By Adrienne Katz
So often children's imagination and creativity is subdued by the pressures of school, routine and the command, "Don't make a mess!" But you can let your child’s gift of fantasy flower, along with acute observation. Observation matters. This is the way your child becomes alert and aware of nuances, differences, shapes and patterns.
Calling this 'pre-maths' sounds deadly dull, but it is in fact the key to learning and scientific observation. If you add to this the enjoyment of swirls of colour, textures and shapes, there is nothing to beat art for releasing your child’s imagination. And neither you nor he has to be good at drawing to benefit.
Learning to see
Drawing, painting and modelling teach us to look closely at everyday objects. They force us to really see what we look at in a sharper etched way. When you try to draw a dog or cat, you have to suddenly think about what makes it distinguishable from other four legged creatures, how does its mouth actually look? Two year olds love just scribbling with fat, chunky non-toxic crayons. But soon they will draw stick people, and pointy houses. At three they will love making their mark on paper and will learn to write their version of their name.
- Try printing with four year olds and upwards. Paint a daisy, a leaf or a cauliflower floret and press it onto the page. Outlined before you is the structure of the object, seen in a new way. Feathers and other found objects become treasures for printing. Gift wrap for Xmas can be printed with a tree shape you have cut from card and glued to a wooden block. Print once in green and do a second print when dry, in silver or white.
- Take rubbings from manhole covers or the tiles on your kitchen floor by placing large sheets of paper over it and having the child rub over the surface with a large wax crayon or the wax sticks sold for brass rubbing. Like magic, up pops a pattern on the paper. Four and a half and upwards find this fun.
- Take foot and hand prints - pour powder paint mixed with washing up liquid and water onto a sponge. Have your three-year-old child step onto it and walk along a stretch of wallpaper lining paper.
- Old toothbrushes can be used for spatter painting, or drinking straws can be used to blow the paint about on the page and controlled by eight year olds. Cut stencils from card and let your five year old try and paint inside the cut out. Place a blob of paint on copy paper and fold in two. Your small child will learn about symmetry. Fold a page in four and cut a pattern with scissors. Unfold and place onto a sheet of another colour to see the pattern.
- Collage is easy and great fun. You can tear up old magazines, use sequins, glitter, silky or velvety ribbon, cotton wool or sandpaper. Milk bottle tops and corks all become something else when glued onto your child’s masterpiece.
- Modelling with clay (playdough) soothes tensions and calms kids who are fighting. Keep a mixture in a plastic bag in your fridge. Colour it with a few drops of food colouring and when it is kneaded streaks of colour will marble the dough. (Ages 2 ½ upwards)
To make playdough
Keep in a plastic tub in the fridge.
1 mug of cold water
1 mug of plain flour
½ mug salt
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
2 teaspoons cream of tartar (potassium hydrogen tartrate)
Mix all ingredients together and form a smooth paste. Place in saucepan and cook slowly until the dough forms a ball. Allow to cool and knead for a few minutes. If you add colouring at the kneading stage you will get marbled streaks through the dough rather than all over colour. Never roll out on newspaper – it dries it and absorbs print. Roll on shiny surfaces.
You will need to offer children a menu of possible things to do. They are never in the mood to do what you have decided that day. Keep big brushes, powder paint, blunt edged scissors and orange sticks (the nail cleaning variety) in a box called the art box.
- Always cover kids with men’s discarded shirts or take clothes off and use the outdoors.
- A roll of wallpaper lining paper yields lots and lots of blank cheap paper. Many children’s toy shops offer bundles of coloured sugar paper
- Cheap office copy paper is great too.
- Keep a few old fashioned clothes pegs to peg up paintings to dry.
- With young children use non-toxic paint or glue. Add a few drops of washing up liquid to powder paint as it makes it easier to wash both child and clothes afterwards. Have a regular place where you do these paintings and make it clear that painting the walls is punishable. Old newspapers or plastic sheeting covers the table or floor and fresh blank paper is laid on top of this.
- Jam jars hold water for dipping and old muffin baking tins are ideal for mixing the paint in.
*Adrienne Katz is author of What To Do With The Kids On a Rainy Day (St Martin’s Press)
*thanks to mumsnet