Standing at the chalkboard, drawing huge panoramas is something out of my early school years…not so much now for kids. Standing, drawing vertically, offers benefits to kidlets that might not be obvious at first glance.
I remember going out to pick up this chalkboard for preschool—I’m sure it’d be considered vintage seeing as how it was old-fashioned and out-of-date even back then being replaced with white boards in public schools, but the preschool kidlets loved drawing on it! Not too long ago a chalkboard–with intact drawings dating back to 1917–was discovered in an Oklahoma City school that was due to be renovated. Travel back in time, ponder the multiplication wheel in this NPR segment.
Having the opportunity to draw on chalkboards—to create VERTICALLY—is important for the early childhood set for several reasons:
1. Midline Crossing
When children have the option to draw across and use a large vertical space, they’ll cross the midline of their body to reach and draw on the whole surface. Actions that involve crossing the midline, forces both hemispheres of their brain to coordinate and work together. This helps to develop a worker hand and helper hand which lays the foundation for hand-dominance. Proficiency in midline crossing, or bilateral skill, is important in reading and writing, physical activities like sports and self-care skills.
2. Eye-Hand Coordination
The vertical arrangement, bringing the ‘work’ closer to a kiddo’s eyes makes it easier for them to make the connection. Additionally, that close proximity fosters attentiveness, though when kidlets are doing child-directed activities this usually isn’t an issue!
3. Spatial Awareness
When a kidlet is working on a vertical surface, comment as they make a movement upwards or downwards. Concepts like ‘up’ or ‘down’ are more readily understood when they’re actually standing and can compare what those terms would mean in relation to their own bodies rather than if they were sitting with a paper on a table—making what’s up or down much more abstract and subjective!
4. Core and Upper Body Strength
Drawing at the chalkboard requires kidlets to use and develop the muscles in their arms and shoulders—large, sweeping arm movements fosters shoulder flexibility as well as stability; flexion in the wrist by holding chalk pieces on a vertical surface naturally develops and stabilizes the muscles in the hand. Just having the arm up at the chalkboard—even not moving—IS work as it must fight against gravity! Additionally, standing upright encourages good posture—as everyone gets way too much time sitting nowadays anyway!
5. Sensory experience
Chalk has a distinct ‘feel’ to it. Applying it to a chalkboard is something that needs to be experienced rather than described as any description really wouldn’t do it justice. When you’ve got a piece of chalk you can draw using its point; shade using its side; or feather/blend more than one color together with your fingers and then of course, there’s the chalk dust—it’s a sensory experience!
6. Science experience
There’s an immediate cause-and-effect lesson using chalk as the individual pieces become smaller and smaller as they transfer onto the chalkboard; transforming later into chalk dust when the chalkboard’s erased…witness the conservation of mass!
If you don’t have access to a large chalkboard you can still give your child the benefit of creating on a vertical surface: Tape paper up on a wall, and let them paint; or let them paint on a full length door mirror–it’s a fantastically different experience; OR use an easel to paint or draw!
Yours in Play!