How we encourage Mark Making (on paper - not on the wall or table).
"Mark making helps young children make sense of their world, and express their thinking to others. The patterns of marks that you can observe can help you to understand their thought, even before they can express what they mean." - The Ultimate Guide to Mark Making In The Early Years.
I've mentioned previously how I believe that toddler mark making is important. It's learning, it's expression, it's creativity, it's communication. Mark making and scribbling is something that needs to be allowed, nurtured and encouraged in these early years. My children including our toddler have free access to pencils, crayons, paint sticks and oil pastels. We want the child to use the materials as they need, but how to do we prevent the toddler from drawing on the walls or even on the table?
Preventing the toddler from drawing on walls, for me, is simple. Supervision is required around the toddler when they have access to drawing materials. Drawing on the table or even on furniture, themselves or their clothes is harder because it can be more discrete. I re-direct when I can "pencils are for paper, let's go find the paper", "we don't draw on the wall, let's clean this up". But what I also aim to do is to fill my child's cup, fulfil his need for drawing, for mark making.
Upstairs Otto (24 months) has a writing table that he has free access to, he uses it multiple times every day, there is always clean paper out and ready. Upstairs Otto has never drawn on the table (intentionally), walls or anywhere but the paper provided. This leads me to believe that if the child has free access to prepared environment - ready for mark making, it's more likely they will use these resources rather than the wall or elsewhere. But I also know that toddlers have a need for big movements. We can't expect a toddler to be satisfied with one piece of paper on a drawing tray.
We provide A3 floor books for drawing and mark making. The floor books are large with many pages, so the children can use them until they fill them up. We also have a large blackboard outside, but chalk for use on paving is a good idea too. An art easel can also assist with satisfying this need for big movements. These large mark making surfaces are also excellent for encouraging the child to cross the midline.
Another way we have been satisfying this need for big movement and mark making, especially as the colder weather approaches is by using large paper taped to the floor. Today Otto had the option of paint sticks, pencils or oil pastels. He chose the oil pastels, I feel he gets more coverage with them as he doesn't always hold them upright. This is easy, affordable and a lot of fun. I just set it up (often when the older children are at school), and allow Otto to use it once he finds it/when he wants, as much as possible this activity is child led. I was thinking of putting out a large roll of paper, so that Otto could get it and show me when he want to this large scale drawing and then I could tape the paper down.
I find this big art helps with self-regulation and self control. I can see that Otto uses a lot of the paper but he doesn't (and hasn't before) drawn on the floor. It is freedom within limits.