Building Relationships · SLOW DOWN: Quality Time with Children

Art and the Power of Observation


Art-Listening to Children's Stories

Last week I shared that I presented with a co-worker on Graphic representation and Sensitive observation. For me to prepare for the presentation I needed to collect data. So a few weeks before the conference I started putting out more drawing experiences for the children. In the afternoons, I would sit down at a table with a stack of paper and some sort of drawing material, colored pencils, block crayons or bees-wax crayons. Then I would wait for the children to notice and ask to draw. While they were drawing my job was to observe. I recorded the children and have collected several clips of them working. This was a pretty eye-opening experience for me!

One night I had a very rare occurrence where there was just one child in the evening (lets call her Elizabeth). So I asked Elizabeth if she wanted to paint and she said yes. She helped me get the paint into the paint tray and get some paper. She painted and I observed. She painted three pictures and told me that she was painting a rainbow on the last sheet. She would dip her brush in a color and then say “I’m painting a red rainbow” and swipe her brush on the paper in some form of an arch. When she said she was finished we washed her hands and then she helped me clean off the table. I sprayed the table with soapy water and we used paper towels to dry it off then I sprayed water and we wiped that off. Art with ToddlersArt-Listeing to Children's

After this Elizabeth asked to draw. I asked if she wanted crayons or pencils, she picked pencils. Then I asked if she wanted short pencils or long ones. She picked one and then said she wanted crayons and I gave her another choice. Soon after she picked, she wanted the other drawing materials so I ended up putting all four types out on the table for her. Finally, I sat down and started recording her.

This is where the magic happened. She drew an arch with a crayon and told me she was making a rainbow. Then she took a yellow block crayon and rubbed this over the line saying that she was wiping off the paint. She took another block crayon and tapped the yellow one, telling me that was the soap. Then she rubbed the arch again. Next, she took a different block crayon and tapped the yellow one again, saying that was the water and rubbed the arch a third time.

Drawing -

I was truly amazed! I was so happy and excited that I was sitting there observing her instead of up doing something else. If I was doing the dishes I would have missed her story, I would have missed seeing and hearing her relive her painting experience through drawing. When I got to work the next day I could feel the difference in our relationship. The way she smiled and said hi to me when I walked in was different. I could feel the joy and I really hope that was the impression that I gave her when I said hi back.

Observation is so powerful and I know that the connection I have with Elizabeth is forever changed for the better because I was able to sit and observe her, give her all my attention and hear her story.



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