The creative process of a 3 year old

Filed under: Toddlers Preschoolers, Preschoolers, Activities: Babies, Development/Milestones: Babies

I was watching my son draw yesterday. The way he draws is so different from the way I draw. He doesn't start out with an idea in mind. He starts out with the material in front of him, and lets them take him where they will.

"What are you drawing?" I'll ask him.

"Um, he says," already busy, tilting his head in one direction and then another. "It's clothes hanging on a line," he says finally.

What? I didn't even know he knew what a clothesline was. We don't have one, and besides it's the middle of winter here. Nobody has clotheslines up. But somehow, somewhere, his little mind has assimilated an image of a clothesline, and what he drew--a horizontal line with lots of raggedy lines and circles hanging down from it did indeed look quite a bit like a clothesline.

Later he drew arcs across the page. He looked at them studiously, and then declared, "I made rainbows, mommy."

There is something to be learned from his approach--the way he dives into art, grabbing whatever medium is at hand and making wild strokes until something emerges. Once, visiting Florence, Italy I was told by a museum guide that Michelangelo believed there was a form inside of every block of stone waiting for him to find and reveal it. Perhaps three year olds are attune to the same raw creative spark.

And here I am saying, "Draw a person! Here, like this. Draw arms and legs and a big circle for a head."

It's so easy to want him already at the next level---when he was 9 months old I couldn't wait for him to walk. When he was a year, I was eagerly clinging on his first words. Now I'm giddy to show him how to draw all the things I loved to draw as a kid: castles and people and airplanes and trees.

But watching him draw yesterday made me remember to slow down and enjoy where he's at right now: fully immersed in the color, making rainbows and clotheslines and triangles and wide whirling swaths of color.

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AdviceMama Says:
Start by teaching him that it is safe to do so.