If your child is involved in more open ended, process based art time, you may receive some questionable works of art presented to you. Not sure what to say? I’ve got you covered. Let us start by looking at some things not to say. These things might be your reflex replies so it might take time to practice the alternatives I am going to offer you.
For the purpose of this article as an example let us say your child presents you with a ‘colorful scribble’.
1. Oh WOW what a beautiful flower!
It’s best not to guess or assume you know exactly what your child has drawn. Your child ma have spent a long time working on this picture and knows exactly what it is and by saying it looks like something completely different might make them question their ability.
2. What is that?
If said in the wrong tone, it could easily come across as condescending which won’t lead to much conversation. If your child does not yet have to vocab to describe exactly what it is, it might lower their confidence about expressing their thoughts around their art.
3. What a beautiful picture, you are so smart!!
Your child may think you are not interested in their work as you are not asking any question or opening up conversation. If this is a constant response to works of art, your child might not bother showing you work in the future as they already know what the response will be.
We’re all busy, I get it, and children have a knack for wanting to talk and show you things right in the middle of a business call or work related activity or while cooking. What you can do is take a minute to stop, look at them and say “This looks very interesting and I would love to hear more about it. I just need to finish what I am doing and then I will come and talk to you.” This way your child does not feel ignored but feels heard and seen and knows that you will talk to them later. You are setting a boundary which is good, Just don’t forget to take time to go and do what you said.
You might be thinking…
I really don’t have time for this!
In my experience these types of conversations don’t last hours and hours, perhaps 10 minutes max. And what is 10 minutes out of your day to connect and bond with your child. Talking and taking an interest in their work is a perfect time to let your child feel seen and heard. Besides, you probably wait longer than 10 minutes to get your coffee at your favorite coffee shop.
So what should I say then?
Now let’s look at the alternatives. These questions will be slightly adjusted depending on how old or verbal your child is, however these questions are a good place to start.
1. Tell me about your picture…
This opens up a space for conversation and for your child to explain in their own words what they have made. You can also try..
What were you thinking about while drawing this? (or even looking at?)
Give your child a chance to answer and try not to put your won assumptions and ideas onto their work else you will be back at square one.
2. I see here you have…
Verbalize what you see in the picture. E.g. I see you have used lots of different colors, I see blue, red and yellow etc. Or, I see you have drawn lots of circles and gone around and around.
This shows you are really looking at their work and at the same time you are modelling some art related vocab and demonstrating looking at various things such as colour, line, shape in artwork. This is also great if a child is not very verbal or having a difficult time telling you about their work.
3. I wonder…?
Again another great way to help your child if they are not yet very verbal or struggling to express themselves. I wonder where all the circles come from? I wonder why some circles are bigger and some are smaller? I wonder why some lines are blue and some are yellow? This can also help them think of what to say or to help get the conversation going.
So I hope that this has helped you find some ways to open up and start conversations with your child about their art, and even get to know them better. I think that you may be surprised at their answers and how their art develops over time. As a Reggio inspired teacher and asking children to draw their theories, I am always amazed at their drawings and what they are about.
For example- What do you think this drawing done by a 4 year old could be?
It is actually a neuron. A few years ago, my class was interested in the brain and so we studied it and this is one child’s representation of a neuron.