In the early years, our children ask questions regarding . . . well, just about everything. We answer their questions – sometimes only as best we can – and are happy to help them get those answers they seek. However, when children only look to adults for the answers, they continue to be dependent on us.
How else can we help children develop skills to find their own answers?
On this morning, Greysen told me that she needed a stop light for her block road and small cars. I suggested she make one. On any other day, she would have scribbled something and anointed it “stop light” but not that day. This time, she replied that she did not know what one looked like. I told her that I knew where she could see the one for herself so she could then make one. I decided to act as her guide rather than the expert.
Research. Whenever possible, we use references such as photos or books to look for the answers to her questions. I answer her questions, but I also offer her the means by which she can look for the answer herself. On this day, a short walk took us to our reference point.
Drawing by Reference. I invited her to draw something to remember the lights by. She repeatedly looked to over to the light as she drew.
As we walked home, she noticed another type of traffic sign and drew this as well. I had no expectations nor did I give her directions on how to draw it. The drawing was incidental to what she was beginning to understand about herself – she could replicate in drawing things she sees. She was creating a reference.
Once home, she cut out her image and together we taped it to a block to be used in her play.
I thought she may be as excited as I that she was able to create something she could use in her play, but instead of pride or excitement, she only showed focus. She continued her play and used the light as she had originally intended.
In Reggio Emilia, Art Materials Does Not Equate An Art Experience. Even though she was using colored pencils for her drawing, this was not an art experience – at least not as we think of them at home. Her efforts were purposeful. Her drawings? An extension of her building play rather than a form of creative expression.
Access to materials (e.g., art or building) and time to play are the means by which children learn skills such as researching, referencing, and self-reliance. I’d like to include other ways for the girls to find their own answers aside from video, which I think they are still young for. If you use other resources, I’d love to hear about them.