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Why not draw for a child?
Drawing the Sun, Drawing a Tree

Disegnare un albero e Disegnare il sole [Drawing a tree, Drawing the sun] were written by Italian artist and designer Bruno Munari in 1978 and 1980 and belong to the Workshop Series, a collection of books conceived as support to art labs, where children could work alongside adults and teachers with minimal suggestions and explanations. 

If you do have or care for young children you will be familiar with their endless requests for help and assistance when playing and drawing.
When toddlers start getting into arts&crafts, usually when they are around 2 or 3 years old, they are more aware of shapes and colours and how other people draw things, but would still struggle to master any sort of technique, especially because they are still developing fine motor skills.

The frustration that comes with this usually leads to a demanding behaviour. 

But, is drawing for our children a good idea?

Many parents do it with the best intentions, reading these requests as requests for attention, and thinking that their children will naturally develop independent play/work skills at some point.
However, many 8 and 10 year olds still struggle to spend time on their own and require a lot of parental assistance.
Entertaining children when playing is not the best way to foster independence and genuine  engagement, and we can say the same for drawing.

Don't get me wrong, I am not suggesting to disengage from your children. 
The line between being there for them and entertaining them is blurred but it is there.
Supporting children's activity requires a constant effort from the parents and carers to see this line.
This dedication might feel 'tiring' at the beginning (even for those who are familiar with the Montessori pedagogy, RIE and Reggio Emilia Approach) but will eventually become more natural.

So, why not draw for a child?
Janet Lansbury brilliantly explores the underlying risks of parental intervention in children's play in her articles, here for example.
For Lansbury the implications are mainly related to self-esteem, which is an extremely important element to consider.
But we can push the reflection beyond this point.

When adults play or draw for their children they tend to bring stereotypes and conventions into a virgin territory, setting standards as well as ways of doing things that children should be free from.
Children are the experts when it it comes to play, not us.
Too much parental intervention can affect their self-confidence, creativity and focus, because their attention will be on our work. 
It also stops them from seeing things.

When my daughter used to exhaust me with requests for help when drawing (she hasn't completely stopped, but it happens less frequently) I would usually sit there and draw something quite banal.
A yellow circle with a few lines (sun), a brown boring trunk with a cloud-shaped foliage (tree) or a totally symmetrical building with a red sloping roof and squared windows (house).
She would then focus on what I was doing, either saying that this was not really what she wanted to have (this is at least an active response) or finally losing interest, and the activity would stop.

It was soon clear to me that I didn't want her to end up seeing things the way I did.

Even if you are an artist and you draw better than I do, drawing and playing for a child always means directing their work, passing on our mind frame.

In these two books Munari explains in a very accessible way how the appearence of the sun changes throughout the day according to the movement of the Earth, affecting the way we see its light, and how we can draw it.
In the same way he shows all the different shapes trees can have, how their branches and leaves grow depending on a number of factors, how the structure of their trunk is and develops.

After going through examples to explain concepts and drawing techniques, Munari gives the most illuminating advice: to forget about it.
Because mastering a technique and forgetting about rules are equally important processes in art.
So we see how these books are entirely about seeing the complexity of things, therefore understanding that there is no unique, right or wrong way to represent them.

They are extremely helpful resources if your child is into drawing, but also to engage them in art working together instead of working for them.
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Drawing a tree [Disegnare un albero] - 1978   available here
Drawing the sun [Disegnare il sole] - 1980    available here
Words & art by Bruno Munari
🇮🇹🇬🇧English language and Italian editions by Corraini
Reading age: 4+
Themes: Non-Fiction, Art







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