by Rachelle Tannenbaum
Many people assume that art for preschoolers is largely a matter of coloring books and finger painting. But nothing could be farther from the truth. Art can actually be a very powerful tool to help children develop their creative sides as well as expressing their desires and emotions. This month, we are fortunate to welcome guest author Nancy McCamish, who will give some tips on how to make your child’s art experience a positive and rewarding one.
Nancy McCamish, MA, ATR, is a master's level registered Art Therapist with 15 years clinical experience working with children and their families. She uses the creative process of art-making to improve and enhance the physical, mental, and emotional well-being of children. Her background has included work in private practice, in-patient and out-patient settings, psychiatric institutions, and sexual abuse and domestic violence centers.
If you’d like to learn more about this topic, you may be interested in one of The Parenting Center’s newest courses, “Self-Expression Through Art for the Preschooler.” Details and registration information for this and all of our Fall courses are on our courses page We hope to see you soon!
SELF-EXPRESSION THROUGH ART FOR PRESCHOOLERS
by Nancy McCamish
Art-making has a potentially vital role in the education of our young children. As the child moves from one developmental stage to another his art work, too, provides a means of measuring growth. A drawing can provide us with an understanding of a child's emotional, intellectual, and physical development. When a child draws he is engaging in critical thinking and problem solving. Furthermore, when a child draws he is giving us more than a picture, he is giving us a part of himself: how he thinks, feels, and sees.
The Scribbling Stage
Art, for the adult, is usually concerned with the area of aesthetics. The mere thought of “scribbling” brings negative connotations. Yet for the child, the scribble is the beginning of self-expression. This stage takes place between 18 months and 4 years of age. The initial scribble picture is disordered. Later on, as the child gains visual and motor abilities, the scribble will take a more controlled effort. Finally, this stage will come to an end with the naming of the scribble: “Look Mommy, I drew a rocket.” The picture may not look like a rocket to the adult, and the child may change the name to a “snake” five minutes later, but this is perfectly normal. These early markings will relate directly to the written word—children are realizing, for the first time, that objects and ideas can be expressed through pictures. Without the opportunity to scribble freely the child may have difficulty learning to read and write. In addition, without the opportunity to draw and paint, children’s self-expression may become inhibited.
Our Role as Parents and Caretakers
Our role is to keep the creative process alive and to stimulate and nurture it. How we as parents and caretakers respond to children’s pictures is key to their future creative endeavors. A picture is an extension of the child. How we value this picture reflects how we value the child, with his own uniqueness and individuality. Ultimately, this will promote a healthy self-esteem that will help your child succeed in other areas of life.
Here are a few ways to freely encourage art expression for young children:
- Honor your child’s art work. Hang them up, use them for thank-you cards, put them in a journal. The pictures need not gather into overwhelmingly huge piles. Keep the special ones and quietly discard the others.
- Always have paper and drawing materials available so that your child can access them independently.
- Focus on the process of making art, not the final product. Whether it last just a few minutes or takes hours, it has its importance. The goal is for your child to enjoy the process and receive personal gratification.
- Explore the picture with your child. Ask him to tell you about it. If he doesn’t have an answer, you can simply comment on the color and energy. Is it exciting, strong and bold, or calm and peaceful?
- Draw with your child. Keep it simple by mirroring his or her style. No need to draw houses or people at this stage. Occasionally honor your own work by hanging it on the fridge!
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