Child experts are increasingly concerned that technology is replacing physical activities in the lives of young children - children spend more time tapping away on computer keyboards, playing with pretend mobile phones and watching television than they do playing outdoors or doing craft and other traditional learning activities. Parents are becoming more lazy, preferring to sit children in front of a TV or a computer rather than interacting with them and undertaking physical games and activities.
Interacting with others is a vital component for children to develop properly. Traditional activities such as craft, drawing and doing puzzles, with an adult nearby, encourages fine motor skills and physical development, and language skills are learned by conversing with grown-ups. This is all bypassed by children sat passively in front of a TV or left to their own devices being entertained by computer games or pretend technology devices.
Even though parents today have less time to spend with their children than for previous generations, it seems that we are all too happy to spend that little time we do have separated from them while the children are expected to entertain themselves.
Spend a moment to reflect on your own lifestyle, and ask yourself whether you are dedicating enough time to your children?
Children can use drawing as a way of expressing feelings or emotions that they don't understand - drawing can reflect how they are feeling, or fears they might have However, don't worry that your child only draws in black or never puts hands on the people she draws because it doesn't necessarily mean they are unbalanced or unhappy. However, it is interesting to see how different children interpret things in different ways: both the instructions and the application of drawing can be very different between children of the same age who have been given the same instructions.
Here are a few pointers which may, or may not, reflect different traits in our children.
- If a picture is in the middle of the page, the child is happy, content or it could mean they are egotistical.
- If the picture is in the top half, they are ambitious.
- If the picture is in the bottom half, they child may be insecure.
- If the picture is towards the top left, they are musical or artistic.
- If its in the top right, they are eager.
- If features are missed out in a person, this may indicate mistrust.
- Children tend to draw what they love most: sibling, toys, fantasy world ie. fairies etc.
- Using a ruler frequently in a picture could mean anxiety.
- Lots of dark colours or black could mean sadness, anger or anxiety.
- If they coulour in with bright colours, they are warm and happy children.
- Pictures drawn very small could mean they are shy.
- If the hands are too big, this could indicate aggression.
- If there are no hands or small hands, this could mean they have an inferiority feeling.
However, don't worry too much and get too stuck on interpretation! If your child draws lots of circles it could be that's what they like to draw. If they draw people with their hands up that's not helplessness, it could be a cheer. If they keep drawing bees, it's not a hidden anxiety about insects, it could be just that they are fun, nice things to draw. If they draw lots of flowers, it doesn't mean they are optimistic, it could just be something their Mummy has shown them!
So, looking at and trying to interpret children's drawings is just an interesting exercise to see how your child draws differently to others... so don't read too much into it. And, after all, incoherent pictures don't mean confused or bewildered children, it could be that your child is just not good or practiced at drawing!
It may look like scribbles to us, but from a very early age, the marks that children make on a page are an important step towards learning to write and communicating; through their marks children are communicating their ideas, showing us how they feel and developing their imagination. They are also being creative - however messy or scribbly their picture or words look. Having lots of opportunities to make marks is fundamental and every child should have the chance to draw, scribble, make lines and pictures when ever they want.
From the moment a baby holds a crayon and makes their very first mark on a page, their journey towards writing has begun. But it needn't be a conventional pencil they write with first on a clean sheet of paper. There are all sorts of other ways to get babies and toddlers used to the idea of mark making.
By a year old, a child can grasp and reach for objects by choice and at this age it is good to introduce all sorts of media to their world in order for them to be confident when using different materials. They can grip objects with the palm of their hand, use a pincer movement with thumb and finger and point. So once they can do this, they can begin mark making using things other than pencils.
Babies start mark making by:
- Making patterns in food (using a spoon to squash mash potato and make lines and curves)
- Putting their fingers in spilled baked beans and making patterns with their finger (messy, but it's a start!)
- Smearing jam over their arm and making interesting marks
Early stages of writing:
- Holding a pencil or crayon in the palm of the hand
- Making lots of random marks on the paper (scribbles!)
- Holding crayons more securely
- Making specific marks
- Making circles that they draw closed (ie a round circle that joins up)
- Combining circles and lines
- Copying adult's drawings
- Making lines of zig-zags or little circles more like lines of writing
Although it is only scribbling, those early marks made by a toddlers are the first steps towards writing... and its a long journey. The best way is to encourage and praise at every stage - even when you are presented with a mass of scribbles and you are told its a giraffe! To the little ones its clearly a giraffe. To us, its a smudged, messy page of lines and circles. So, try and be enthusiastic and encourage at every step.
Beginning legible Writing
- The child then begins to copy letters from their name - the first letter is usually their first one to choose.
- They understand that drawing and writing is different
- They are aware that words communicate a message
- They then form symbols and letters that they recognise (favourite letters they know well)
- They become aware of the left to right nature of writing
- They then begin to want to "read" their words and other words
Beginning to write Words
- They then are able with practice to start writing their name with upper and lower case letters
- They write sentences
- They use upper case letter at the beginning of the sentence and add a full stop at the end
- Start using words in play such as writing a list or playing schools and writing lists of names
It may look like scribbles, but from a very early age, the marks that children make on a page are an important step towards learning to write and communicate. Through their marks children are communicating their ideas, showing us how they feel and developing their own imagination. They are also being creative no matter how messy or scribbly their picture or words look to us when they have finished.
Give your child regular opportunities to make marks, draw, scribble, make lines and create pictures - at home, in the garden, in the park, at the restaurant, in the car. There are lots of times you can settle them down to draw and write and keep themselves entertained at the same time!
From the moment a baby holds a crayon and makes their very first mark on a page, their journey towards writing had begun. It may not be a conventional pencil used to write on a clean sheet of paper, but there are all sorts of other ways to get babies and toddlers used to the idea of mark making. Here are a few ideas to begin with:
- Salt Tray: Sprinkle salt into a tray and let your child make swirls and lines and marks. Put some tools in there too so they can use those.
- Cornflakes: A tray of cornflakes makes a crunchy media to play with and make marks in. Listen to the noise as you crunch them and let them fall between your fingers.
- Flour: A tray of flour is great for mark making as the lines remain. When they want a clean tray to write in, just shake it flat. Or add water making it gooey and slimy. Great fun!
- Textured messy play: Add lentils, beads, pasta to wet flour and make it more textured.
- Finger paint: Draw pictures and make marks with finger paints.
- Sky write: Get children to make letters in the sky.
- Back writing: Draw shapes on a child's back and see if they can make it out.
- Sand tray: Draw a shape or letter in a tray of sand and get your child to trace over it. Shake the sand flat to start again.
- Chalk: Draw letters and patterns on a chalk board or pavement
- Pencils and crayons: Get lots of different and fun crayons and pencils for your child to experiment with. Each feels different and makes different marks.
- Paper: Get different types of paper, colours, textured, lined etc and have fun working with each sort.
It's so easy to say "I'm fine" when someone asks how you are and the same applies to children, but such a response often masks true feelings. Are young children really fine or are they actually a bit under the weather or even unhappy? What are their likes and dislikes? For little children it's hard to know if they are really happy or not - they may not know how to express themselves even if you ask them. However there are ways of exposing whether children are happy and one very good way is through drawing.
Children find drawing a good way of expressing themselves and for many children it's an easier way of communicating especially if they don't have the words to tell you exactly how they feel. You can also use a child's drawing as a way to start a conversation about feelings and whether they are happy or not. Here is a simple way to investigate how a little one may be feeling.
- Clear a table and give your child some paper, a pencil and some crayons
- Ask them to draw a picture about how they feel today; give them some pointers if they need, but try not to tell them what to draw
- Chat about the drawing and ask questions about it
- If they are still in the mood for doing a bit more, ask them to draw their happiest day ever; again, try to get them to use their own ideas
Compare the two drawings and look especially at:
- The size of the people and their expressions
- The size of the things they have drawn ie tiny house or large bold house?
- What colours have they used?
- What are the people doing?
- What's the weather?
There is no hard and fast explanation, but research tends to suggest that the figures will be boldly drawn and have happy faces if the child is feeling happy. Things or people that the child likes will be larger than those things they do not like. Activities the child likes will be larger and more detailed than those they don't like. They may choose their favourite colour for things and people they like and a less favourite colour for things or people they don't like. People drawn closely together tend to be the child's favourite people and less favoured people will be drawn further away.
Compare the pictures on different days and see if there are any dramatic differences. Keep the pictures and over time build up a real picture of your child's thoughts...
Chalks are inexpensive, safe for toddlers to handle and can be used for a variety of toddler craft ideas. Chalks come in a variety of vibrant colours and the fact that it is composed from solid particles makes it one of the few writing materials that works really well on black paper. You can create night pictures, stunning firework scenes and many other patterns and pictures on black and other dark coloured papers.
Chalk can be used to make rubbings, just like wax crayons. Find a textured surface, inside or out, such as a textured lino floor, a piece of wood, tree bark or patio stones. Lay a sheet of paper over your surface and rub across the texture. You will create an image of the texture on the paper. That in itself is fun, but you can go further and have your little ones use that as a background to draw another picture on top.
Chalks can be used safely outdoors to draw on patios or pavements. Make road layouts, games, obstacle tracks, mazes or other large scale pictures for your little ones to play with. It might look messy for a few days after, but the pictures will quickly disappear with a bit of rain.
Drawing is an activity that toddlers enjoy from an early age. During their early years, drawing is all about learning movement rather than creating representations on paper. Ask a toddler 'What is it?' and they may reply, 'A house' or 'It's Mummy', but they don't really have the concept of drawing to represent real world things. Instead of asking what they have drawn, ask about the colors, and praise them for the shapes. Toddlers enjoy the experience of freedom when they draw - of swirling their arm. At the early stages they don't have the control to start and stop a line at particular points. This comes with practice as they refine their fine motor skills - the ability to control small movements in their arms and hands. Drawing is a great learning tool for your toddler - it lays the foundation for writing letters and numbers, and for doing representational drawings as they grow older.