Is Doodling Snoozing?

I was supposed to be writing my blog…………I blame it on the trolls. It all started with Cousin Troll and then a couple of his friends joined in. The Guardian recently featured a hilarious step by step guide to drawing a troll by Adam Stower children’s author of Grumbug (published 1 Jun 2015 by Templar Publishing). It had me hooked. It was meant for the kids but I couldn’t resist. So I grabbed the boy’s felt tip pens (hence the sketchy colouring) and brought these little creatures to life. It was a huge amount of fun. Give it a try!

The Trolls

A mere glance at my friendly trolls and the trained (even untrained) eye can see that I’m not an illustrator…….but I do love to doodle. Flowers, trees and cubes are my preferred doodles. I doodle on notepads, calendars, school letters, receipts, printer paper and even bills….especially bills! Furniture and books not so much of course.

For the most part doodling has been seen as a form of day dreaming. I certainly remember it as something to be reprimanded for in school. Yet is it truly a sign of a lack of concentration? Or is it a way for the brain to relax and let thoughts develop and creativity to take hold? I doodle mostly when I’m toying with new ideas for my books but am not sure which way to take them. It serves as a pause in the typing and a rest for the frown lines. I’m not even sure if I’m thinking about anything at all as I doodle my way through the fog but it feels good and leaves me with a sense of calm.

Psychologists have studied the doodling phenomena and have come up with some surprising results. Apparently instead of distracting the mind it helps to focus it (see Doodling Your Way to a More Mindful Life by Cathy Malchiodi). It’s an outlet for generating creative ideas (5 Big Benefits of Being a Doodler, The Huffington Post), it’s a stress reliever. I can certainly appreciate the healing benefits of stepping away from the manic rush of every day life from time to time in favour of some subconscious scribbling but I’m even more intrigued as to how doodling can help our children’s literacy.

Have you ever been presented with a scrappy piece of paper by your child and found yourself looking at random squiggles and tried to tactfully ask what the picture’s called in the vague hope it would shed some light on the ideas behind such a masterpiece? Literacy Development: The Importance of Doodling by Anna Ranson and guest blogger Kate describes several benefits of mark making for preschoolers as an early sign of communication which helps them to understand the connection between the people and objects around them and these lines and symbols written on paper. When children learn to write they enjoy colouring in letters, making patterns on them and embellishing them. It helps to imprint the letter formation in the child’s mind. Is this not their version of doodling? The physical and mental benefits of doodling suggest it is a valuable creative learning tool and a calming memory aid (The Cognitive Benefits of Doodling by Steven Heller). These are skills required to learn how to read so I can’t help wondering whether doodling is an undervalued subject in the school curriculum (Learning science through reading, writing…..and doodling by Laura Guertin) – although I’d probably need to do some doodling first to fathom out how exactly it could aid the teaching of reading!

Well doodling some trolls has certainly inspired me to write this blog, even if it wasn’t what I’d originally set out to write……but isn’t that the marvel of creativity where you can start down one route and often end up on another?

Please give my trolls some names and maybe use them as a story starter this summer – but make sure you squeeze in a spot of doodling to get those creative ideas flowing!


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Creating Stories using Art and Play: Part 2 – Stories in Shadow

Shadow Stories Pinterest

I’ve discovered that egg boxes and sieves make fantastic army tanks!

Most of us will by now have seen either on TV, U-tube or even live at the theatre, the seemingly effortless magical stories from the shadow theatre group know as Attraction who won Britain’s Got Talent in June 2013. The shows are original, moving and mesmerizing, surely three of the most coveted elements of any great story.

So continuing with the art and play story theme to help develop children’s imaginations, this week my boys and I created our own version of shadow stories – on a much smaller scale of course.

For this we collected together several random everyday items from around the house such as kitchen utensils, fruit, toys, boxes, bowls, pencils, books, flowers etc. as well as a very important blob of Blu Tack. Barr the Blu Tack these items could have been anything as it was more about looking for different shaped objects. We then twisted and turned the various household items until creative inspiration took hold so we could start to set the scene for our stories. This is where the blob of Blu Tack proves invaluable because invariably things will need supporting, sticking or boosting at some point!

There were a few challenges we encountered whilst setting up. We needed a light bright enough to show a good contrast and it also had to be just the right height to work effectively. Achieving quality photos of the shadows was somewhat tricky but hopefully I’ve captured them sufficiently to give an idea of how it works so you can try it out for yourselves.

Below: Battle of the Tanks………

Shadow Army 2

…… and this is how we made it!

Shadow Army Items

Below: Land of the Giant Butterflies.

Shadow Butterfly

We used the items below and a stalk from a shrub in the garden (not pictured) as the tree.

Shadow Butterfly Items

Below: The Pirate Captain’s Pet Sea Monster.

Shadow Sea Monster

Who would have thought a banana, some plastic cups, custard pots, toothbrushes, bowls and pencils could look like this?

Shadow Sea Monster Items

Below: Alien City.

Shadow Alien City

Here we held the Velcro ball and bat up above as a UFO against the city skyline.

Shadow Alien City Items

Below: Dancing Round the Maypole.

Shadow Maypole Fete

A pencil, wool, cut out people, Lego figure, book and a large mixing bowl was all it took!

Shadow Maypole Fete Items

Once we had set up our scene and given it a title we swapped silly stories of what could happen. Sometimes other objects got added or we used hand shadows to add more shapes and creatures. As with my sand stories blog last week these images are ideal as a story starter for a written piece of work too.

If you do try this with your children I’d love to see the results so feel free to post any of your sand or shadow stories on my Facebook page.

Creating Stories using Art and Play: PART 3 – Paintbrush Plays.

Creating Stories using Art and Play: PART 1 – Sand Stories.