Someone has recently 'joined the table'. He thinks he's just about the bees knees for doing so. And if the number of photographs I have like the ones above are any indication, I also think he's just about the bees knees for doing so. I mean, really now. Those chubby little fingers wrapped around a pencil? Or his pride at showing his brothers and sister what he's done? Stinking cute.
It caught me a little off guard when a couple of months ago, he started reaching for the crayons and paper. But it really shouldn't have surprised me. With the flurry of projects around these parts from those bigger than him....well, he just wants to keep up. Often times during the course of a day right now, he'll wander over to the project boxes, where he has his own notebook, pull it out...and then stand at the shelf of writing utensils, calling until someone comes to help him out (he's got a lot of helpers). With a grin, he heads with notebook under arm to the nearest clear spot on the floor to draw - or up to the table to join the big kids.
I know there's lots of expert advice out there - and different educational theories - about drawing with little ones (I wrote quite a bit about drawing with kids in The Creative Family), but while it's fresh on my mind, I thought I'd share a few simple thoughts on what I've found really helpful for the littlest of artists.
(As for the age of the child at which to start, certainly this is so individual! I look for interest, as well as the likelihood that they can understand not eating them. For Harper, that's been around 15 months, but for other kids I know it's earlier or later.)
1. Use safe, quality tools. While there's still a likely chance that something will end up in the mouth of a toddler, I especially pay attention to the ingredients used. You may pay a tiny bit more in price, but know that not only are you getting a safer, higher quality tool (so enjoyable to work with), but they'll often last longer (I've had the same set of Stockmar crayons since Calvin was 6 months old!). Some of our favorites, seen in the photos:
2. Keep it simple. Don't overwhelm them (or you) with materials. You don't need all of the above - start with one! Make it easy on yourself by keeping the materials accessible to you, and pull out just one jar of crayons at a time (some suggest just a crayon or two to get started). I'm a big fan of blank notebooks for drawing in, rather than loose paper. It's a lot easier to manage at clean up time, I always know whose art I'm looking at, and I think it ends up creating less waste. I love the Cheap Pad (yes, that's the official name) made and sold by my local Artist & Craftsman Supply.
3. Draw with them. Of course! They're watching you! Sit down and draw beside them. Never force it, but rather make it an open invitation. In those early days, no instruction is needed (I think it's better without). But modeling is where it's at. Let them see you draw. Have a Family Draw! And most of all, have fun with it (how could you not?).