Value your child’s work!

Have you you ever seen this happen?

Child exits school and is greeted by parent.

Child says “look what I did today” enthusiastically thrusting paper forward!

Parent squints at the picture in question and says “doesn’t look like much!!”.

I think you get the idea, right? When a young child first starts drawing or representing things on paper, it can often just look like a bunch of squiggles.

However, we MUST always remember that this is the child’s work. This could be something that took the child considerable effort and thought to make. How would you feel as an adult if someone looked at your work and, in no uncertain terms, told you it was rubbish? Well, we have to recognise it is exactly the same for young children.

Why does this situation happen so much? Well, in my opinion, it is quite a natural thing for an adult to want to take over or control something a child is doing. Adult’s like to impress their more developed notion of something onto a child. Some adult’s also have a fear that their children are under performing or such like. So, for these reasons, they don’t appreciate the work being shown to them and want to “improve” it.

So, the key message I want to give you is this. Please, please, value the work your child shows you and understand they are just developing their ability to represent things accurately. They need encouragement to keep doing this and continue developing their levels of expression.

So, how do we encourage our young children to develop their representations?

Well, the important thing is to make sure that the child has a wide experience of real life situations and examples beforehand. Maybe your child wants to draw a monkey, for example. We would take them to a zoo to see real monkeys, read books about monkeys or look at pictures of different types of monkeys. This would give the child a real life reference point to start with.

Then we let them at it! Give them paper, pen, paint or whatever they want to use.

We can guide them with some questioning:

“What part of the monkey is that?”

“What does this part of the monkey look like?”

“Do you think your monkey looks like the real one?”

Rather than instructing the child, you are encouraging them to think themselves about their drawing and how they could improve it. If you simply instruct a child what to do, there is no learning process there… thinking involved. They are simply following instructions.

If you use this technique over time, you will see a great improvement. What you will see would likely go like this:

  • A mess of scribbles!
  • A mass of scribbles, with some better defined features!
  • Less scribbles and mostly well defined features!
  • Scribbles no more! Recognisable drawings now exist and are well formed!
  • Drawings start to get finer and more detailed!

This is the journey your young child needs to take. Appreciate their work, whatever it looks like, and help them through the process!

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