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Part 3 of many.

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A child comes in to this world all geared up for survival. Think about it. Who taught this itty-bitty thing to latch on, to suck from the breast, to root, to paddle while in water, and imitate walking? All this within minutes after birth? The only explanation is new born brain is wired to handle certain reflexes. Few other things the newborn brain is designed to do is to communicate, to absorb language and to bond. These are the essential tools for survival.

If one looks at language development, music development and art development in children, it follows the same pattern. Language for example, children start with receiving language before they start talking. Talking comes in a certain order. They start with cooing, progress to babbling, figure out everything has a name and hence understand symbolism, start to say single words, move on to telegraphic speech and then comes the talking.

Children view art as a form of communication, especially in the first three years. They understand the concept of communication – thinking up something and expressing it to other people. Then they understand that communication can be using words or physical body movements like pointing gesturing etc or using paper and pencil/crayon. (The beauty about art as a tool for communication is that children use it to communicate to themselves at times. They think of a visual idea and many a times putting that visual on paper clears a lot of things for them) By this time they are masters in cause and effect, otherwise they wouldn’t know that pencil causes an impression on paper. They are developing hand-eye co-ordination and fine motor skills, otherwise they cannot manipulate the pencil to make marks on paper. We are talking about a 12month – 18month old child now.

Just like talking there are stages in drawing. Once there was a nice lady called Rhoda Kellogg. For 18 years she collected one million drawing sample of children in a certain age group. She researched the scribbles and concluded that

  • Children first explore the art material, euphemism for your child eating crayon or grinding pencil. Or like in our house, a person who shall not be named painting their younger sister’s freshly tonsure head with red paint. And another person who shall not be named allowing their older sister to paint her head but insisted and rolled on the floor crying that her face needs to be painted too.
  • Then they scribble. Children have 20 basic scribbles. Not all children use all the 20 scribbles, but they favor certain scribbles based on their intelligence style.
  • They extend their scribbles, like making X and something resembling shapes. Invariably all children draw the circle as their first enclosed space. Happy face and sun figure in most of the children’s drawings. Then they combine shapes and such. This is when they draw ‘the house’ with one triangle for roof and a rectangle/square for the bottom. Even though they live in apartments with flat roof, they draw A-line roofs in their drawings!!
  • Then they repeat and repeat and repeat, till they refine their style, placement, materials and they evolve their own individual style. By this time your child is six years give or take.

Are you blown away? Did your jaws will drop? Mine did when I first read about it :)

If one were to debate if art is nature or nurture, I would say both. When it comes to art, there are two things there is appreciation and there is creation. An artist is a person who has the ability to appreciate what she sees, figure out what makes the maximum impact on her, break it down in her brain in to simple elements and create it using a medium. The first part, appreciating what they see and capturing the main elements of the images that make the maximum impact on them comes naturally to young children (6 and under). Plus they are process oriented. Hence my belief that children are born artists (NATURE). As they grow up, they either grow in to people who create or grow out of art. This solely depends on their experiences with and exposure to art in the first six years (NURTURE).

So, should I run and sign up my two-year-old for art classes? What is art exposure? What do parents do to encourage and inspire their children? Will keep y’all posted. Before that indulge me in this survey pliss.

All posts from this series.

[tags]is art nature or nurture, Rhoda Kellog, patterns in children’s drawings, children use art to communicate[/tags]

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