Animal magic

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By Robert WattsProgramme Convener for the MA Art, Craft and Design Education at Roehampton University, London

Children love incorporating animals into their work, so choosing ‘Pets’ as a focus for art and craft activities should ensure an enthusiastic response

Left to draw independently, most children will produce a collection of images of mums, dads and baby brothers or sisters, often accompanied by yellow spiky suns in the top corner of their pages. It won’t be long, however, before something else attracts their attention as a suitable subject for their artwork, and this is usually animals.

Perhaps it is because animals feature so strongly in books for children, or maybe it is simply that they are so interesting and fun to draw – either way, children love incorporating representations of animals into their work.

Before you begin, think about assembling a collection of resources in your setting and create a display on one wall. Ask the children to bring in photographs of pets, and choose a few images, toys or models of pets that are not too ‘cartoony’ in nature. If possible, use an internet search engine to find artists’ images of domestic pets, for example, Picasso created a number of lovely sculptures of animals.

Whichever images you use, make a point of discussing the way that they look. Encourage the children to describe the similarities and differences between each of the pets, and talk about the visual qualities of each one, such as the texture or pattern of the fur. The closer the children look, the more they will notice, and the more informed and interesting their creative work will be.

Try to avoid drawing animals for the children, or providing photocopied outlines for them to colour in. The work they produce should form a great display in the setting, and the best displays are those in which every piece of work is unique.

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