Every holidays I get mothers asking why I don’t run Holiday Workshops for under 9s. Most mums are understanding when I explain, but there is always a percentage who insist their 7 or 8 year old should be an exception, and some who just outright lie about their child’s age in order to book them in. As a teacher, I have a responsibility to the well-being of my students, and my decision to set age parameters is based on many years of professional experience & observation.
1. School Workshop vs Holiday Workshop
First up, bear in mind my main focus is actually running Creative Cartooning Programs in schools, during school terms, where I can teach appropriately according to each Grade level. I’ve been running these programs in Primary & Secondary schools for over 25 years, teaching thousands of kids from every social & age demographic. I prefer working in schools & collaborating with teachers, because the skills I teach can be extended and integrated into the students’ overall learning via the broader curriculum.
My Holiday Workshops are structured differently, and designed to accommodate as broad an age range as will be comfortable for the students within one group. They are still intended to be educational and informative, as well as a fun creative & social experience. They are not a Holiday Care program or a childminding service.
2. Developmental Differences
Any Primary teacher will tell you that there is a big developmental difference between the ages of 8 and 9, even between the first half of 8 and the second half. Big leaps occur in motor skills, conceptual understanding, ability to focus, social responsibility & sense of self.
Most 8 year old boys especially need active, varied, body-based engagement, so it’s unfair to expect them to stay still & focused on one thing for too long. Girls at this age may focus better but can also have a deeper sense of responsibility & desire to meet expectations. In both scenarios, too much too soon can lead to frustration or upset.
For many young children raised on regular screen time & digital dependence, there are many added developmental setbacks that effect the brain’s ability to process naturally & efficiently. In 25 years of teaching, I have seen an incremental decline in childrens’ line control & linemaking confidence (including handwriting), observational abilities, spatial awareness & design sense, hand-eye coordination, and ability to immerse in a process.
3. “But My Child Is A Mature 8!”
Of course there are exceptions, but emotional or intellectual maturity doesn’t automatically qualify them for these workshops. Many mature 8 y.o. will still struggle with the technical demands of the drawing concepts, which can lead to a negative experience. They may become extremely upset because their expectations are too high, they may become angry & frustrated and resort to disruptive behaviour or arrogance to mask the fact that they are struggling. None of this serves the child or the rest of the group.
4. “But My Child Draws All The Time!”
So did I. Every single day, prolifically, from 4 years old to 18 years old. But I had my own ways or styles of drawing, my own habits, which meant I was exceptional at doing it MY way. Just because a young child draws all the time, doesn”t mean they will be able to draw differently, or even want to in the first place. I resisted being “taught” to draw in new ways, because I was sensitive to expectations & didn’t want to appear to “fail”. I certainly explored many different styles, but only when I was ready, and on my own terms. In my teaching, I use a very specific drawing style, concentrating on clear, bold, flowing lines to get the students to focus on line control & form. Even older, more experienced students can find it a challenge to draw outside their usual habits.
5. Positive Learning Experience
Most of all, I want my students to have a positive creative learning experience. As a teacher, and a devoted parent, I care about the well-being of the kids I teach. The deepest learning happens through experiences that are fun, challenging in an engaging way, inspiring, thought-provoking and easy to access. I want the kids to feel a sense of accomplishment in the process.
I’ve had parents lie about their child’s age because they believed their child was an exception, only to find the child in tears by the end of the workshop because they were too young to deal with their own unrealistic expectations. This sort of negative experience for a young child can create far-reaching damage to their creative development & self-esteem.