Excerpt from Rapunzel’s Supermarket: All About Children and Their Art, 2nd edition

About this book
Years ago I accepted a job I thought would only be temporary, working as an artist with young children in an innovative early learning centre. It was an experience that opened my eyes to the world of early childhood education – a world I have never since left. Rather, I have gone on marvelling at the wealth of knowledge we can uncover about how children learn. This book brings together many of my discoveries about children as powerful image-makers.

The book is intended for all who live and work with children from infancy to six years, and is as much for families as for staff in early childhood programs. In suggesting how you can help children realise their potential as image-makers, it is both a practical guide to children’s early image-making and a celebration of what they can do. I hope it reveals how visual arts experiences can be food for thoughtand the imagination, and a source of joy and wellbeing in children’s lives.

Eager Explorers
At the heart of the book is a vision of children as eager explorers – explorers with an intense desire and will to make sense of their world. Some of the most effective means they have for explaining things to themselves are drawing, painting and claywork. While using them to make images, they explore feelings and ideas, and through their images they communicate thoughts to others as well as themselves.

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Learning to see
‘Learning to see’ is another theme in this book. Being attentive to things, seeing familiar things anew, seeing the extraordinary in the ordinary are aspects of this theme which recur throughout. Why? Because ‘learning to see’ – with all the senses – is the starting point for learning about the world, the starting point for making images.

While writing this book and talking to families about it, I found ‘learning to see’ was a theme that appealed to many. The more I talked about the pleasures of looking at the world with children, the more people began telling me stories – about the magic of taking their five-month-old to see the sights at a fruit market, about taking time to watch their two- and three-year-old painstakingly arrange leaves for a caterpillar’s ‘dinner’, about seeing a six-year-old’s delight in opening aflower press. The book celebrates these shared moments.

How to use this book
The book is not meant to be read from beginning to end. Dip into it at random if searching for ideas, or turn to the table of contents and index for specific information. Whatever your starting point, I hope you will find in its pages a rich mosaic of images, ideas and poetry to enchant the eye and feed the imagination.

Drawing, painting, claywork, collage and construction feature prominently, but there are also glimpses of other kinds of image-making. Children use all sorts of materials – not just ‘art’ materials – to represent things, to express and communicate ideas and feelings. I’m thinking of the buildings they make with toy blocks, for instance, or the miniature worlds they create with leaves and twigs, or the ways they use dress-ups to transform themselves. Such examples, I feel, also belong in this book.

Each chapter offers suggestions for ways you can support, guide and also challenge children. Some suggestions apply particularly to children in group settings, while others may be more relevant to families at home. I hope the pictures and stories included will help you as much as they have helped me in learning to look at what children do and observe things from their point of view.

Children vary greatly. Each child has unique qualities and a unique style, so choose suggestions from the book to suit individual strengths, interests, abilities and physical requirements. To help you follow intersecting threads, each section ends with a list of related areas. This means, for example, that while key information on drawing appears in the Drawing section, you will also be directed to other sections that relate to drawing.

I have chosen some reproductions of works of art to give inspiration and enjoyment to children as much as to adults. Children, after all, like looking at ‘grown-up’ books. On my parents’ bookshelves were two art books: one on the German artist, Dürer, and one on the Dutch artist, Rembrandt. Although I can’t say that as a child I particularly liked any of the images in them, except Dürer’s Young Hare, I certainly remember poring over them because they fascinated me.

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