Finding a Rainbow in a Box of Crayons

Child art is a commentary of human values and speaks of the JOY of LIFE in bold colours. What a special gift it is to be a child in a school that does not rush through this amazing stage of participation and involvement.

-Linda Payne
Chickadees Teacher

Finding a Rainbow in a Box of Crayons
From The Lunchbag News, October 2008 Edition

Recently I came across an article about the developmental stages of children’s art.  Now that I am teaching kindergarten, after many years of grade school, I am rediscovering this fascinating stage with the little ones.

For many of us, as children, the artistic experience was with the box of Crayola crayons:  spindly little crayons that would break with too much pressure.  How we envied those children with the bigger boxes of endless colours, when we had been given the standard box of eight colours.  Rather than pads of blank paper, we were given colouring books and encouraged to stay within the lines to make our pictures beautiful.

It is interesting to note that children progress through stages, and I have seen children move through these stages at their own rate and with their own awareness.  First come the “squiggles”, often with only one colour, randomly across the paper, and then the child proudly announces, “I’m done!” In the second stage, with circular patterns, the children gain more control over hands, fingers, and the crayon. The third stage shows lines within the circles, sometimes intersecting each other.  In the fourth stage, shapes resemble squares and lines, and now the children are telling me about their picture.  In the fifth stage, the large circle becomes a face as the children have reached the place where they notice details about Mommy and Daddy and their family.  In the last stage, that same circle will sprout arms and legs to become a person.

In a study examining children’s art from all around the world, it was found that at some point in time, all drawings will have the child front and centre on the page, with a large round head, the legs pinned to the torso, and the arms extended with five outstretched fingers reaching to the sides of the paper.  (Do you remember drawing like that or recall such early drawings of your child?)

It was also interesting to note that while adults enjoy and admire these childhood drawings, the children themselves admire the more detailed drawings of adults.

How very special it is to be able to offer this wonderful drawing time for the little ones in our kindergarten classes.  Our drawing time is sometimes just to make a picture without a theme;  soon voices are heard sharing with classmates an entire story  that comes from the blank piece of paper.  Often the children make a birthday picture for a classmate, while some will focus on a theme. All the stages of development are observed, with no one passing judgment of any kind.

Later as the children move into the phase of school readiness, we use their drawings to tell us about their skills and how aware they are of the details around them.

In Grade One, children will be shown more crayoning and shading techniques and how the letters can evolve so magically from their pictures. As a faculty, when we share in a child study and look at the beautiful main lesson books, we note the colours and complexity of borders that embellish the writing.  In aWaldorf school, making work beautiful does indeed start with that small box of rainbow colours—with crayons that do not break!

Child art is a commentary of human values and speaks of the JOY of LIFE in bold colours. What a special gift it is to be a child in a school that does not rush through this amazing stage of participation and involvement.

Is there any better way to celebrate this life and the wonderful world around us?

Linda Payne,
Chickadees Kindergarten Teacher


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