Art, for most of us, is the physical act of drawing and painting. On stretching our viewpoint further, we realise that it is much more.

Art is an experience, an expression of one’s inner self.

Exercise: Please do a small exercise before you read the next paragraph. It will be very interesting.

Take a blank paper and a few crayons, and draw any beautiful scenery that comes to your mind.

Unless you have done this, don’t read further. Most of us have been conditioned in our schools to have an inclination to a particular way of art. We have asked a number of parents on several different occasions to draw ‘a beautiful picture’.

About 95% of them always draw similar pictures, of mountains (having pointed peaks), the sun rising from between them (typically with alternating big and small rays), birds flying (drawn as the alphabet ‘V’), a river flowing (from between two mountains), trees (more often, coconut trees) and some ducks or fish in the water. We were surprised to notice the striking similarity in the pictures.

The culprit here is our education system and the fact that we have all been trained to think in the same way. The art within us has died, thus making us more mechanical than expressive.

In a similar manner, when dealing with a child, ‘expression painting’ must score over ‘object painting’.

Alternately, what we can do is to give the child (even as young as 1 or 2 years) a blank sheet of paper whenever possible and ask him to draw on it his feelings about a particular thing, situation or event. The smaller the child the bigger should be the paper.

As the child grows older, he will be able to tell us what he has drawn by pinpointing on the paper. At this vital point of time, it is very important for us parents to remember not to discourage the child by correcting his drawings, passing remarks or giving suggestions.

The visual effect of the drawing is immaterial; what matters is only what he has expressed.

In our curriculum, the children are now well accustomed to this form of art and they come up with most beautiful depictions of imagination. The maximum possible right brain development is thus made possible, which gives the child an incredible opportunity to become more creative and artistic in the real sense of the words.

To reach this stage, however, we had to go through our share of teething troubles. Upon constantly observing and monitoring our students, we realised that somewhere we were restricting them as opposed to setting them free.

It is also very important that the child learns to differentiate between various shades of the same colour, for example, scarlet red, crimson red etc. or turquoise blue, peacock blue etc. In order that this becomes possible, expose your child at a very early age to a range of colours rather than just those 12 common colours in a crayon box.

We don’t limit a child (under 6 years of age) to colouring within boundaries. This activity creates unimaginable strain on him and creates in him a terrible sense of restriction.

Allow him to be free, and let him colour with crayons, in a manner suitable to him. Always remember that the child should be stress free and joyful. Freedom within will inevitably be reflected as freedom without.

Colouring within boundaries will come to him naturally with age. So do not waste precious time and effort in teaching him the most obvious.

To develop the child’s expression in art, I recommend that you keep one wall in your house free just for the child to freely paint or scribble. Also, in each house, there should be a wall painted black, serving as a blackboard, with chalks of various colours freely available there.

When you always give such freedom to your child you will witness a sparkle in his or her eyes. That will surely make you smile, as well.