How many times have we all heard parents say to their child, “color in the lines.” The demand to “stay within the lines” usually starts with preschool and is often reiterated through early elementary school as children learn how to work spatially, visually and learn to express themselves.
I agree that staying in the lines for certain projects and coloring books is a necessity and is definitely a “skill” that needs to be fostered. It shows fine motor control and ability to concentrate. But I am always torn when I hear parents say to their children “stay within the lines” when they are actually doing something else besides coloring in a coloring book.
Over the years when my own two boys have had to create projects of any sorts, we always have conversations about technique. They often get discouraged on the “look” of the drawing or project vs the self-expression, ability to communicate clearly and creativity. I’ll never forget attending a science fair a few years ago and the students’ projects were amazing….a little bit of parent assistance was definitely seen, and that is ok…but the projects where the students did it completely on their own were even better. They showed more creativity, more freedom of expression and more exploring and discovery.
I remember a great story when one of my boys turned in a coloring assignment in 2nd grade. A little scribble was definitely outside the lines and the teacher commented that he should try harder to stay in the lines. My son looked right back at her and said, “don’t you know that Van Gogh didn’t stay in the lines either!”….a great memory and a really great laugh. I then explained that some assignments do call for precision and others call for less. It’s just knowing when to apply the precision and when to let go!
Take the time to ensure that creative opportunities that don’t need to be “so perfect” are really presented to your children. The ability to use the arts to communicate, express themselves, innovate and create is extremely important. I think the Impressionists would agree!