Sunday, February 3, 2013

Toddler Art Lessons: Learning to use markers and the reason behind the marker block

Markers are a great "first art" experience for toddlers, medium-wise.  They allow a toddler to explore the process of using a writing implement, are washable, and don't need much direct pressure to produce a stroke (they'll even write if you tilt them to the side a bit). 

I am intentional about teaching the markering "process."  As a matter of fact, the first few times I introduce markers to toddlers I don't even push them to actually write with them.  Here's the process:

Choose a marker and show them how to open the cap.  It's hard work!  Great for strengthening those little hand muscles and connecting the hand-eye networks. 

Snap the cap onto the bottom of the marker so it doesn't roll on the floor and get lost.  My little guy (17 months) has a really hard time with this part.  He still likes the cap better than the marker, so he's not wanting to snap the cap on the end.  I model it for him and he'll do it when he's ready. 

Write....if ya want to.  I always use the words "we write on paper" and pat the paper.  If he starts to write on the table or himself I remind him about writing on paper, and if he isn't redirected, I say, "We write on paper.  Here, I'll help your hand find the paper" and move his hand with the marker to the paper.  "There's that paper!" 

After writing, put the lid back on and listen for the "snap" when the lid is on tight enough.  I initially make a big deal of this--we hold the marker up to our ears and listen and say, "SNAP!"  Toddlers and preschoolers love it.  And it's an important part of the process because no one likes dried-out markers!

I am very diligent about keeping markers in a "block."  There are many reasons for this--
*it encourages the math skill of one-to-one correspondance
*it helps the child know immediately if a marker is missing or a lid's no on
*it limits the available choice of markers to a developmentally appropriate amount
*it teaches the child to be organized and neat with art supplies
*it's super portable--you can quickly take markers to another table, outside, etc. 
*it's visually appealing!  How fun to see all the marker colors sticking up so beautifully!
*pencil boxes and bins tend to collect other junk and get cluttery--there's only space for markers here!

There are lots of ways to make this type of block.  Ours was made by wood-gluing together two pieces of scrap two-by-four and drilling holes into it.  You can, of course, purchase these (usually plastic ones) at teacher supply stores, as well, if you don't have access to tools to make one.  I've also see marker lids cemented into a pan to make a similar type of marker block. 

My 17 month old LOVES working with markers and will happily uncap, examine (sometimes draw a mark), and recap for 10-15 minutes.  I often present the markers when I need to get some type of paperwork done at the table so he can "write" with Mama!
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