Mark Making

25 November 2019 : Related Tags

Mark-making provides wonderful opportunities for very young children to express themselves in ways that are meaningful to them. It’s often only a fear of getting it wrong, which is learned over time, that hinders creative expression says visual artist and Starcatchers Creative Skills trainer Pearl Kinnear. 


I like to think of mark-making by babies and very young children – whatever form these take – as ‘signatures’, directly parallel to signing your name. It is unique to them and therefore something to be nurtured and developed.  


However, one of the biggest challenges to nurturing and developing children’s creative expression through mark-making, painting, drawing, sculpting – indeed any kind of visual art – is the misconception that there is a ‘right’ and ‘wrong’ way to do it.  


For some adults who work with young children, and also parents, this attitude stems from school where right or wrong conclusions took priority to fit with testing or an exam structure. It’s an environment that encourages people to compare what they are creating with others. Just as we’re beginning to develop and hone our own style, too many of us lose confidence and shy away from creative exploration simply because we cannot draw in the same way as someone else.   


Consciously or sub-consciously, this impacts on the kind of environment adults create when engaging in arts and creative activities with young children. It’s hard, as an adult, to break free from the idea that when a person draws or paints they should be heading towards a definite conclusion.   


When I work with early years practitioners, I focus on discarding these misconceptions first and then on supporting them to find their way back into creative expression.  


Only once that door has been re-opened can adults be open-minded and fearless in their creativity – a state of mind that, given the right environment, young children can access easily, and indeed naturally.  


It really doesn’t matter what is created, or what it looks like, what matters is that the child has created it themselves; that it means something to them and they can feel pride in it.   


Get on the same page as them, embrace an experimental approach to creating art and make it all about the journey rather than the destination! 


Unadulterated creative expression helps young children develop tools with which to take on challenges, decipher, deconstruct and reconstruct in a reactive and communicative way.  It provides the building blocks needed to develop the confidence needed for decision-making, questioning, problem-solving and the freedom to enjoy a life of learning. 


This blog was written as part of Starcatchers‘ campaign Making My Marka celebration of the role that arts and creative experiences can play in helping our youngest citizens learn about their rights.

Pearl Kinnear delivers training for Starcatchers’ Creative Skills programme and Starcatchers’ Commissioned Training.

Download Starcatchers’ Commissioned Training Booklet