Art is a language, a visual dialogue of sorts.
"One picture is worth a thousand words," and "Beauty (art) is
in the eyes of the beholder" tells all. Ask ten people to
describe the same picture and get ten different descriptions
and opinions. A visual image is a springboard for a
discussion, a story, an inspirational moment or the opening
of an emotion.
Art projects together with a child and parent/teacher are
golden fields of opportunities for language enrichment. We
can talk one to one while drawing, cutting or gluing. We can
ask what his/her hand is doing, what the pencil/crayon is
doing. We ask about what direction he is holding the paper
(long or short, length or width) or simply about what is
going on in the picture. Together, we can choose the best
possible word from several choices to describe what we are
Better yet, we can ask, "What is the title of your (or any)
picture?" From here we lead into a discussion on the
contents. Non-judgmental is best, especially if the child is
sensitive. Non-threatening is important if the child is going
through a difficult time. Enthusiasm is a constant here
because what really matters is the child's self esteem. The
child will look to you for clues and responses to his
creative endeavors and his verbalizations. Be a mime and show
excitement, surprise and approval. If appropriate, show
concern or sadness as the visual image warrants. Sit close
together in a bubble of conversation. Let the child talk. Be
sensitive, observe, listen and smile. The child will show
something about himself.
A small child uses drawing as a tool for incorporating new
concepts into his mind's dictionary, whether it be spatial
arrangements, concepts of distance, direction, color,
pressure or symbolic images. His/her grasp of concepts is a
building block for stories and real life sensations and
experiences. Be creatively ignorant and work through primary
steps along with your child as if you were a child. He should
understand that everyone must think out the steps and outcome
of an art project. A mother must also go from step one to
step two! I like to let the child think he is doing a great
job and is a better artist and creative problem solver than I
am. I have nothing to lose and he has so much to gain.
To encourage your child's language development while doing
art projects together, be sure to acknowledge all his efforts
and look for ways to keep the project rolling ahead when you
come to an impasse. Give lots of affirmation and suggestions.
Try another material, another style or another subject. Find
a way to come to a completion. Accomplish this by finishing
the work of art and/or summing up the project and the time
spent together with an enthusiastic and positive closing
There has been much talk about coordinating the left and
right side functions of the brain. The right side
controls the creative potential (abstract, imagination,
introspection and intuition) and the left side, language and
analytical thinking. A well-balanced person is a blend of the
two forces. This is why art and language go well together. So
take advantage of your child's scribble or house, butterfly
and flower renditions. Talk about them. Don't forget the
opening line, "What is the title of your picture?" and let
little Dovi or Sorale take it from there.
Do the art activity together. Go back fifteen, twenty, thirty
or forty years and have a great time. No one is looking over
your shoulder except for your little companion who thinks you
are a great artist. So don't let on anything to the contrary
and go ahead and start from the beginning with scribbles,
line dots and butterflies. Do a shared activity.
Take turns, share materials and encourage your child to ask
for materials by name. Put out a small amount of paint or
clay or crayons slightly out of reach so he will have to
verbalize the request. Ask if he wants light yellow or dark
yellow. Ask if he wants large crayons or small ones. Ask if
he likes to press down hard on the paper or soft on the
paper. Ask if he wants to paint something that happened to
him today or what he would like his day to be like
Attract your child's interest in the artwork by exploring the
action behind the words. Identify the five senses: SOUND
(hear), TOUCH (feel), SMELL, TASTE and SIGHT (see). Enlarge
your child's field of visual perception by acknowledging the
overlapping relationship these words have to one another.
TOUCH: "I am making play dough." Or -- "The girl in my
drawing is baking a cake."
HEAR: Play music and let child paint to the tune. Or -- "I
hear the roar of the ocean waves in my beach landscape / the
birds chirping in the trees."
SMELL: Add five different fragrances to each of five colors.
Color by fragrance. Or, draw with three colors that match
three fruits. Let bubbles of speech call out names and
actions. Be enthusiastic about descriptions and novel
TASTE: Draw and eat. Put on the drawing table a variety of
fruits, i.e. strawberry, blueberry, banana, peach, plum,
grapes. Draw accordingly with emphasis on color, size and
shape. Describe what it must taste like. Eat each fruit after
drawing it. Reevaluate and describe its taste.
Next Week: Art Olympics of the Mind.
Devora Piha offers private consultation or group classes on
"How to Teach Art to Children" -- concepts, projects and
class plans to teachers, gannanot and parents, and
"Painting and Drawing" for women or groups, including groups
with special needs. Also, classes for children together with
mothers. Tel. 02-9920501 in Ramat Beit Shemesh.