Friday, August 6, 2010

Young at art


One of the greatest and easiest ways to help your children express themselves is through art
My eldest daughter, who is four and a half, has an obsession with paper.
It started when she was a baby tearing up magazines and newspapers with glee, but has turned into a daily “fix” where she must write or draw on something.
Only once has she ended up drawing on the wall which I might add (in case my landlord is reading) we were able to remove.
I have battled with her many times as she insists on drawing rainbows on every sheet of Reflex paper in my home office, instead of on the scrapbook I bought her, but it doesn’t stop there.
She has also got numerous colouring-in books, jumbo activity books, little notepads, loads of scrap paper and even a roll of butcher’s paper.
Yet, if I happen to start writing a shopping list, well, that’s where the next butterfly masterpiece has to go.

Her creations at preschool are treasured possessions, and if she happens to spot one of her doodles in the bin then all hell breaks loose.
I once picked her up from preschool and on the drive home she started screaming.
I thought she had been bitten by something, but it turned out we forgot to pick up her drawing.
So I drove back and got it, much to her relief, and the tears dried up immediately.
It might sound like I find her artistic obsession annoying, but I really love her tenacity and the expression in her artworks.
It’s one of the things she is really confident with, and I proudly display her drawings on the fridge and on the walls in my office (not to mention the overflowing folders of artwork in storage boxes).
Art has to be one of the greatest pleasures of childhood.
I don’t know of any child who doesn’t like to splash some paint around on a canvas, or draw their favourite animals, or practice writing their name.
Yet once we reach adolescence, picking up a paintbrush or crayon is the last thing on our minds (unless, of course, you choose to study art).
Art provides a medium for children to express their thoughts, feelings and fantasies.
Their drawings are a perception of the world around them, and it also helps children to broaden their imaginations, promotes creativity and thinking, and enriches the senses in a visual and tactile way.
Early exposure to visual art, music and theatre has been shown to improve activity in both sides of the brain, and help children understand other subjects (such as maths and geometry) more clearly. After all, some of the first things children draw are geometric shapes.
Through art, children can better understand science, languages, geography, other cultures, the environment and much more.
Art can also help children develop hand and eye co-ordination.
Art can engage children in a way that develops self-esteem, self-discipline, co-operation, self-motivation, problem-solving, communicating ideas and being inventive.
I have met the odd parent who thinks that doing arts and crafts with their children is too messy, hard to organise and not worth the effort.
But encouraging art in your home can actually improve family life.
Siblings are more likely to play together and they can be entertained by their activity for hours.
There are hundreds of websites with ideas on how to get kids into art and crafts, and plenty of printable colouring-in drawings, you just have to start looking.
I believe that teaching children about art helps prepare young minds for the future.
What is really amazing is just how much you can do with paper and pencil.
As well as her drawings, my daughter has made kites, puppets, bunting, fans, baskets, masks, hats, cards, papier mache, and much more.
And what’s important here is not the end creation, but doing the creation in the first place.
It doesn’t matter if a child can draw a flower or a car, or if they can colour in the lines, what matters is that they are learning through experience.
Parents may not be able to identify the objects drawn by their child, but they only have to say “tell me about your drawing” for the child to open up about their work letting you in to their world and how they think and feel.

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