Never, ever draw for a child?

 

What was once a wise recommendation to support children’s drawing without drawing images for them seems to have gradually evolved into a powerful absolute with regrettable consequences for teaching practice. When I heard of a centre where this guideline has been extended to an instruction to ‘never, ever draw with, for, or near a child’, I was galvanised to explore why it is that I sometimes do draw with and even ‘for’ children, and why I instinctively feel that it is of value.

What are the perceived hazards of drawing with a child? Primarily, children will think that yours is ‘the right way’ and will slavishly imitate you, thus cramping their creative self-expression and motivation to discover for themselves.

Being creative in front of children

Should one then also not assemble a train track, sing, make mud pies, dance, or tell a story in front of a child in case they conclude that these are ‘the right ways’ to do those things? Will children therefore think their own efforts will not be good enough? How does one scaffold creativity? And what if Grand-dad doesn’t know these principles? What is the danger if younger children emulate older siblings and peers? What happens when a child receives five different impressions of how people sing, draw, work in the garden, use playdough and tell a particular story? Clearly children successfully cope with this, just as they are able to learn three languages before they are five, simply through exposure. Should we stop being creative because children are watching? I believe the reverse is desirable: that we should model (and advocate for) creativity. And challenge, as Simon Nicholson did when he proposed his theory of loose parts, the elitist mindset whereby ‘the vast majority of people’ have to leave creativity in music, painting, architecture, literature, and the sciences to the ‘creative gifted few’.

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Ripping paper with the flamingo family

The Flamingo Spring Festival Party ( a story to teach children how to rip paper)flamingo

One fine spring morning, Mummy Flamingo gathered her two daughters to her side and said,” Look! It’s an invitation to a spring party! ( Have a very pretty envelope and pull out a piece of paper as you start to tell the story! ) We need to make some beautiful clothes to wear. Oh my goodness what shall we wear?”.

(ask children for their ideas about what to wear to a party…. Accept every offer and add some spontaneous reason why they would love to wear that and what game or dance it might be an ideal outfit for ….)

Let’s see what the flamingo family decide to make. But hang on!  there was a problem! Although there was lots of lovely silk and satin fabric to make some feathery clothes out of, something was missing. What would WE  use to cut cloth with ? That’s right, we might use scissors, but they didn’t HAVE any scissors. They had their beaks and their…. What do flamingos have on their feet, do you think? (more…)

You know my name but you don’t know my story.

I posted this quote last night and today a long session of play at the play dough table made me realise just how true that is. By playing alongside the children and indicating to them that I was up for some play in which we could say that something was ‘whatever-we-liked’, so long as there was a passing resemblance, I started by wondering what two pink objects left over from earlier players could be..’Are they sad wizard hats? Are they limp pink carrots? Or are they collapsiP1040096ng pointy fingers?” The children agreed on hats, so after trying to make them stand up as happy wizard hats,  I took them both and mashed them together and made one solid wizard hat. Meanwhile the children were making other things and conversation sort of went around things that sagged or collapsed or broke…oh, yes, one boy, Richard, let’s call him, leaned over and broke one thin sad wizard hat in two. And it broke, which is why I made one out of two.

 

 

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And then it stood up like a little mountain and I pronounced that it was happy.I grabbed a piece of card and drew the mathematical equation : one thin sad wizard hat + one thin sad wizard hat = one fat happy wizard hat.( I am  blaming too much coffee!)

 

 

 

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