary background experiences and skills; (2) incubation or when a person is thinking or going over it in their mind; (3) illumination or the moment of insight; (4) verification where the hunch is tested and refined (Leona E. Tyler, 1983).
Stages of Art Development
By understanding the developmental stages children progress through when drawing, you will be able to allow your child to express themselves spontaneously (Kellogg, 1969).
· Ages 2 -3--scribbling. All children, regardless of their culture, make the same markings, in the same way at approximately the same age.
· Ages 2-4--scribbles take shape and look like circles, ovals, squares, triangles and crosses.
· Ages 3-5--children begin to make designs from the shapes they have been drawing.
· Ages 4-5--designs take on the form of people
· Age 5-6--children are at the pictorial stage
When parents understand the various stages all children go through, they will know it’s the child's first step in the developmental process of learning to draw.
Sidebar: Materials List for Art Projects
Provide an interesting assortment of materials and the child's creativity will follow. Look for castoffs and throw-aways; check construction sites for small pieces of wood, metal tubing, copper wire suitable for three-dimensional art projects; and natural resources. Store small items in clear plastic shoeboxes for easy identification. Place on low shelves easily accessible for children.
Suggested materials include:
- Chalk (colored) and crayons
- Chenille stems
- Cotton balls
- Cupcake liners
- Egg cartons
- Egg shells, crushed
- Fabric swatches
- Felt tip markers
- Magazine and catalogs
- Modeling clay
- Paper (variety of colors and textures)
- Sand, salt, sawdust
- Seed pods
- Stamps and pad
- Straws (drinking)
- Styrofoam curls and pieces
- Tempera paint
- Tissue paper (colored)
- Wallpaper books
- Yarn and string
Creative art can't be saved for a specific time. It should be part of a child's day. Use some of the following ideas:
- String Painting--Dip short lengths of string into tempera. Place between a folded paper and pull.
- Crayon Resist--Make crayon drawing on paper by pressing down heavy with crayon. Wash over with thin tempera paint.
- Finger Painting--Use slick paper for project. Apply finger or whole hand approach.
- Straw Painting--Use slick paper, drops of paint and blow with straws for a design.
- Tissue Collage--Place pieces of torn tissue on a sheet of construction paper. Paint over with liquid starch. Allow to dry.
- Textured Painting--Add ingredients, such as crushed eggshells, sawdust, sand or coffee grinds and a small amount of glue to paint. Draw a simple design on paper. Sprinkle the mixture on the design and shake off the excess.
Sidebar: Recipes for Play Dough
- 2 cups white glue
- 1 3/4 cups liquid starch or cornstarch
- Few drops vegetable coloring
- Mix ingredients in a large bowl. Allow to firm before using.
Gelatin Play Dough
- 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
- 1/2 cup salt
- 2 pks. flavored gelatin
- 2 tablespoons alum
- 2 tablespoons cooking oil
- 2 cups boiling water
Mix flour, salt, gelatin and alum in a large bowl. Add oil to boiling water. Slowly stir in dry ingredients. Cook over low heat until firm. This play dough will keep a couple of weeks when refrigerated.
- 2 cups salt
- 2/3 cups water
- 1 cup cornstarch dissolved in 1/2 cup cold water
Heat salt and water in a saucepan until mixture comes to a boil. Add cornstarch and water, stirring quickly. Turn mixture onto a flat surface and knead with hands. A few drops of water may be needed to make mixture pliable. Use the salt ceramic to make a child's handprint, seasonal decoration or beads. Insert a toothpick in beads to form an opening for stringing. Allow to harden for two days. Paint if desired.
Brittain, W. Lambert (1979). Creativity, Art, and the Young Child.New York: Macmillan Publishing Co., Inc.
Kellogg, Rhonda (1969). Analyzing Children's Art. Palo Alto, CA: National Press.
Lowenfeld, Viktor (1957). Creative and Mental Growth (New York: Macmillan Publishing Co, Inc.
Schwartz, J.B., and Douglas, N.J. (1967). Increasing the Awareness of Art Ideas of Culturally Deprived Kindergarten Children Through Experiences With Ceramics. Final Report Project Number 6-8647 (Washington, D.C.: U.S. Department of Heath, Education and Welfare.
Tyler, Leona E. (1983). Thinking Creatively. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass. p. 200.
Kohl, MaryAnn R., Jean Potter, Ronni Roseman-Hall (Illustrator).Cooking Art: Easy Edible Art for Young Children. Gryphon House, 1997.
Mitchell, Cindy. Happy Hands and Feet. Incentive Publishers, 1989.
Carolyn R. Tomlin has taught public school kindergarten and early children education at Union University. She contributes to numerous education publications.