From the minute you get home… All games off. TV off. iPad off. Computers off. Mobile phones off. Could your children do it? Could you?
It was Screen Free Week in May in the US. What would happen if for just one week as soon as everyone got home – all devices were put aside, computers turned off (except for homework purposes) and there was no TV? How keen would you be to try it? How would everyone react? And more importantly – what would everyone do instead?!
My niece and nephew, 9 and 12 years old, spent the day with me during the school holidays. My niece proudly flashing her new ipad mini and my nephew with his ipod. As soon as they sat down they were on their devices. I set the alarm and said they had 15 minutes before we went screen-free for the rest of the day. There was tension in the air as they frantically wrapped up their games and YouTube viewing. We are always doing craft or art projects together so they knew something interesting was in store which probably eased the release.
The devices safely tucked away in their backpacks, we went for a walk to the park and they let off some steam running around and then back to my place for a picnic lunch outside on the rug.
I met a fantastic cartooning teacher a few years back – Brent Harpur. My nieces met him at a fundraising craft event I organised and they, like all children, just love him and his cartoons. The kids love drawing – although my nephew has got it into his head now that he is not good at it – so I pulled out the handouts from Brent’s class and shared some of his drawing tips. Brent says that if you can write the alphabet you can draw – an ‘o’ is an eye, a ‘c’ is an ear, an ‘m’ can be a pair of eyebrows… you get the picture. This really spurred my nephew on. In the end the two of them sat their experimenting with the drawing exercises, playing with different facial expressions, different body shapes, face shapes. Their devices long forgotten. I drew with them and with their input as to the hat my character should wear, the clothes, I came up with a picture that was completely different to anything I’d drawn before.
This is what I love about doing art with children, they inspire me as much as the things that I show them to ignite their imaginations.
My niece already knew she was a good drawer and now has some more ‘tools’ to add to her skill set. I hope my nephew has a different sense of his capability now. After all, he plans to be a film director… how cool if he can sketch out a few of his own storyboards!