But this isn’t the only benefit to your child’s development. Mark making can provide a wide range of other meaningful learning opportunities. At La Côte International School Aubonne, we see that as our young children develop and grow, their marks become more complex and sophisticated and their creativity blooms. Mark making helps our young learners to investigate new concepts, develop their understanding of the world, prompts them to record what they see and to solve problems. As a sensory and physical experience which can be enjoyed by all ages and abilities, it also provides a meaningful platform for connection and can help a child formulate their thoughts and ideas, express their feelings, relive an experience and tell a story.
In our Foundation Stage at LCIS, our experienced Early Years teachers follow the children’s interest and support child-led learning in a play-based learning environment, identifying opportunities to promote mark making through a multitude of creative activities and an exposure to a variety of materials and tools. Importantly, mark making doesn't just have to be explored with brushes, crayons and pens. Our Foundation Stage practitioners encourage the children to make marks using their fingers to draw in the sand, paint on an easel or prod them into soft dough. Depending on their curiosity, the children might use sponges and foam, experiment with cotton wool and string, investigate patterns they can create with toothbrushes, spatulas, spoons or whisks, or use potatoes as stamps. But mark making is not bound to the indoors, either.
Our safe and inspiring outdoor learning environment, which the children explore daily, allows them to access the curriculum in different ways to the inside classroom. We also frequently make use of the fantastic rural landscapes of Aubonne and take our children for walks through the sprawling orchards on our doorstep. Our Early Years students will collect sticks, stones, feathers and leaves and will explore creating patterns in the mud. And recently, we headed outside to enjoy some mark making on the walls in front of the school building.
As practitioners, we encourage parents to create opportunities for mark making at home too. It provides a great platform to bond with your child, explore creativity and encourage conversation.
Here are three tips to support your child at home:
1. Be inspired by what your children are interested in.
Facilitate mark making based on their area of curiosity. If they enjoy tying shoelaces, investigate how to make marks using shoelaces and colour. If they enjoy the story of snow white, you could explore mark making with apple slices. Do they love spaghetti? Mark making can be done using pasta, too! Furthermore, children can use a stick to make marks in the garden soil, or use their fingers in a tray of flour or on a steamed-up mirror. At bath time, you can squirt shaving foam onto a tray for an interesting sensory experience. You can also take some coloured chalk for a walk, and use it on the pavement, on walls and stairs, to experiment with mark making on a large scale.
2. Mark-making in all forms needs to be valued, encouraged, and discussed.
You can use this platform to bond and connect with your child, actively engage in their world and learn about their thoughts and feelings. Don't forget to ask curiosity questions while you are exploring areas of your children's interest together with them.
3. Don’t be afraid of messy play.
When exploring the many different opportunities available for mark making, messy play helps your child develop their early motor skills. When children make marks in foam, squeeze soft dough or spread mud or colour with their hands, they are learning to refine their fine motor skills by using the muscles in their fingers, wrists, arms, toes and shoulders.
Written by Emma Ryves, Early Years Coordinator, and Clair Crean, Early Years Teacher, at La Côte International School Aubonne