So last month I was reading through my friend Meri Cherry‘s new e-book called Art Secrets Every Teacher Should Know, A Reggio Inspired Approach (read my review below, the book is an absolute gem), and I gasped. I did! When I see something new, something that I have never thought of before, I get so excited that I gasp. (My entire family ran into my office to see what was the matter. Nothing to worry about, I said, just a brilliant idea. Then they said I was so. weird.)
In one part of Meri’s book, she uses transparency film for TRACING!! What? It’s such a simple material. How did I not know about this? I immediately ordered some online and waited patiently for my kids to come back to art class to see what they would do. I had a feeling they would love it.
Let me first tell you about our experience with tracing, and then I will tell you about Meri’s book, which you need to download this minute.
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~ Printed pictures of cute animals, or whatever your kids love
The set-up was easy. All I did was spread the photos out across the table, show them the transparency film and how you could put it on top of the picture and then trace with the sharpies, and they were off! To be honest, I had them at “Sharpies”.
They traced and colored, over and over again, running to show me each time. They not only loved this, they didn’t want to stop! I mean, how great is that? We decided to tape a piece of white paper to the back when it was time to bring them home, because once they lifted them up from the table, it was harder to see their drawing on the clear transparency.
As successful as the tracing prompt was, the coolest and most awesome thing happened after all the five and six year olds left. My 14-year old daughter came home from school and saw the spread on the table and gasped (I guess it runs in the family)! First of all, the photos of the animals that I printed out really were very cute. Secondly, she was genuinely SO excited that she could trace these animals and that they would look good. And by good, I mean accurate.
She spent the rest of the afternoon tracing and coloring. And all of Saturday and Sunday. I can’t remember the last time any of my kids spent three days doing the same project, with any prodding from me. She particularly has a thing for elephants, so she kept creating new versions with new patterns. It was awesome.
All of this enthusiasm for tracing got me thinking, what are the pros and cons of tracing for kids? Here’s what I extracted from the internet and from my own observations…
Benefits of Tracing:
~ It’s fun (and why not encourage art that is fun?)
~ It develops fine motor skills (a pre-cursor to writing)
~ It develops visual-spacial skills (what’s that you say? read this, it’s pretty interesting)
~ It makes children feel successful because their drawing is visually accurate
~ It boosts confidence
~ It gives them time to concentrate, to be completely immersed and in the flow
~ It boosts communication skills (talking about your drawing)
~ It uses both sides of the brain
~ It brings joy (most importantly!)
Cons of Tracing:
~ It’s not creative (although look at the colors and patterns my daughter created!)
~ It’s not real art (ok I didn’t really go there, did I? this statement needs it’s own post. what is real art?)
~ It can get the kids stuck on “perfect” and prevent them from drawing from their head (I have no evidence of this, just thinking that this could happen if a child traced too much)
~ You run out of wall space to hang up all of the tracings (because the kids will trace all. day. long.)
~ More benefits than cons means it is a WINNER!
Now, let me share my thoughts on Meri’s book…
* Although I received a copy of this book for free, all opinions expressed are my own!
Meri has a beautiful blog full of color and kids and art. You will swoon! She has a wonderful style of writing, which makes you feel instantly like you are a friend. She also is very generous about giving away all of her tips and secrets and insights into her Reggio inspired approach to teaching. If you don’t already know her eponymous blog, Meri Cherry (which would be hard to believe since I must mention Meri in just about every other post – she inspires me so), then click over now and sign up for her newsletter. Go on, I’ll wait.
Meri also recently, within the last half year, opened up an incredible art studio in LA. If I didn’t live all the way across the country, I would be living at her new place, bringing her coffee and hoping to blend in. If you live in LA, go to one of her classes immediately! And follow her on Instagram to see everything that is happening in her new space. Oh, and read this article from Red Tricycle that was just written about her space.
I wasn’t surprised at all that Meri also wrote this very special and insightful book. I have read every word more than once, and there are so many nuggets of wisdom. I love the way she organized her book, too. It’s very unique. The projects and the “art secrets” go hand in hand. Reading this book almost feels like I just took a course and learned all the fundamentals of art education. And with the way that Meri writes, nothing is intimidating. She makes it all so simple and logical. Art Secrets is an incredible and inspiring resource.
Also… it’s not just for teachers! Parents who are interested in letting their kids live a creative life will absolutely love and benefit from this book, too. In typical Meri style (always helpful and clear), she provides sample conversations to have with your kids about the art process, and has clear steps and supply lists. Her beautiful and almost peaceful photos (in that the kids look so immersed in their creative world) make this book even more worthwhile. We get to peak into Meri’s world, and it’s magical.
Click HERE to buy Meri’s book, and use the discount code Artbar to receive 35% off. This is special just for you guys (thank you Meri)!!
And follow her everywhere:
Phew, this was a really juicy post. I am so excited to have discovered transparency film and tracing. I feel like a whole new world has opened up for us!
Please leave a comment if you have anything to add about kids + tracing.
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