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Child Art
The Dawning Realism (9 to 11 years)
By Lois E. Wilson, Senior Scribe
Former Art Education Instructor, Miami University 

The significance of this stage of development lies in children discovering social independence; they see that they can do more in a group of peers than alone. Most commonly, it is a same sex group. Girls may choose dressing up and parties; boys may prefer playing war, secret codes and rules for their groups. Cooperation with adults can decrease as children exert social independence. 

In their drawings, there is an attempt to depict the environment in a more realistic way; however, this realism is not in the photographic sense. Children see their own lack of ability to show objects the way they appear; therefore, they depict experiences with objects. Notice the exaggerated tongue of the boy eating an ice cream bar in the above drawing. They may put more details on the emotionally significant parts of their work which can cause stiffness in it.  Children begin to see that the space between base lines is important and the plane is discovered. Objects do not appear only on a base line but in appropriate areas between. 

They demonstrate the first step of a conscious visual concept of depth by sizing objects in their work. Paper-cutting allows the child to experience the meaning of overlapping in creating the depth illusion. The human is shown as boy, girl, man, woman defined by details and size. Patterns in clothing indicate awareness of repetition which is shown in the striped shirt and camouflage of the above cut-paper illustration. Using household items, sponges, or erasers to dip into paint and print with allows the child to create repetitive patterns. 

Three dimensions are suggested by shapes and shading. Lessons to teach color use at this stage destroy spontaneous approaches and make children insecure in their own intuitive color experiences. They can be made more color conscious by emphasizing their own reactions to color. Motivate the child to transfer feelings into colors which have personal meaning. 

Sometimes at this age level, children become withdrawn. Group art work can only be effective if children feel that what was accomplished as a group could not have done by themselves alone. Group murals using overlapping paper parts or modeling figures for a three-dimensional scene are good group projects. 

More crafts can be successful at this stage.  Working with yarn, cotton, fabrics, and papers of various colors and textures is recommended. Introducing materials such as wire, sheet metal, wood, and papier-mâché will stimulate children to consider the properties of materials in their applied designs. The child is expanding knowledge through experimentation and experiences. Adults should support this search with a continued positive attitude toward the child’s creative expressions.

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