As adults, we often enjoy children’s artwork for not only the adorable inexperience it shows but the aesthetic qualities too. However, there are times when we want a lovely product instead of realizing the rich quality of the process a child went through to create whatever is on that piece of paper or however a sculpture may appear. In the early years of development, the artwork is not necessarily for aesthetic purposes, it is a complex investigation of colors, textures, shapes, and sizes. The artwork through its process is also very much a part of psychology in which the child is in the moment calming the brain, calming any anxieties, and recharging energy. Children take time naturally to process information and we see this often when children become quiet and push all other activity from their focus. They may not answer a question an adult or another child poses, because their brain is working hard at interpreting a large or small amount of new information. That new information could be a flower they saw on their way to school. That flower at first was a bud and now is in full bloom. The child has noticed the changes and these are not small changes to that child’s mind, they are huge and complex changes because that flower the child observed is life as it grows, develops over time. To an adult that flower may be insignificant, yet for the child that is part of a strong foundation for all future learning.
When children explore colors they are investigating mixing, creating and experimenting with a variety of combinations they can come up with. Sometimes they will have a plan in mind for what they are creating, but often times there is no plan because this is a truly kinesthetic/ tactile and cognitive process that does not need a plan. The process children go through with their investigations with artwork is not meant to be “something” unless that child wants it to represent a person, place or thing. And if a child chooses for their artwork to be representational know that what is represented will not stay the same. In one moment the painting above could be a house or a dog or nothing. As a teacher I will often ask questions like, “can you tell me about your painting?”, “Can we read your drawing?”, “Tell me more.”. If a child’s intent was for the painting or drawing to represent something they will elaborate and tell me what it is in that moment only to change it to something else in the next moment, which then leads them to storytelling or sharing a life event they experienced. In essence, an opportunity to discuss their artwork may simply open a door to connect with a child and the experiences they have in life. Communication, listening, speaking are all a part of a rich literacy foundation with artwork as the vehicle or catalyst.
Scribble to symbolic form is a natural and complex developmental process that should not be rushed. Children in their own time will shift to consistent symbolic form when their minds are ready. Please do not dismiss or belittle a child’s scribbles. Scribble form is what every single human being started with, you and I are no different than children today that scribble. This stage of development is a natural process that must be experienced in order for the child’s brain to aquire new information that allows them to move on to symbolic form. Symbolic form means that we, adults and children recognize the artwork as being “something”. That “something” will be flexible and fluid, not static. The child may choose to say it represents a face, a cat, a car etc. We must be respectful of the importance that this artistic work is not about the end product but rather the process or journey the child went through at they created this peice of work.
With a Reggio Emilia Inspired environment, I am able to integrate letters, numbers, shapes, textures, concepts and academic content into the emerging curriculum through the form of “play”. “Play” encompasses all the complexities of learning for young developing minds. I accept and respect all the work my students engage in. I do not rush them, I listen and observe how they interact with each other, individually and with the environment. Children come to school with a rich vocabulary base and a large platform of experience from their home life. What they’ve learned from their respective families is often times extended upon in class. Yet, that is not always the case for every child. Some children are able to limit the knowledge they share from their family. This means that some children have a mind that is internally driven to explore and learn new information or explore information that is the same, yet presented differently at school. Other children will share everything they experience at home and in the world at school. I look at this as natural boundaries children are expressing and I respect each child’s abilities and desires to share whatever amount they wish. Please respect the process and the complex journey of young minds as they grow.
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Heidi Scott is an experienced Master level Teacher
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