Updated: Apr 8, 2019
Have you ever looked at your child's drawing and said something like, "Great mountain!" only to be told it's a house? I think we are all guilty of this at some point or another. As a high school art teacher I cannot tell you how many times I have misidentified an object in a child's work of art. It's somehow in our deepest instincts to identify objects that we see. The problem happens when we identify an object that our child did not see. This creates a feeling in our child that they didn't do it right and could slowly erode away at their artistic confidence.
It is so important that we put a filter on our need to identify objects. When we mislabel something children oftentimes accept our label because they want to please us and "get it right." You can validate your child's efforts and create a confident artist if you allow them to tell you what they drew. So how do you do this?
When it comes to art we can learn the most about our children and what they drew with one simple open-ended statement. Tell me about your drawing. This gives them the opportunity to tell you what they want to tell you without you influencing their answer. Here is an example:
Today my 4 year old daughter did this drawing. Can you guess what it is? I'll be honest, I had no idea what it was. So I said, "Tell me about it." She said it's a family and pointed to which one was the dad, mom, baby and big sister. Hmm, I thought to myself, this does not look like a family. So I said, "Tell me about the squares." Her response was, "It's a hairspray family." Okay, now that made perfect sense! Sometimes there is just no way that we are going to guess right!
I believe in a lot of positive reinforcement with young children, and this holds true for their artwork as well. Sometimes it can be hard for us to give positive reinforcement without naming objects. Instead of saying, "Wow, what a beautiful flower," you could say, "Wow, look at all those beautiful colors! Tell me about your drawing." Or "I love all your squiggly lines, they contain so much energy! Tell me about your drawing." If your child is of the age where they are drawing clearly identifiable people you could say, "Wow, look at all those people, tell me about them!" Sticking to basic elements of art such as line, color and shape is always a safe bet!
Figures are fascinating to me, especially in early childhood art. You can tell a lot about family dynamics by analyzing the placement and size of family members. I'll write more about analyzing children's artwork in a future blog post! In the meantime, start asking your child to tell you about their artwork, you might be surprised by their answers!