Loris Malaguzzi, founder of the Reggio Emilia approach to learning, describes “infinite ways that children can express, explore and connect their thoughts, feelings and imaginings” These are the “hundred languages of children”.
Drawing is one of these languages, even before a child can hold a pencil or crayon they discover that they can make marks with their fingers and hands in materials such as sand, gloop and even their food. How can practitioners best support young children so that they can represent their emotions, actions, ideas and experiences through the medium of drawing?
One of the biggest stumbling blocks to spontaneous expressive drawing is the pressure that practitioners can feel to develop children’s mark making into meaningful writing at too early a stage before they are developmentally ready.
Spontaneous drawing is an important step on the way to this and must be valued and supported, as in itself it is an important part of cognitive development.
Ensure that children are provided with the space, time and resources for spontaneous drawing.
• Easily available resources with lots of choice with regard to the medium they can draw on; paper, whiteboards, chalkboards, card etc and the drawing resources crayons, chalks, pastels, pencils etc.
• Make the resources portable by providing tool boxes or belts so that drawing can take place anywhere inside and out.
• Encourage drawing at different levels – tables, floors, easels.
• Give permission and encouragement for spontaneous drawing. Value it in its own right not just as a filler between activities.
• Show genuine interest in children’s drawings, they can provide excellent opportunities to support communication and personal social and emotional development as you discuss the ideas and interests which the drawings show.
• Don’t guide children to draw in a particular way – it does not matter that the strawberries they draw are square and blue!
• Celebrate the children’s drawings by displaying them, sharing them with parents and encourage them to show you drawings they have done at home.