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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...