My two-year-old nephew came for a visit recently to see my chickens. He is fascinated by them and loves when I open up their pen so he can chase them in the backyard. After an hour, I was exhausted trying to keep up with him, so I suggested we go inside.
After a drink and a snack, I asked him if he wanted to color. We sat and he scribbled all over his paper. As he worked, I asked him what he was drawing. His response was “chickens.” After picking up more crayons and creating some more scribbles, I asked him what the chickens were doing. He said, “Saying hi to Mommy.” My sister-in-law was working that day and I thought she would like to know what he had said, so I asked him if I could write his words down on his paper. My sister-in law called me later that night and thanked me for writing down his story. She said it’s proudly displayed on the refrigerator. I encouraged her to continue to write down his stories, keeping these things in mind:
It’s not just scribbling – Scribbling is the beginning of writing in the early stages. Scribbles eventually become shapes and pictures. Encourage the free art!
Ask before writing on their paper or artwork – Children work very hard on their picture/artwork and may become upset if you write on their artwork without asking their permission. If they tell you a story about their art, ask them if it’s ok to write it down. If not, you can still hang up the masterpiece, just write their thoughts on an index card and place it next to the art.
Go beyond saying “Good Job” – Rather than saying something generic to a child after they hand you their artwork, ask them some open ended questions such as “Tell me about the colors you used.” Let them speak. Don’t judge or impart your thinking into the picture, by saying something like “Oh, I thought it was a lion.” As children get older, let them write their own words (inventive spelling) on their papers. This helps them build their self-confidence, as well as their language and writing skills.
Don’t limit dictation to just artwork or drawings – During free play, ask them open-ended questions about their play. Take pictures of their block structures or dramatic play scenarios and add some dictation notes to the picture. Make a book to remind them of what they created. Taking an interest in what the child is doing makes them feel valued and appreciated.