Recently, we bought my 3 year old an easel, which has a chalk board on one side and a white board on the other. This is in line with the Montessori system, where “chalkboards are hung low” for children, so they can work out problems or draw.
The easel has been a big hit. My son likes to draw “race tracks.” He really loves when we draw things for him. He one day asked me to draw something on the white board. I sat down to draw, and I first realized there were very few things I ever drew in my life, and they amounted to flowers, trees, rainbows, and the sun. So I decided to get moderately creative and draw a beach scene. As I went to draw the sun, I realized I was only repeating steps shown to me of how to draw the sun: Draw a yellow circle, color it in, and make radiating lines around it for the rays. I wasn’t drawing the sun, as it actually is, based on my memory of having actually seen one. I was drawing a circle with some lines that had little but notational value in recreating the scene I was trying to draw.
I disciplined myself to draw something better. I drew the water and some sand, then I drew a very large sun, setting on the water, with reds and yellows all around it, as I have remembered seeing from past sun sets. It was much more deeply satisfying to draw this. I then started filling in many more details, such as birds walking on the sand and a crab. My son enjoyed all of it.
Montessori writes about materials she gives the children to encourage them to observe more about reality. She gives coloring pages, to draw their attention to color–picking out more and more precise shades of color as they develop. Modeling clay is provided to recreate 3-D shapes. And paper and pencils are given to also recreate shapes and colors. The goal is for the children to draw something they have actually seen. If you have ever actually tried doing these activities (coloring, drawing) recently, as an adult, you would see how powerful it is at drawing your attention to the details and beauty of objects.
In Montessori, the children get ample practice tracing and drawing all sorts of shapes. They also have a strong color training. So, instead of teaching my children step by step how to draw the sun, I am going to let them trace and stencil many shapes, including circles; color by using the color tablets; and give them plenty of opportunity to draw and create things that they like to draw–perhaps, even, the sun.