Classic Computer Magazine Archive COMPUTE! ISSUE 117 / FEBRUARY 1990 / PAGE 88



Recognizing Relationships and Family Art Fun


Jean Piaget, a developmental psychologist, felt that one of the most important factors in a child's development was establishing a relationship between causes and effects. You can give your kids an edge with several simple computer-based exercises geared toward helping them understand his relationship.

To start, run a paint program and set it to a simple drawing mode. Place your child's hand on the mouse. Use a gentle touch to guide your child's hand, moving the mouse pointer smoothly from side to side. With ever-diminishing help, ask your child to position the pointer in different portions of the screen. Make sure you explain the difference between the canvas section, where you do the actual drawing, and the drawing-tool icons.

With basic coordination under control, instruct your child to position the pointer at the left side of the drawing area and to hold the button down and move to the opposite side. You may want to guide your child through exploring various drawing directions and lengths, or you might prefer just standing by and watching as your child explores and tries things alone. Both are valuable approaches, and I suggest trying each.

Of the remaining tools available, lines, boxes, and circles will be the easiest things to master. Your child should gain control sooner if you coach a little. Show the difference between making small squares or large circles. Specific tasks provide better training than random doodling.

Getting the kids to choose the drawing color increases the fun (and subsequent learning) tenfold. Soon abstract lines become recognizable pictures, and minutes spent with the program become hours.

The link between the mouse on the desk (cause) and the art on the screen (effect) should become firmly entrenched as lime goes by. With a little help and explanation from you, your child should have a good understanding of this basic, but important, concept.

A Family Painting

Once the kids are comfortable with mousing around the screen, you might want to involve them in a fun learning activity that your entire family can enjoy. Each person participating will take turns adding pieces to a developing picture. The learning comes from nurturing the creativity and adaptation necessary to introduce a new element into an existing scenario. The fun results from a unique creation that's a result of a group effort, and the inevitable interaction among the artists.

Begin by running your art program. You can either decide on a theme beforehand or let it develop as you go. If you want to choose the topic in advance, take turns picking, or put a bunch of ideas in a hat and do a random drawing. Decide who goes first and the order in which turns will be taken. You can even take turns setting the palette colors, if your paint program allows you to do this.

Having rules for each turn adds an element of structure, but a lack of restriction may enhance creativity. Here are some suggested guidelines, should you want some rules. Try basing each addition on a shape. Write various shapes on slips of paper and pull one out of a hat each turn. You could also incorporate colors—the slips of paper could read RED TRIANGLE or BLUE CIRCLE. You could even base drawings on a set of clip art. Randomly select from several pieces of clip art; then touch them up once they're in the big picture.

To enhance the educational value of this exercise, you might want to stress beforehand that the artwork shouldn't be purely random. It's important to make sure that the participants recognize the ideas and themes that others have introduced to the artwork. Adhering to these or elaborating on them will make for a more unified final picture.

When is the painting finished? It might be a good idea to have a specific number of turns, or the process might drag on forever. Saving the picture between turns is a good idea. If someone makes a major mistake, you can reload the previous version.

What should you do with your masterpiece? You can upload the file to bulletin boards or online services. Make printouts and send them to family friends and relatives. Keep a collection so you can see how things develop over time. Put the collection on disk and send it to people who have computers and compatible art programs. See if you can get other groups to do the same thing—some healthy competition could be fun.

Richard C. Leinecker

Winston-Salem, NC

Do you have advice that makes a better teacher out of your PC? If so, we'd like to hear from you. Send your tip, no matter how brief to COMPUTE! Feedback, P.O. Box 5406, Greensboro, North Carolina 27403. If we publish your suggestion, we'll send you a gift.