The more children draw, the easier they will find learning to write. However, not all children are attracted to drawing. It is recognised that in the early years, boys’ fine motor skills tend to develop more slowly than those of girls. Boys can need active encouragement to draw so they do not start thinking, at a young age, in terms of ‘can’t draw, won’t draw’. The trick is to present drawing to boys in imaginative ways compatible with their physiological need for movement and plenty of space. The following ideas are slanted towards boys’ interests, but are equally fun for girls.
‘My drawing says’
A very simple and fun way for children to come to understand that making marks on paper is a way of communicating a message to another person is to play ‘My drawing says’. This game consists of combining very simple ‘drawings’ with actions and mimes, and involves lots of movement. Draw a vertical line with a thick felt-tipped pen on an A4 sheet of paper. On another sheet, draw a horizontal line. On a third sheet draw a circle. Hold up the first sheet and say ‘My drawing says ‘stand like a soldier!’ and encourage your child(ren) to stand as tall and straight as possible. Hold up the second sheet and ask what your child thinks the drawing is ‘saying’ (‘lie down flat on the floor’). Hold up the third sheet and see if your child curls up like a ball or jumps up and down like one. Now ask your child to be the teacher and hold up the sheets for you to move accordingly. Have fun devising more drawings together and what they mean for you both e.g. an upturned arrow meaning ‘stretch up’, a downward pointing arrow meaning bend down, an upturned crescent meaning ‘smile’ and an arc meaning ‘a sad mouth’. Further drawings could be a pair of closed eyelids meaning ‘go to sleep’, diagonal lines meaning ‘it’s raining, jump in the puddles’, and a banana, meaning ‘pretend to peel and eat a banana’. A simple steering wheel could mean ‘pretend to drive a car’, and three wavy lines could mean ‘pretend to swim in the sea’. You and your child will think of many more.
Peter Pointer pictures
Encourage children to feel round the edges of objects with their ‘Peter Pointer’ finger, first with their eyes open, then closed. They can then ‘draw’ an item on their palm and then on paper. Begin with objects with simple, distinctive shapes that hold interest and appeal e.g. a sword- your child just draws a vertical line then a horizontal line for the handle. Other items could be a mini football, a chocolate egg, a toy snake and tortoise, a wizard’s hat, a banana, and toy vehicles with simple outlines, such as a van, or a train carriage or plane.
When a child shows interest in drawing faces, encourage them to look at their face in a plastic mirror on a table and to run their ‘Peter Pointer’ finger around the edge of their face, across each eyelid, down their nose and across their mouth. The can then trace their features again, touching their reflection in the mirror, before drawing their face on paper.
The backs of unwanted rolls of wallpaper provide plenty of room for larger scale drawings with lots of opportunity for lying on tummies, stretching and kneeling. Protect any floor coverings with one or two inexpensive plastic table cloths. Sellotape the wallpaper onto the cloths, and provide washable felt-tipped pens. Children could draw, e.g. a ‘lorry with a million wheels’, a huge crocodile’s open mouth with lots of zigzag teeth, the ‘twistiest turniest road in the world’, a giant, a rocket etc.
Children love drawing outside, especially when it’s related to their role play passions, e.g. an enormous fire-engine with a long, long ladder, a pirate ship etc. Sellotape the back of a length of wallpaper onto a board, and provide kneeling mats. A perfect book to inspire outdoor mark-making is ‘We’re going on a Bear Hunt’ by Michael Rosen. One or more children together will enjoy making simple marks across the wallpaper, to represent the grass, the river, the mud, the forest, the snow storm, and the cave. Add playpeople and a miniature dog, either to represent the family in the story or your own group of people, and a miniature bear, to make your wallpaper story come to life.
On white card, draw large individual ‘dinosaur teeth’ or simple bone shapes. Cut them out and hide them in the grass. Equip your ‘dinosaur fossil explorers’ with clipboards and encourage them to hunt for the ‘specimens’ and to draw what they find.
Magic drawing table
Boys- and girls – find this irresistible! Buy a Writers’ Cloth (clear plastic table covering) from the Cosy catalogue (Tel: 01332 370152) or Child’s Eye Media www.childseyemedia.com. Cover a table with white paper e.g. the backs of length of wallpaper, or A4 sheets, sellotaped together. Place the plastic covering on top. Provide chunky washable felt-tipped pens and a few small world items related to your children’s current passions, e.g. a pirate ship. Don’t provide chairs, and do join in with the children. ‘Now, here’s our pirate ship on the sea. What can we draw around it? Yes, lots of waves! Dolphins and sharks? Great! Oh, the ship’s near a desert island? Let’s draw that, and it’s got palm trees? And a treasure chest hidden behind a rock? The ship’s about to drop anchor? We’ll need to draw the anchor, and a long, long chain, and some rowing boats for the pirates to row to the island……’
Sometimes, you can draw just one or two items in a corner of the paper, to get children going e.g. a few jungle leaves and trees. Then add animals and playpeople. Provide slightly damp pieces of Jay cloth and children can draw and re-draw as often as they like. Children really enjoy the smooth gliding sensation of drawing on the plastic, and the fact that they can instantly change something, as some children do not like to ‘make mistakes’ on paper. Join in with the children over a period of days to get them used to using the table, and soon there’ll be no stopping them! The possibilities are endless – a castle surrounded by a moat, ‘with mountains, and a forest all around’, sunken treasure on a shipwreck at the bottom of the sea, a rocket zooming past the planets and stars in outer space. Incidentally, a great way for children to develop their ‘curly caterpillar’ anti-clockwise letter formation movement, without realising it, is for them to draw ‘planets’ or ‘flying saucers’ in the shape of spirals, starting with a ‘c’ in the centre. And of course, the magic table is perfect for all sorts of film-inspired and superhero pictures. Use a playperson ‘Jack’, his mother and their home, so children can raw a huge beanstalk. Individual children will also enjoy drawing their own pictures on A4 sheets inside plastic punched pockets on clipboards, again because of the smooth, flowing sensation and the fact they can instantly change things.
Look at me!
When children show an interest in drawing clothes, print off some colour photos of children, and cut out their faces – about 6cms high. Let children stick their faces onto paper, and then draw themselves in their favourite clothes, or uniforms. Inspire children to enjoy drawing, and they’ll be well on the way to enjoy writing.