The child is by nature a creator, inventor, and explorer, and these abilities need the nourishment of creative are experiences. No school activity can be labeled art unless it provides an opportunity for children to use their ideas, thoughts, and feelings in their own ways. The development of the ability to think creatively is more important than any art product a child can produce.Children express their ideas freely and creatively if adults do not cause them to be inhibited. Those who interfere with children’s creative expression do so because of a lack of awareness and understanding of children’s art. Ways in which teachers and parents interfere are providing children with coloring books, Hector pictures, patterns, and pictures to copy. These so-called art activities have had a devastating effect on children and their art. They prevent a child from expressing individual ideas, thoughts, and feelings: from solving problems, and from developing initiative, self-confidence, imagination, and originality.Coloring books or hectographed pictures are sometimes used in schools not only for art but also as a learning device in many subject areas of the curriculum. In such activities a child may have a choice of the color used, but even sometimes this is dictated. In this type of activity, children have neither choices to make or thinking to do. Neither do they have control over the shapes in which they work. They are just asked to obey…to color inside the limits of the outlined of printed drawings. Teachers need to be discriminating in their selection and use of materials in all areas of the curriculum. Each subject is related and learnings from the one affect learnings and expression in another. Teachers state that the reasons for using these methods are to teach children to color within the lines and to develop better coordination. According to Viktor Lowenfeld, it has been proven by experiment that more children color beyond their given boundaries in coloring books than in drawings they make themselves. Children have much more incentive to remain within boundaries of objects they have drawn than objects to which they have no relationship. However, there are times when the effect is more satisfying if the child does not stay within the lines. If children color their own drawings, they can develop as much or even more coordination that if coloring adult-drawn pictures. In the article “Spontaneous Child Art as Reading Readiness,” Rhonda Kellogg states, “When children’s hands are used only for filling in spaces of coloring books, the muscle coordinations developed thereby are not as differentiated as those resulting from making their own outlines and filling them in.” Therefore, the reasons stated for using such activities do not accomplish the teacher’s purpose.Coloring books imprint on a child’s mind one way of drawing, representing one view by another person. There is no one shape or one drawing that is considered the absolute representation of an idea. There should be as many different ways of representing an idea as there are children in the classroom. Coloring books regiment children into the same activity with no provision for their differences. Rhonda Kellogg states, “Coloring books are destructive to learning to read. They cause children to memorize adult-devised pictorials but not to memorize basic forms and detect their combinations.”As children color adult-drawn pictures, they will realize their inability to draw the adult concepts. After continued experiences such as these, the child, when asked to draw, will say “I can’t.” A child, once conditioned to coloring books, will have difficulty enjoying the freedom of creating.Patterns are also detrimental to creative development. They do not allow for individual expression and all completed work is alike. Individual differences have not been considered. The children have been denied the values gained from making decisions, expressing ideas and feelings, solving problems and using imagination. Copying pictures also has the same inhibiting influence on children and their art. As Daniel Mendelowitz states in his book Children are Artists, “Too often vigorous expression is repressed in order to develop a sterile percocity involving the ability to copy, a practice that can completely sap inventive power in children.”These so-called art activities…coloring books, hectographed pictures, copying and patterns…help to make children dependent in their thinking; they make children inflexible, for they must follow what they are given; they do not provide for emotional release, for they have no opportunity to express their ideas, feelings, and emotions; they condition children to adult concepts which they cannot produce alone; and , therefore, they frustrate children in their creative efforts.
Schools aim to develop individuals who are capable of making decisions, who are able to solve problems, who are capable of having original ideas, and who have developed self-confidence in their own ability. Why would anyone want to involve children in experiences that help to destroy rather than build those characteristics?
[Back to Elementary Art Home Page]