Friday, March 9, 2012

Blank is better

Oh the possibilities!  Where do I begin?  What a blank piece of paper can do for the imagination is much more valuable than what the average coloring book can offer.  I have never bought a coloring book for my son because I chose a long time ago to go the route of blank pads of drawing paper.  We do have coloring books, he's been given them as gifts from other family members and he does use them once in a while. However, more creativity is demonstrated through the use of blank pages, while providing similar lessons in fine motor skill development.

Blank paper has no boundaries guarded by the already drawn cartoon hands of the most popular new character.  It accommodates for the movement of a toddlers whole arm scribbles to an older preschoolers wrist and finger writings.  It creates an opportunity for more conversation and new vocabulary!

Don't get me wrong I don't hate coloring books, children enjoy the pictures, they can help with fine motor control ("Stay inside the lines"), and I've seen many examples of adding creativity to a coloring page than those black lines allow.  If you've ever worked with young children, or hoarded piles of your own child's work, you've probably noticed the tremendous differences between the coloring page and the blank page...
  • Drawings on blank paper are more intricate, dramatic, elaborate, sometimes with letters or emerging letter like forms.  Coloring pages tend to have their sections colored in...and that's about it.
  • Drawings on blank paper are accompanied with a story or explanation, whether we can tell what it is or not.  It is important to ask, "tell me about your picture," instead of assuming what it is.  Coloring pages tend to be limited to telling someone who or what thing they made more colorful.
  • Blank paper, or other blank surfaces, get more variety from utensils.  Whether its a paint brush, roller, crayon, fingers and ink, marker, pencil, pen, glue, or colored paper, we see and use these choices much more with children on blank paper than a coloring page, which usually only gets use from crayons, markers, and maybe some watercolors.
  • The evidence in the progression of a child's fine motor and creative thinking skills is more visible with blank paper.  The start of a simple circle, to faces, the addition of limbs, additional objects like flowers and other scenery.  A coloring page will simply show they are coloring outside the lines less and less.
  • How many original works of art are saved in your home or displayed in the classroom vs. a coloring book page?  Have you "gotten the picture" yet?   

Because a blank surface offers so much opportunity for those creative little hands, making it available all day to a child is equally important.  I keep my son Aidan's supplies in an area where he can access it himself for when the mood strikes, as well as having it sit out as an option everyday at the table in an inviting way.  I switch out and offer a variety of utensils and surfaces to keep it interesting, which also strengthens his fine motor skills, including exercising those writing fingers, in different ways.  

The Magna Doodle is a great blank alternative surface.  Here he explained that this was me on a really long skateboard in the grass outside under the sun (I have never set foot on a skateboard)!

 This was done waiting for our dinner at a local restaurant.  The sun is shining in the sky over a house that has bad water going out the pipes underneath and there is a pipe coming from the sun putting clean water into the house.

 An elaborate spaceship with letters cutout and taped to it.

 We keep a dry erase board on the fridge at his height as another alternative drawing/writing tool.  This was a drawing of a blender.  He explained what each little shape inside was; ice, strawberries, and yogurt (we make a lot of smoothies in our house).

As you can see Aidan does use his coloring books but the results are not quite as exciting.  You'll notice concentrated areas colored in on each page.  I remember watching him do these then suddenly racing the marker across the whole picture as if to finish it in a hurry?  Maybe out of frustration for some reason?  I'm not sure but he does spend more time with a blank surface!
CHALLENGE: Give your child a coloring page to work on, then turn it over and watch what else happens!

Finally, I just had to add in the video below to end this post, a song by the Barenaked Ladies titled Drawing.  It speaks for itself :)

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