(Inspired by this post at TinkerLab.)
Materials: Roll of paper wide enough to fit a kid on (I got ours at Staples); Sharpie for tracing; crayons, colored pencils, paint, or whatever for adding color
A few weeks ago, while the boys were at school, I traced G’s outline on a piece of paper. She really loved getting traced. She wasn’t too interested in coloring herself in–she added a few crayon marks outside the border–but we hung her outline up on the wall in the hallway and when we pass it she says, “Me!” and often spreads her arms out, like she did when I traced her.
When my six-year-old saw that, he wanted to know when I could trace him.
I think there is something inherently exciting about seeing a life-sized you. I suggested that he could color himself in the way he looked, or he could show all the colors he is on the inside. He chose to do the second, which he understood right away. (If this is something you want to try, you could read a book such as Dr. Seuss’s My Many-Colored Days first.) We hung his outline up on the wall, brought the step stool over, and he went to work with his colored pencils.
Although my nine-year-old hadn’t wanted to come down to the studio, at this point he wandered in, looked extremely interested, and asked if I could trace him, too. He’s much taller, so I had to cut him off below the waist, because I didn’t think I’d be able to hang his full outline on the wall very easily.
He decided to use paint and to represent himself as he looks, right down to the clothes he was wearing that day.
The finished pieces:
My boys usually approach projects in completely different ways. One is more wildly imaginative, the other more literal, but it’s a mistake to think that a more literal, precise child can’t also be creative. My first degree was in science, the second in English, and one of the reasons I loved my photography classes is because they brought my detail-oriented and creative sides together in one discipline. (This was back when the work took place in a darkroom; no clicking “undo” if you messed up the ratios of chemicals due to carelessness.)
As I watch my older son, I am reminded by how much a creative pursuit can be enhanced by having a plan. As I watch my younger son, I am excited by his exuberance and ability to jump right in. Both qualities are important, and I try to meet them both where they are. I’ve seen evidence of my six-year-old stopping to think before beginning his work, and my nine-year-old relaxing a bit into an unknown experience that he can’t necessarily predict. It sounds treacly, but I’m privileged to be able to observe and learn from them both, as well as be the one who helps guide them.