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Encouraging Artistic Expression in your Young Child

Children and artAs I ironed school uniforms last night, my eyes fell on what looked like some design on the pristine white wall in front of me. That it was a recent enhancement, I was sure of, but how recent? A closer examination revealed that the ‘design’ was actually my younger daughter’s name written in ink, joint hand and all with a decorative border embellished with curls, leaves, and floral patterns.

The mother in me admired the steady hand, the artist in me marvelled at the symmetry of line and length but the drill sergeant in me overpowered the other two and hollered for the culprits. The perpetrator and her accomplice obviously knew why they were being summoned and after the initial finger pointing backed by vociferous ‘you did it, not me’ allegations, finally gave in. They were accorded the old-fashioned whack-on-the-rear and then, grounded till the scrawl was scrubbed with soap and water and that patch on the white wall was restored its whiteness.

While I love children’s forms/media of expression, I draw the line at using walls as canvas…unless of course it is for social awareness campaigns of the ‘ithe pishaap karu niye’ or ‘ithe kachra taku niye’ type. (In fact my girls’ school had its senior students paint the boundary walls to erase the ugly betel leaf stains and prevent people from urinating there!)

A steady supply of one-side-printed paper (of the non-confidential variety) is always available at home close at hand lest the Picasso in them wants to be let loose. It is also there for their pals who want to give in to their inner artists. Often it has so happened that visitors’ children have ignored the paper, crayons, felt pens offered to them, choosing to scribble on the walls instead! Their mothers looking the other way have not made it any easier. And that has meant either the girls scrubbing the writing or barring the offenders from coming to play again depending on the seriousness of the scrawl.

Last night when the name was scrubbed and the wall cleaned up, the girls curled up with me at night and a small voice asked “Do you know why I wrote on the wall?” I said “No.” The voice said “For you to remember my writing when I was so small.” A straight lift from one of my favourite poems, I realised. What a drama queen of a child!


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3 thoughts on “Encouraging Artistic Expression in your Young Child

  1. Kritika Srinivasan

    Good points as usual Amrita. I think we can draw some universal lessons from an example like this – the importance of a framework for children to live by. Setting rules and limits is a good thing so children can understand what is expected of them, and learn to explore within those boundaries. Giving children unlimited freedom to act as they want and take decisions unhindered will only end up confusing them and not knowing what they can and cannot do.

  2. Ramya

    Hi Amrita

    I completely understand that for parents in your situation, it is important to let children know they cannot deface some one else’s property.

    But if you live in your own house, I think it is ok to designate one wall (the balcony wall or a corner in the children’s room) for children to ‘decorate’ – as a parent, you are still drawing limits, with some flexibility for the child to be a child (:-).

    Because, despite the plethora of one-side printed paper, there is something about walls (vertical surfaces really) that is really attractive to kids. For two of my daughter’s birthday parties, I taped large sheets of chart paper to a huge wall – for her friends to draw and color pictures and write birthday messages on – It was a great hit. Perhaps, easels will serve the same purpose for day to day artistic efforts (:-)

    1. Amrita Pai

      Thanks for writing in Kritika and Ramya! Ramya, its an awesome idea but I’ll have to own a house first to try this out :-))


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