Should children use stencils / colouring in books?

When I first came to the My Kindy family the “we don’t use stencils here” philosophy took a little easing into; my previous employer had actively encouraged printouts and the staff all had favourite sites to print from. By the end of my first week with My Kindy I thought this philosophy was an excellent idea. As I walked down the corridor I observed each room’s art displays to be a true reflection of the age and stage of development of the children within.

 Even people who don’t move in artistic circles or regularly visit galleries would know that art can be a very diverse concept one only has to look at each year’s entries in the Archibald prize to see just how diverse. Art is unique and says something different to each individual it is a form of self expression as well as something that captures a particular moment in time. Children’s art is no different, why should they have to settle for rows of coloured in identical printouts on their classroom walls?

As well as not using print outs we discourage staff from drawing for children too, if an educator always draws for the children the message is “your work is not as good as mine”. Within the My Kindy philosophy we have it set out in black and white that we recognise children as capable learners, if we always draw for them we are actively going against our own philosophy.

 There have been countless books written about children’s art; one of the ones I found best was by Viktor Lowenfeld. Within one of his books was a great illustration of how pre drawn stencils can stifle a child’s creativity.

The top picture on the page is a four year old’s drawing of a bird, in the middle is a copy of the stencil where they were asked to colour in six birds; finally the bottom picture is what the same four year child now draws when they draw a bird. The end result has lost all of the features that made it original and the sense of movement it conveyed.

So if we don’t use stencils and we don’t draw for the children how do we go about encouraging the creative process? Well we talk, we ask the child to think about what the subject looks like, how many legs, how big, have you seen one. These days with the internet it is incredibly easy to locate pictures of things for the children to look at to grasp the basic form. Educators often find examples of what the children have asked about for them to explore and see before trying to have a go at drawing themselves. In this way we are encouraging their natural curiosity and giving them a voice to express their view of the world.

Just like every other area of development, children will master drawing in their own way. The process is another wonderful opportunity for learning, looking at the basic shape of things, comparing colours and shades, investigating what each part of the object is for. Considering the obvious differences between a Da Vinci and a Picasso painting it is clear that even grown-ups express themselves in many different ways we should expect no less from our children.

Written by Lauren Cullen- Early Childhood Educator, My Kindy.