Archive for the ‘Child Development’ Category

Chick-eat-arian Anybody?

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We have interesting food profile in our house. I am a vegetarian and R eats poultry, mutton and seafood. What we have is a perfect example of an arranged marriage and a standing example of not every thing can be ‘arranged’. In my teens, I cleaned the meat my father bought home and that sealed the deal for me. My amma being a vegetarian herself, did not mind. After my marriage, R and I had to work out dietary preferences and now we have settled in to a pattern. While I am still a vegetarian, I cook chicken and egg few times a week at home. Seeing how much I wince at the smell of seafood, R has stopped eating seafood at home.

But the issue was being a vegetarian in USA (though I am lucky that I live in California :) and technically I must not crib…. ) where people do not comprehend the full meaning of vegetarian. While on the road the husband just says, “I will have number 2 please” and I have to say, “I will have number four, without X. But can you add Y and Z? And A on the side. I am a vegetarian. No meat, no egg, no seafood, no shrimp. No bacon bits. BTW, is the broth vegetarian too? Can you check? Thanks.”, fully knowing that I had lost the person taking order at ‘without X’. Sigh.

Places like Subway, where they have veggie sub, are equally bad. They have a system where they have their add ons in buckets in the order of cheese, meat, veggies, condiments. Even if the person making a Sub changes gloves every time he/she makes a Sub with meat, the person touches meat first and then continues to touch the veggies. And they use the same knife to slice everything. Even worse, in some Subways, the people outright refuse to change the gloves. While I am aware that if I am a vegetarian and also eat outside, I have make adjustments, it is the lack of awareness bothers me. If I thought ordering and awareness were an issue, I am facing the REAL issue after I had the girls.

First were the concerned relatives, who still refuse to believe that I can make decent chicken/egg/mutton dishes without checking for taste, this even after eating what I have cooked, started to throw questions at me right from the time Chula was six months old. Suddenly it was every one’s business. Both the girls did not like the texture of meat till they were three. Every time they spat out meat or egg, blaming eyes would be directed on me. I couldn’t help but laugh. Okay, I fumed a little, but now I find it funny.

Now the girls notice that I do not eat meat and there are hazar questions.

Chula: But why??

Me: I just told you why.

Chula: Am I a vegetarian?

Me: Well you eat chicken and egg and you enjoy eating it. So, no, you are not a vegetarian.

Chula: So am I non vegetarian? Do we eat hot dog, meat balls?

Me: No. You eat only chicken and egg. So if there is a celebration lunch at school and your teachers offer you pork or beef, you have to say no.

Chula: I want to be vegetarian.

Me: Ok. What is your favorite food in the whole world?

Chula: Chicken.

Me: So why do you want to be vegetarian? Just because you like me, you don’t have to copy me.

Chula: Ok, this one time I will eat this chicken and from tomorrow, I will be vegetarian.

Me: May be you can decide it after you are ten years old. How about that?

Chula: So what am I?

Me: Hmmm. You eat chicken and egg. So may be you are a Chick-eat-rian.

Presently we have decided on Chick-eat-rian.

PS: Mieja does not like to be defined by anything, least of all, her food. In fact she prefers to define her food as, “I like” and “I don’t like”. She refuses to waste time in questions related to food. Her recent occupation is, “So what happened before the big bang? How do you know that?”, “How old is the earth? How do you know that? Did you go for the birthday and count the candles?”, “How do you know that dirt has germs? Did you see that?”.

Same sex, same family, same parents, same environment, but different personality and styles of thinking.

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A Page From Our Lives

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Dear Mieja:

I have never written public blog letters to you and your sister. I had my reasons. Now, Mieja, this is my letter to you. My first public, blog letter to you. I have my reasons.

If I ever write your biography, the chapter that covers 3.5 years – 4 years of your life will certainly be titled HEART ACHE. To call the past six months as turbulent will be an understatement.

Your motto has always been Vini Vidi Vici – you came, you saw us all and you conquered us all with your laugh, love, expression and attitude. You make me laugh like there is no tomorrow. When I hug you, I feel this sense of contentment swell inside of me. You have multiple facets, all of which I enjoy. Heck, I enjoy even your ‘padagamani'( adamant and aggressive ) side. You have always gone by ‘naan oru mudivu pannital, appuram nane yen pechai ketka maten’ (Translates to: If I decide something, then I will not listen to me convincing myself to change my decision.) and in the past I have found it awfully cute. The thought that this child is my last child softens parents in many ways. It is an abstract feeling that  can only be experienced and cannot be explained.

Any thing goes is definitely not what flies in our house. Your appa and I believe that discipline is not a dirty word. We view it more as setting safe limits within which you and your akka can explore. It will be false to say that we do not have any expectations on you and your akka. Though the two of you are young, we do have expectations, age appropriate expectations on you both. We are not new, inexperienced parents any more. Tantrums neither scare us nor embarrass us. We are level headed to view it as mismatched expectations and  are willing to work through it.

Now, something happened. Or may be many things happened….. I am not sure, but I can only make educated guesses. May be you moved from what Dr.Montessori would call ‘just existing’ to ‘conscious existence’. May be you are trying to learn your limits by pushing our limits. May be you delicate digestive system is still in the process of maturing and you are suffering from the same lactose intolerance and acid reflux that made you scream in pain 24X7 the first two weeks after you were born. May be you are trying to define your niche in house and in school. May be you are trying to run with the top dogs too soon. May be you are competing with your sister. May be you are competing with your self. May be you found that by screaming you get my attention sooner that anything else and decided to take that short cut. May be you are feeling insecure…..

As a result of this, the past six months have been non stop crying and plain unhappiness – mostly for you. What shocked me was the rage, the anger that emanated from you and that you blamed me for your unhappiness. It was not just me, but your teachers also noticed it. What started as hugging my legs and refusing to say goodbye to me when I drop you off in your classroom, only worsened over the past three months. You regressed in certain areas I thought you had already mastered. Your teachers were surprised that you were having separation anxiety after being in same classroom, with the same teachers for the past two years.

We had a conference and discussed certain things that have been sending red flags right, left and center in my mind. Most of the red flags, your teachers said, were ‘preferences’. Strong, rigid and to some extent eccentric, but they did put my mind to ease by saying that there is no cognitive dissonance.

The real slap in the face came to me, when the head teacher of your classroom, the director of your school, a very patient, kind and nurturing soul called me aside and gave me ‘the note’. After an unhappy good bye in the morning, you were sitting with your teacher and she made conversation with you. After long probing you told her that you were MAD at me. Your teacher suggested that you write a letter to me. You dictated. She wrote. And I am holding the note that says, “To mommy, Mommy, I am having fights with you. That makes me sad.” Slap. End of story.

Since then, I have been trying to get a break. One thing I strongly believe is that, when you are desperate for something, the universe conspires to give you exactly what you ask for. It may not be packaged in the way we want it. But you get it. The challenge is to recognize it and make the most of it.

The break I have been asking for came as a real break…. in my tail bone. I fell on the stairs and broke my tail bone. The positive aspect of it is that I get to stay at home and spend some time with you. Real, quality time that is not measure in minutes but in love. I am able to slow down and give you the focus you need without cutting down on the time I spend with your sister.

You will be four in a week. Hoping that the chapter about your fourth year will be titled CONTENTMENT.

More love than you can ever imagine


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What Does One Learn From A Book?

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I mean any book.

Subject matter.

If so, why is it suggested that parents read to infants? Do infants really ‘get’ the subject matter? Definitely not in the adult sense.


Hmm…. Kind of yes. But again not in the adult sense.

From a book, over many many reading sessions, a child slowly realizes

-Print symbolizes language.
-Words symbolize objects and/or actions.
-Letters symbolize sounds.
-Thought process can be communicated either verbally or through print.
-Print holds knowledge.
-Print follows a certain pattern, some ground rules. For example, in many languages books are read from front to back, top to bottom, from left to right.
-It prepares them for an adult life where print is used to acquire/disseminate knowledge and to communicate ideas.
-Reading loudly to a child creates phonemic awareness and phonic awareness. This later leads to reading and writing development.

If a child can learn so much from a book created by another person, what can she learn from a book that she creates? Is it possible for a child who cannot read to make books?

In Montessori they have a wonderful work material called definition books. These books are approximately 3inch X 3inch, spiral bound, with about 5-8 pages, on subjects such as mammals, parts of the root, parts of the leaf etc, with simple illustrations on one side and a 2-3-sentence explanation on the other side. It is perfect for a young child to hold and use. A Montessori teacher uses these books in her classroom in various ways depending on the stage the child represents.

I am not going in to the philosophy and the exact use of these books in a Montessori classroom, but FYI, the progression roughly follows: reading the book to the child -> asking the child if she wants to make a book -> taking the child to challenging stages depending on the child’s fine motor control+ability to focus+ periods of concentration+child’s ability to come back to the same work and continue from where she left off -> finally helping the child to assemble her hard work in to a book that is a replica of the definition book on the work shelf.

Sometimes children do one book or at times half a book and move on. Some children do a few books till they get the fundamentals mastered. Chula being a specialist, has made all the definition books that are present in her classroom. After she did the first few books she declared that her goal is to create a library with her books that contain her own illustrations and handwriting. So we have about 21 of the books she made. The first book dates to the beginning of 2009 and the most recent book shows the date Feb 2010. As a result of these wonderful books, I now have the opportunity to look at her progress in writing.

The first book is devoid of any letters, she had just traced the pictures. The next stage, she had traced the definitions and I can see plainly that the she had done the tracing blindly driven by the challenge of following the cursive in the definition books. In the stage that followed she was able to read what she was writing and she shows control over the script. A recent time stamped book from this collection is a poem book. The title of the book is Caterpillar by Christina Rossetti. She has done a front cover, back cover, no tracing, but she has copied the poem and I was said (by her) that she has been working with her teachers on ‘POEMS’ and she made this book. The most recent book is a book on ‘FROOTS AND VECHTUBLS’. She said that she made observational drawings of the life sized fruits and vegetable models they have in their classroom and captioned it without any help. In this book the author and illustrator has presented to us belle peper, aplle, lemin, oringe, graip, sraberee :)

I am very much enjoying her progression from just doing the work given to the stage where she takes ownership of her work and creates. And to add to this Mieja has started to bring her books home. The first book on Animals of Antarctica was proudly presented on Feb4, 2010. She had traced a few Antarctic animals and her teacher captioned the animals for her. The third and the most recent book is a complete definition book on the ‘Parts of the leaf’, pictures, front and back cover and tracing of definition included. I can’t wait to see what this one has in store for us :)

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Potty Humor

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Am I done with the language development series? Honest answer, I don’t know if I will be done with any of the series posts I do. As the children grow, I find something interesting to add. But this post has been in my mind for a long time now and potty humor is one of the important stages of language development and humor development in children, so I have to record it.

Some time around two, children realize that words are not just sounds that come out of us, but they are powerful tools. They realize that what they say, and at times what they don’t say, can affect the environment around them. You hear your child using the word NO a gazillion times? That is the indicator that the child has made this connection in her brain.

Some time around four, at least that is what some books say, but I started noticing this phenomenon in our household when Chula was 3 years, may be because of the mixed age school setting….where was I? Yes, some time around four, children notice that some words cause unusual behavior in others. These are called impact words. A child says these words and the environment does not respond, but it reacts. The young child senses the unrest and unease these words cause. Even if she gets the literal meaning, she has no clue why in the world the adults are making such a big deal of fuss about it. Some example of impact words are poo-poo, pee-pee, other potty related words, words that signify private body parts, words related to death and violence etc.

3 year old Chula used to say poo-poo or pee-pee and she would burst in a fit of giggles. This was the girl who still couldn’t differentiate between a good smell and a disgusting smell. So she must be clearly copying the older kids at school. By four years and a few months, she totally got the concept of disgusting/offensive/unpleasant, so I was hoping that she would outgrow this phase by 4.5 years or so.

But I did not take in to account Mieja, who is 18 months younger to Chula. When Chula entered this phase, Mieja was 1.5. She echoed her sister and giggled. She being the clown that she is purposefully repeated potty words to get her older sister to giggle. Now Chula who is supposed to have outgrown this phase, is still locked down to this phase because Mieja is smack in the middle of that phase. The girls feed off of each other and there is perpetual giggling going on.

I did what is sensible. I was mildly amused at first and ignored it later. I do not want to sound like a fuddy-duddy, but if your children sat in a restaurant and sang a top pitch chorus, to the tune of Old McDonald had a farm

“Maran thatha poo-poo paar,
pee-pee, poo-poo-pee.
Avar pannayil yirukkum pasuvinai paar
pee-pee, poo-poo-pee.
Ange poo-poo, yinge pee-pee…”

Won’t you be embarrassed? We are talking about the Saravana Bhanvan in the Bay Area and almost every one knows Tamil.

(The poem roughly translates to, “Look at Maran grandpa’s poo-poo, look at the cow in his farm, look at the poo-poo, there is poop there and pee here….” Now, I would like to say that we do not know or have a Maran grandpa. He is a fictitious character and any resemblance to real persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental. In their Tamil school, to inspire the children they have a set of Tamil rhymes to the tune of catchy English rhymes. And yes the rhyme has affected them deeply.)

So ground rule#1 was quickly concocted by the parents and was thrown out, ‘No potty talk at the dining table’, which was closely followed by rule#2 ‘No potty talk in front of company’. Now, as a parent, it is a tough job to set limits and ground rules. Because one must not over react and make a rule of everything, then your child will not follow any rule. Or if you try ignoring everything, then once again you will be faced with the scenario of your child not following any rule. So one has to make rules only when you know that the rule will fly and you will never know if a rule will fly unless you make a rule of it. Complicated stuff, I say! Potty talk = offensive talk = socially unacceptable being purely an adult concept, is not very successful at home, I have to admit. So currently, the adults are the only ones who follow it at home.

One bright sunny day, Chula very properly told me, ‘Amma, I understand that poo-poo and pee-pee talk upsets you. So Mieja and me will not do that any more.’ I was in seventh heaven, naturally, not because potty talk was abandoned, but because of the sincerity with which she approached me and the maturity she portrayed, but I was duly grounded when she finished her statement with, “We have a new word. FART.” And ran off singing, ‘FART, FART, FART, FART, FART, F, F….’ of course to the tune of A,B,C,D,E,F,G….

Mieja: Amma, AG says they call it gusu in their house.
{Yes, there is a whole army of tomorrow’s good citizens out there discussing such important stuff.}
Chula: R says gas. Gas is a English word Mieja. What language is gusu?
Mieja: Well, AG speaks Tamil. So gusu must be Tamil.
Chula: Really amma? {She stops mid sentence, because she instantly recognizes the look on my face. So turns and whispers to her sister}, We will ask our Tamil teachers in Tamil school.
Mieja: Yes, teachers know everything. We can ask M what it is in Spanish and J what it is in Chinese.

Mieja even made observations like, ‘When children make gas we make a sound ‘pa-da-pa-da’ and we all laugh. Then we say ‘excuse me’. When adults do it, we can’t hear it, but we can smell it. They do not say excuse me.’

So unless you are prepared to face the question,‘So….. how do you say fart in your language?’ avoid our house for the next few years.

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Part 6 of many.

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Books like Pranav’s Picture, Harold And The Purple Crayon, Dot and Ish are very helpful for the parents to understand the creative process. I have reviewed these books for Saffron Tree. I reviewed, also for Saffron Tree, a few books that have open ended art exploration ideas.

You can find some awesome projects in Sheela’s blog. Some how god gave her 44 hours in a day and an extra truckload of patience. I especially loved this and this. Imagine the fun you and your child will have doing this.

If you are planning on introducing art history or working with your child to recognize elements of a painting books, don’t fear. There is a cartload of books available. My personal favorite is Lucy Micklethwait and Usborne’s The Children’s Book Of Art.

Books like Can You Find It, When Pigasso Met Mootisse, Oooh! Picasso and Look!Look!Look! are very effective when you can follow it up with a trip to a museum.

One thing I am constantly struggling to achieve is a definitive art space for the kids at home. Also what are the basic supplies one needs? If you have the same questions, don’t fear the Camp Creek Blog is here. Check out the right hand side links for ART LESSONS and also posts under CARD CATALOG ->in the studio. That was the basic I started off with.

That pretty much summarizes all that is in my mind. Now I am throwing the subject of art appreciation open to you all.

On the subject of appreciating your child’s art, what do you do when you child shows you her art? Do you say good job? Do you define what she has created? Do you say, “Oh is that a butterfly?” In that case are you prepared to meet an answer like, “No it is you amma. I drew you.” Do you ask her to define her own work and in the process tell her that what she creates must be something that fits in to definition? What do you all do as parents?

Another thing I am trying to get a grasp of is how to store all the art they churn out. On an average day there are atleast 5 papers per child. On top of this there is their usual academic work from school. What do you all do?

So long folks. Have a great day.

Contd 7 of many.

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How To Teach Art To A Young Child?

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Part 5 of many.

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Okay the survey results are as follows:

92% played with Fevicol and loved it.
44% loved coloring and erasing with markers, 20% yes on only coloring, 20% yes only on erasing.
92% loved pencils and sharpeners.
Candle wax seems to be the biggest hit with 96% love.
57% did not like ripping newspaper. What a bummer?! I strongly recommend you guys try it. It is such a cathartic release.
50% love swirling paint, 28% like it, 14% are okay with it.
72% make rainbows in the shower and I am happy to announce that we all believe in showers and soap.
57% rolled chapathi dough and then ate it. 38% played and discarded the dough.
62% did not scribble in the house, no experimentation and wondered about my mother’s reaction.

My grand conclusion based on the poll results…….

As children, most of us just played for the sake of playing, without bothering about what we produced at the end of it. These are the found memories that we carry with us. These are the memories that we might have forgotten, but when kindled, put a smile on our face. This is process orientation. This is what your young child is doing. Just doing something and taking pleasure at that moment without a bother about the past, future, accolades, recognition, praise and the mess. Soon they are going to grow up and slowly get in to the product oriented mode. For now, just let them be.

This, my dear peeps, is the ulterior motive behind the survey.

Give them the art materials. Give them the space. Give them the freedom. Stand back. Let go. Let them play. Let them discover, understand and love their material. If you feel like they have to create something meaningful to an adult, get in touch with your Fevicol days. Set limits. Like for example, paint only on designated area. Because, not many of us have studio work space. So, parents need to set limits to protect the walls, furniture and carpet. If it is their first time with paint or messy material sit with them to make sure that they understand their limits. Children and mess, many a times it is not intentional, they just cannot help themselves. Even better, sit with them and participate without taking over or interfering. It provides the children with a good model and you get to realize how much fun the whole process is.

The first six years of their life, children learn their world and express their thoughts through art. So it is essential that parents understand that the process is ‘learning about the world and communicating through art’ which later, around age 7+, becomes ‘art through learning and communication’. You cannot ‘formally teach’ a three-year-old-child to make art, but you can show them the different ways to explore.

When it comes to tips, techniques and pointers, there are overwhelmingly large number of resources. But when I look for open ended art exploration for the preschool age, I carefully avoid projects that have a finished product to show for. But, hey, it is just me. Given my personality, I have to consciously stop myself from controlling what the children do. In my opinion, when we follow some one else’s instruction and strive towards a finished product, it is craft. Not that craft is any lesser, but it is some one else’s baby, not mine.

Coming up next: List of resources for open ended art and books on art appreciation.

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A Trip Down Memory Lane

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We all would have colored, painted, made some kind of art as a kid. Many of us do it even now. So dip in to your memory bank or your current experiences and answer some questions.

There are just 10 questions. and you can choose to be anon. So don’t be intimidated. 9 questions are about you and the last question is for me. Indulge me please. Pretty please with a cherry on top ???

You will see only one question at a time. I have provided some answers. For folks who want to tell more there is a text area. After you answer click on next. Please make sure you answer all 10 questions.

Survey will be open till Jan 18, 4.00PM PST.

Get…Set…Go :)

Remember Fevicol? It is the Indian equivalent to Elmers. I was first introduced to it when I was 10-ish. I even loved the way it smelled. I remember squeezing a blob of Fevicol on the tip of my index finger, gently squishing the blob with my thumb, slowly moving my thumb to see the string that hangs between my finger tips, then half-heartedly use it for the intended purpose. Afterwards I used let the Fevicol dry on my finger tip and peel it off from my finger tip very slowly.

Markers!!! I loved them, especially because they were a luxury in my house. I used to fill a shape slowly, from left to right, top to bottom, each stroke overlapping the other stroke. Same way, if there is a white board to be erased, you have to fight me for it.

Pencils and sharpeners J Did you ever have competition with your friends for making the longest wood shaving from your pencil? Do you remember sharpening the pencil so very slowly and carefully and watch each millimeter of the shaving emerge from the sharp blade?

Candle!! Wax!! With all the power cuts in India, one has to have some experience with the candle lit evenings. Have you watched the wax melt slowly but steadily as the candle burns? Have you moved the candle around so that pools of hot wax spills out? Have you let the wax cool just enough so that there is a thin membrane of wax with warm wax underneath it? And after that have you played with the membrane and experience the semi-solidified wax moving underneath your finger tips? Later have you poked the thin membrane to get some not-so-hot wax on your fingertips and slowly peel it off after the wax cooled?

I like to rip newspaper. Even junk mail and old bills. It is a great stress reliever for me.  

Imagine a small tub of thick red paint. Imagine you dropping a blob of blue or green in it. Imagine running your brush through the blob, very slowly. The paint is swirling around making a beautiful pattern.

While showering, have you seen the soap make a film? All colors dancing, forming a rainbow. Have you ever so slowly popped it?

Chapathi dough! On chapathi days, I used to plead with my mom for a small dough ball. I used to roll it, squish it, poked my finger through it…Some times I would eat the raw dough or make some obscure shape with it and ask my mother at least 1000 questions on how the dough would look when it is dry? how to dry it etc.

Have you made markings with color pencils/color chalk on different surfaces? Then soaked the color chalk/color pencil and tried making markings on different surfaces trying to see the difference between the different surfaces, wet chalk/dry chalk/wet pencil/dry pencil?

So this last question is about you.


Contd: Survey results

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Is Art Nature Or Nurture?

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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.

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

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What Is Art For A Child?

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Part 2 of many

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Art is open-ended. What is beautiful or meaningful to one person makes no sense to another. Personally, I love Raja Ravi Verma. My next best would be the impressionists. I love them all, I love the concept, I love the play of colors, I love the way the artist looks at light and dark. Recently I have been introduced to pointillism and all I can say is WOW, what a vision. This is in the late 1880?! I consider this some kind of rudimentary vision which later got extrapolated to the pixel concept now used in TV monitors.

Modern/abstract art, I simply don’t understand. I have always thought, a child could make it, what is the big deal. But one of my classmates, with a masters degree in art, explained to me that it is the process, not the product. During break time, we were discussing Jackson Pollack’s abstract expressions in particular and I said, “Jack the dripper??? Come on, my three year old can do it. I can do it. Drip, spit and roll in paint. Hah!” and my classmate said, “But did you do it? Did you have the guts to exhibit your three year old’s painting? A painting is an expression of a thought or the artist’s perception/reaction to a mental image. Pollack captured it in a way that no one had done before. He deserves credit because he was the first to think about that particular expression and had the guts to back it up.” Post that conversation my attitude to modernism and abstract expression has changed from condescension to respectfully saying, ‘two thumbs up, but not my style’. Jeez, I don’t want the enormous responsibility of looking in to some one’s mind. I am not quite ready.

But modern art does have its merits, purely from my POV. I have found from experience that children are likely to be less intimidated by modern art. They find some sort of kinship with the artist. May be it gives them the same, ‘hey, I can do this’ confidence?! May be because before six years of age children are still pure and process oriented?! I was blown away once when Chula (she was 4-ish I think) drew the drawing below and explained to me, ‘This is you amma and this is you dancing. The dancing you is moving, just like the picture lines in my class room is moving.’ The picture in her classroom she was referring to is a Kandinsky.

Amma and Amma Dancing By Chula, Mar2009 kandinsky composition VIII

So what is art for a young child? It is nature, it is communication. It is a basic instinct.

Part 3, if art is nature, then why aren’t we all artists? Click here.

All posts from this series.

[tags]what is my art, preschooler art, child art, art product vs art process, is art nature or nurture, raja ravi verma, pontillism, impressionism, kandinsky, pollack, abstract expressions, what is modern art, do young children prefer modern art[/tags]

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KE+O T+R+U+C+K = Cow Truck

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Inspired by Satish’s review in Saffron tree, some time last year we got the book Tanka Tanka Skunk from the library. When I picked up the book, Chula was not a self-reader. Montessori reading follows a certain pattern. For a long time the reading skills are dormant and they suddenly start reading. Many children start writing before they start reading. When you carefully analyze the process of reading it is amazing how we all even started reading. Print is made of sentences in a particular pattern. In most languages print is from top to bottom, left to right, right side up and front to back. Books are made of paragraphs, paragraphs are made of sentences, sentences are made of words, words are made of phonemes (group of letters, that may or may not be stand alone and that form a sound which is a part of the word) and phonemes are made of letters and letters are symbolic representation of sound. The grasp of the phonemes and sound of words/letters is the bridge between language and literacy where the child realizes that print can be read and speech can be written down. I am tempted to go on more about language development, but I will be digressing. Montessori reading follows a certain pattern that is developmentally appropriate and there are lot of aids like sand paper letters, sound discrimination activities and aural exercises that aid in language and literacy development. One fine day all this come together and the child starts writing phonetically and reading.

When we read Tanka Tanka Skunk, Chula was putting all this information together. In the book, they beat drums as the elephant and the skunk dissect words. Alligator would be A+lli+ga+tor, split in to four and hence four beats. She really enjoyed doing this. So during long car rides I used to give her long complicated words like Mississippi, ignoramus, cathartic, persnickety and ask her to beat to it and also names of her classmates. She was so fascinated that my appa’s name had 6 beats to it. We all had fun doing this. Dec 2008 we were making holiday cards for Chula’s teachers. She wanted to write her name, which she did from memory. But she put the pencil down, clapped her hands and kept repeating the words “Dear” -> “Di+yer”-> “D+i+y+e+r” and wrote “Diyer”, she has phonetically spelt her first word, all by herself. I was amazed.

March 2009, we were at a store and I was paying at the counter. There were lollipops arranged in a glass bottle with a sticker that said CANDY. Chula wanted one and I dismissed her saying, “Oh, you are just asking it because it looks pretty. Do you even know what it is?” and she said, “Hm. That is candy amma. It says that on the box. C.A.N.D.Y. Can I have one?” That was the first time she read to me. Today all she needs are books and can sit with them for hours, except that I must not say something like, “Can you read this book, I have some chores to finish”, in which case, she would crib, whine and insist that I read it to her. Anyways, it was amazing to see how she started reading and writing.

Now it is Mieja’s turn. She can write her name, all letters present. And she is trying to spell. So it goes,

Amma, what is KE+O  T+R+U+C+K?
Keo truck?!
No silly that is cow truck. Okay what is P+G  T+R+U+C+K?
Pg Truck?
Nooooo, that is pig truck.

So I get to enjoy this process for the second time. Lucky me.

[tags]self-reading in preschoolers, montessori reading, tanka tanka skunk, phonemic awareness, print awareness, phonetic awareness, phonemes, spelling phonetically, how children begin to read and write[/tags]

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