How can a painting help us to think about early childhood?

Dr Sarah Cousins,  recently visited the National Gallery of Ireland. The painting, ‘Children playing on the sand dunes’ by Eva Gonzales, prompted her to consider how paintings can help us think about early childhood.

Sarah explains:

In this painting two children have stopped along the way in the sand dunes. The girl is seated and appears to be working something out in her head. The boy is standing, facing her, with his hands in his pockets. He has put down the basket and has stopped for a while.

There is a still and hesitant atmosphere. The physical movement has ceased and the children are thinking, waiting, wondering, planning… There is a sense that parents, siblings, other family members or friends may be following close behind the children. The children know they are accounted for, and this is reassuring for them. Giving children some freedom and trusting them to move away from their important adults can be empowering. The older child is taking responsibility for the younger one. They have stopped and have time to think about their surroundings, plan their adventures, communicate with each other.

Paintings are also powerful resources for learning.  Children engaging with this picture might ask: Are the children waiting for the others or hiding from them? Do they feel safe or a bit worried? Where are they going? What is inside the baskets? Are they on their way to a picnic or on their return journey home? There are so many possibilities in narrative paintings for children to explore and be curious about. Paintings encourage storytelling and are a rich resource to share with children.

About the Blogger

Dr Sarah Cousins is Director of Early Years Programmes at CLL Warwick.

If you are currently working in the Early Years sector or associated field, or simply take an interest in how children learn and develop, the Foundation Degree in Early Childhood could be for you. Read more about our Foundation Degree in Early Childhood

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