'When my husband and I bought our first house shortly before our oldest was born, it was only 968 square feet. The largest available floor space for playing was about 9′ x 12′, so when Nathan was old enough to color and paint, I turned to the only space left – the walls! We hung a whiteboard in the hall, (Did you think I’d let him write on the walls?) and taped large sheets of paper to the wall for pictures galore.
Q: Why do art on a vertical surface? A: Drawing on a vertical surface encourages a child to bend or flex their wrist backwards.This position promotes the tip-to-tip pinch of the fingers (fingertips touching or pinching) necessary for later writing skills.Vertical writing is also an excellent way to strengthen arm and shoulder muscles, necessary for stability during later writing tasks. From a visual perceptual angle, it is also much easier for a young child to perceive and align items vertically in front of them than on the table top to begin to understand concepts such as up, down, top, bottom, etc.
Q: At what age did you first put a crayon or paintbrush in your own children’s hands? A: My daughter began with bingo markers at about 12 months of age. We then progressed to paint brushes and cut up sponges. We introduced large crayons and side walk chalk when she phased out of “eating” everything in sight. We encountered a few mouthfuls of non-toxic paint along the way! My son is a different story altogether! He refused to color or paint until about age 3 for any longer than 30 seconds. BUT, he loved to cut – he cut paper, paper plates, cardboard bags, string, PlayDoh, etc. Then he squeezed glue and glued them all together. Now at age 4, he will hold a marker, so do not worry if at an early age you encounter resistance!
Q:What kind of crayons or chalkare best for coloring? A: I recommend the fattest crayons you can find. It is much easier for a child to hold a crayon with a less precise pinch and then to move to smaller crayons as their fine motor skills progress. For children age three and four, broken (an inch or less) crayons and chalk can be especially useful to promote tip-to-tip pinch skills. Tip-to-tip pinch skills and rotation of objects within the finger tips is essential to manipulating writing utensils later.
Q: What if my child refuses to do vertical art? Does that mean something is wrong? A: No, as with any play tasks, children can be very opinionated. Keep it available as an option, (like a whiteboard in the hallway) and they are sure to venture to it eventually. Many times in therapy, I would just sit down at a chalkboard without any expectations for a child to join me and eventually, curiosity got the best of them and we were creating roadways and alphabet gardens galore!!
As the weather turns nicer, take your easel outside – the mess is easier to clean up! Give your child a bucket of water and a paintbrush to paint your fence or side of the house. When the fence is wet, let them draw with pieces of colored chalk. The colors become quite bright on the wet surface, and cleanup is easy with a hose.
Let your child finger paint with a brush or fingers (using washable finger paints) during bath time. A bleach pen will remove any paint color residue from grout lines.