Jasper and I love painting together. He used to love mixing all the paints together on the page, marveling at the different patterns, colours and shapes he could make. Recently though, he is keen that everything “is” something. His pictures are a dragon, Grandma in bed, Daddy underwater. He’s really into story-telling and quite often, his drawings or paintings will reflect his play. It’s simply a joy to see.
However, this desire for his art to represent other things has spread over to other areas and it’s in those areas, he has started to become even more of a worrier and perfectionist than he already is. He wants to write so we (and only because he wants to) have been working on forming letters and numerals. I am very aware that he is only 3 and that there is absolutely no need whatsoever for him to be doing this yet. No need of course, except that he wants to. To me, that’s the beauty of home ed. You can do things with your children not just when “they’re ready” which seems to be the current jargon used in the EYFS, but when they want to.
Although he wants to write and is so proud of his efforts, he becomes very agitated when he writes a letter that in his eyes in “wrong.” He will often point out that one letter isn’t “as good” as another. A week or so ago, my husband returned from work and enquired as to the nature of Jasper’s day. Jasper replied that although he’d had a fun time and done lots of playing he was “a bit worried because one of the letter ts wasn’t very good!” It broke my heart.
I thought about not letting him write until he was a little older but the more I reasoned, the more ridiculous it seemed. In essence, I would be saying, “No, you can’t learn to write until you’re older, even though you want to, because the time isn’t right.” Much of my problem, of course, with the school system. I constantly praise him for his efforts, we play, have fun, giggle and explore but still the perfectionism seeps in. Needless to say I’ve been looking for a way to help him to have fun with his letters; to allow him to have a go at the writing he so craves to do but without the pressure he puts on himself to be “right.”
I was delighted when I discovered this wonderful post on laughingkidslearn.com. Kate, the writer, suggests you use a large sealable bag, fill it with paint before sticking it to the window to allow children to manipulate the paint inside the bag. In addition to all the sensory learning that goes on, there are all those wonderful opportunities for mixing colours especially with the light from outside shining through the paint. For me though, the idea was that Jasper could practise forming letters in the paint and just slide his hand across to rub them out and try again.
I couldn’t find a bag large enough, so instead, Jasper and I covered our french windows in clingfilm, squirted the paint all over it and then covered with another layer.
For the first few minutes, he was content to play. He made hand prints, described the texture as “gloopy” and pointed out to me that he had made purple paint using red and blue. He loved it. The rain was pounding on the conservatory roof, so we put Debussy’s ‘Reverie’ on because it reminds us on the rain and pitter-pattered with our fingers all over the painted window.
I didn’t suggest he did any writing but sure enough, after a few minutes, he drew the letter a on the window and explained what it was. “Fantastic,” I said. “I think I will have a go too.” I drew mine next to his. Now of course, mine was and I use this term simply for want of a better word “correctly” formed whereas his, although it was clearly the letter a, was a little lopsided and had a rather long tail. I’m not being pushy here, I know he is 3 and to me any interest in learning is great but him having fun is the priority, but my intention was to help him get over his worry. Jasper then did what he always does when we write on paper. He traced my letter with his finger before having another go himself. This time his letter looked more like mine but instead of pointing out that his first attempt was “not very fine” as he usually does, he just slid his hand over his first attempt, laughed at the funny feeling of the cold paint through the cling film and tried again.
Now, I don’t know why this happened. Maybe it was because there wasn’t the pressure of having a written recording forever. Maybe it was because he didn’t think he was “writing” and so hadn’t put that pressure on himself because he was playing and enjoying himself. I really can’t explain it. But it was fantastic.
Even when we cleaned up afterwards, rolling the clingfilm into a snake-like shape all the way down the window, he wanted to turn it into a letter s. It wasn’t quite long enough but instead of worrying that it didn’t look quite like the letter he just threw his head back, laughed again and exclaimed, “That’s just a funny type of s, isn’t it Mummy?”
So thank you Kate, for such a wonderful activity. I enjoyed it as much as Jasper.