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Art in Homeschool – Young Children – Pencil Stage

Young Children – Pencil Stage

Teaching young children art in homeschool As we said earlier we’re going to call the age group from around 3-6 years the Pencil Stage.  This is when young children can grasp a pencil well and form intentional lines, circles and where they start to form their letters.

This is a crucial age for children to learn many basic Art skills, but without formal learning and curriculum.  The best thing to do for a child at this stage is simply supply them all of the tools they’ll need to allow them to create and give them lots of ideas.

Even though you don’t need to be concerned with any formal curriculum, you really need to be sure to help them stay organized and doing projects with them will be extremely helpful for both of you.  When you do simple little Art projects with your child on a regular basis they learn little things that will save you in the long run, such as the quantity of glue necessary… not that you won’t at some point have to clean up a puddle of glue, but it’s better if it’s not on a regular basis.  And there is absolutely no need whatsoever to prove you are crafty or have any Art skills – this is a time to simply have fun, spark your child’s creativity and help them learn how to use and keep their Art supplies intact.

The same list of Art supplies is appropriate for this age group as was mentioned in the Crayon Stage post with some minor upgrades and additions such as:

  • Regular sized colored pencils
  • Larger water color paint set – more colors
  • Lined Paper
  • Regular Pencils
  • Better scissors
  • Better paper or more options – tag paper, construction paper, tissue paper, etc.
  • Glue – regular
  • Chalk pastels
  • (um… maybe Markers… but not recommended yet)
  • Simple Art projects – such as Art for All Seasons: Grades 1-4, cool ideas from Pinterest, and the See the Light Shine DVDs.

One of the main things to really reiterate to children at this age is organization and taking care of their supplies.  Not because you or they have to be any kind of neat freak, but because they should gain some respect for them and because it can be very dangerous for babies, pets and/or extremely messy and destructive if they don’t.  Art supplies shouldn’t be treated like toys – there’s a big difference between having Lego’s on the floor and a set of paints.

Markers – I love markers, I have had markers for all my kids, but we use them more sparingly nowadays with little ones… and I’m going to post a slightly negative review of them for younger children, but take what I say as general and with a grain of salt.  I simply think it’s better to save markers for the older children, ages 6+ because they don’t really need them earlier than that.  My feelings about them are that markers are a little too easy for them and can take away from some of the creativity when a child is just learning.  On Crayola markers the age is stated as 4+ and though I agree with that for the most part, I think if you can wait a little longer and let kids do more with paints and pencils for a couple years you may save yourself a little frustration and let them explore being creative a little more.

Kids under age six are really into exploratory learning and the best way to really explore with markers is generally quite destructive, but that’s not my reason.  I know there are so many “mess-free” products that companies like Crayola are coming out with, and that’s great – they’re just trying to always have something new and exciting because they’re running a business, but really and truly, the best products are usually the tried and true.  My feeling is that Art products for little kids should foster creativity and, though it sounds a little backwards, the more simple products do that better.

With paints, chalks pastels, crayons and pencils you are forced to learn how to create.  Make sense?  It’s similar to giving a child an expensive toy verses a cardboard box to play with – they generally learn more and have more fun with the cardboard box because they can be more creative with it and they have to use their imagination, which comes more natural anyway.

So, that’s my opinion on markers – I just think younger kids don’t need them yet.

  • Pencils and Lined Paper – this a time where you really want to introduce these supplies for your children.  This isn’t necessarily when you need to worry about getting them formal manuscript printing curriculum or anything like that, unless your child wants it – because, generally speaking, unless you have a defiance problem, when a child doesn’t want to do something in a healthy learning environment it’s because they aren’t ready for it.

To get them ready for it and give them the desire to explore and learn further – just get them some lined paper and decent #2 pencils. Let them explore with making scribbles, lines and circles before trying to teach them any kind of handwriting.  They need to learn how the pencil works – how the lines form, how to hold it comfortably and what wonderful things can come from this wonderful tool.  Show them what their name looks like, what Mom, Dad, sibling or pet’s names look like, Grandma, Grandpa – but don’t make them even try to write it at first – just show them the point of using a pencil and lined paper… pun intended.  Show them how a few names look, leave the paper there and let them “write” on their own while you’re cooking dinner or folding laundry.  Then when they come to you, showing off all their little scribbles tell them what a great job they did, how smart they are and they really will want to do more!

For my kids this goes on for a couple years as they get better and more intentional with their lines before I try to teach any lettering to them. During this time we learn what all the letters of the alphabet look like so they recognize them and I give them some simple letter tracing pages for them to do if they want “schoolwork” like the big kids. By the end o this stage children should be able to form their letters well, but not at the beginning.

The best lettering pages I’ve found, and our personal favorites, are – Free Alphabet Letter Tracing & Coloring pages from Jan Brett

There are three main lettering formats I teach, in order, are plain block Manuscript, then D’Nealian Manuscript and then D’Nealian Cursive.  Then after the kids have mastered that they can go onto any fancy writing styles they want, such as Spencerian, Calligraphy and Lettering in Art.

We use plain block Manuscript very little in our homeschooling, mainly just until the child has a thorough understanding of what letters are what, and when they first start writing them.  By second grade we move onto D’Nealian and stay with that for all printing, even after beginning and mastering cursive.

For ages 3-6 the best thing to add to their creativity in Art is getting them excited to learn lettering and using a pencil.  This helps them to be more interested in writing and drawing while giving you an easier time when you want them to do handwriting exercises or any kind of creative writing because the more they enjoy it, the more they’ll want to do it.

To make it less of a chore, teach them to enjoy it more!

Be sure to subscribe to read more about the Paintbrush Stage in next week’s post!


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