Literature Review

Otto Weininger:  Children's phantasies, the shaping of relationships. (1989). Great Britain: Karac Book.
    Weininger's book discussed many issues related to the children's fantasy subject, by the means of how children express their imagination, and why they behave in such way? What is the meaning of children's fantasy? And finally, how children express their fantasies through their activities such as art?

     By reviewing this book, I will concentrate on discussing the fourth chapter in particular under the title: “Feelings, thought and creativity: the interdependence of phantasy and learning”. I choose to discuss that particular chapter because the writer discussed by it the issue of fantasy and children's drawings, which is the same issue I will go to cover by this research contents. Weininger spoke through this chapter about his personal experience as he observing kids at a preschool art classroom (children between age of 3-4 years old). I found also so many similarities between what he described and discussed, and what was the situation with Kindergarten kids at Saturday School (from where I selected the material of art works to discuss by this research).

     At first, Weininger described the whole atmosphere around him where kids usually doing their art projects. There are different materials that kids can use, such as crayons, markers, papers, clay, wooden blocks, paints and brushes, saw materials, music instruments, etc. Two adult teachers usually stayed with these kids who were specialist in Early Childhood Education. The teachers responsibility is to watch these kids, helping them in their activities, and giving them suggestions when ever kids asked for it or if the teachers suggestions can help the child in solving his/her problem. Weininger focused by his description that teachers should be there as observers more than as problem solves, because he believe that children should try to solve their problem personally but if they cannot solve the problem; adults can help at this stage.

     Kids usually have their freedom to choose their activities without any control from the teachers, so this freedom gives them the opportunity to be more creative in doing their activities and to be more imaginative in applying their ideas by the available art materials. The only difference we had here than the situation with Saturday School that children are more controlled and directed in what they can choose for their activities each week. Personally speaking, I think that the more kids getting older the more they need to be more controlling. Simply because they should learn by time the meaning of controlled/organized activities, and time consuming.

     The writer argument in allowing a complete freedom for the children to choose their activities by themselves, is clear when he said: “As children build up knowledge through their activities with art materials, it seems an exceptional mistake to remove one of the most useful ways that children have of building up knowledge.” (p. 138). Weininger defend also his opinion by quoting the following opinion of Lawrence K. Frank:
“ It takes a long time for a child to organize his experiences, to fit people, objects and events into categories and concepts so familiar to adult. His fumbling efforts often resistant. But in play he can manipulate, organize, rapidly change and rearrange his smaller world of toys toys and materials, and, if given time, materials and opportunity to experience in his own way, he finds himself when he has gone astray, and gradually learns how to get along with himself and with others in a large and complex world.” (Frank, 1952, p. IX).

     Later on, Weininger clarified his idea behind the importance of the children's freedom in choosing their activities with “different materials”, is that they will have more creativity in applying their ideas and will be able to solve their problems in different ways. This opportunity  encouraged them to work with different materials, and know how to deal with that wide variety of the environment's objects around them. Weininger commented “Because the materials are so diverse, children learn without being limited to a closed set of formations. The materials provide the basis for transformations of set of ideas or postulates, and new materials help new formations to develop…Transformation means transferring ideas from one material and activity to another”. (p. 136-137).

     It is well obvious that young children are very eager to show their knowledge about the world around them, and to try as well different ways in showing this knowledge. The real world for them is very interesting to discover, and gradually as they discover it, they save different ideas and facts about it. Showing these ideas and facts usually consider a very personal experience with each child alone, so we as adults taste the same fact in different way with each child's experience. For example, if you ask a group of children to draw a subject about the family for example; each one will draw it in different way even they will all using almost the same symbols or objects. As children growing, about four to six years old, they will be more critical about the world around them. They start to ask meaningful questions and waiting to hear answers from adults around them, and they will be also critical about these answers. Weininger commented regarding this idea by saying: “I think they want this because they are becoming aware of the standards and methods of evaluation we have placed on them.” (p. 138).
     Between the age of four and six, children seem to be in a desperate need for different activities. Art in this case seems one of the most important ones that allows children to explore and develop further knowledge they need to integrate diverse fields and systems of information about life and nature, they simply by doing art learn about themselves and the world around them. Weininger commented: ”Children learn about the world because of their need to control their internal anxieties.” (p. 142). Why art in particular?!. As Weininger explain how children behave at the age of four and six, he said that they always looking for pleasing first of all adults around them, whether parents, teachers, or just strangers. They are on other words  following adults’ fantasies, especially parents who want to make sure that their child is walk within their plans for future or “fantasies”.

    When it comes to specific subjects such as reading, writing, or arithmetic; children's achievements are very highly demanding from adults to be done in a very good standard or way. This make children very frustrating and stressed to do their best most of the time, but when it comes to art activities the situation becoming different some how, because they will have more freedom in showing their real capability and desires without that fear of adult's evaluation. Personally, I think what Weininger discussed regarding this issue is seems very interesting and true as well; judging from my own experience at school. He pointed out: “When children work with art materials, they can formulate the symbolism that is the basis of sublimation. At the lowest level the materials provide a ‘safe’ form of symbolic equation.” (p. 140). Then he continued: “Klein points out that ‘…through symbolic equation things, activities and interests become the subject of libidinal phantasies’ (Klein, 1930, p. 25).” (p. 140).

    As children using various art materials, they will stay anxious as they move from one material to another, and this will help them in obtaining the creativity which is also caused the creation or formation of the symbol. The writer here quoted: ‘Symbol formation is the outcome of a loss, it is a creative work involving the pain and the work of mourning.’ (Segal, 1973, p. 76). The information that child could use to deal with any material, will help him for sure in knowing how to deal with other materials in a creativity way, and to encourage him in knowing more and more about other materials characteristics.

    The writer also concentrated on discussing the subject of anxiety and the idea of understanding reality. He said that the children who have some difficulties in handling anxiety (because of internal stress or external demands), their understanding of reality will be inadequate generally unless they know how to deal or to handle anxiety. So the art materials considered here one of the most affective way to help children in dealing “with external reality without imposing the anxiety resulting from internal phantasy…Art materials formed the foundation for all learning in a school I set up and directed for eight years.” (p. 143).

    Usually, children's perception of reality was based upon their internal fantasies; they believe that every thing bad in real just because they made it so in fantasy. They always complaining if they cannot do any thing right that “it is bad, or unreal”, they are expressing their feelings regarding the meaning of badness of not knowing how to deal with some materials. In this case, we should helped them to explore another material that they can deal with it successfully, and this will for sure raise their faith and confidence in them selves. Later on, the writer review the idea of incidental teaching and how this way of teaching is important to clarify children's thoughts and experience, and also to develop their skills and concepts regarding what they are learning or doing.

    If we ask the question: Why children usually like to fantasies their real world, and come up with imaginary ideas about it? I asked my self this question many times as I kept watching those kids at Saturday School. The answer I found in Weininger’s opinions that children tend to this way of fantasizing their real world as a way from them to escape from it; they found this real world is no more attractive and exciting for them to deal with it by drawing, talking about it, etc. As I thought about his opinion, I think that it makes since to me; even as adults we sometimes fantasies our thoughts to feel more excited about our real life. Fantasy also is our freedom world that we redesign and reform it the way we like, without any controlling or restrain from others in the real life.

    The writer through this chapter discussed so many cases that he personally dealt with them, cases about children who have some behavior's problems or who they are disabled. The art activities was his effective way to deal with these children and to solve their problems, and to give these children a way to feel more confidence about them selves and the people around them. He mentioned that when children have difficulties in their behaves, they will become less creative in art works, he commented as he described one of these cases: “Therefore he could not make reparations, he had nothing to give his mother and he phantasized only further badness in himself, which resulted in further sadness…As children make their feelings and impulses, they gain a better understanding of, and control over, their thinking.”.  (p. 153).

  Kenneth Jameson:  Pre-school and infant art. (1968).

    On the other hand, Kenneth Jameson in his book: Pre-school and infant art, discussed fantasy and reality in children's drawing with another perspective I like to discuss as well. As he discussing painting and drawing experiences, he asked the following question: What experiences can the young child gain from drawing and painting? As children starting their real experience with art and art materials, they discovered by doing real lines and colors that they are creative, and having a significant experience, which means that they gain actually education.

    He spoke about young child's experience with art, as that child started his art activity for the first time in a real or educational atmosphere at school (which is basically pre-school level), that child was working with brush and colors. As he made his first line with blue color (random choice), he felt very happy and excited comparing to the first moment he saw the brush and colors (he felt hesitated somehow to discover that material). The writer commented here: “ Out of these two experiences Peter has discovered for himself, without the aid of the teacher or the parent, the two basic principles: drawing – the line- and painting – the area of colour. Development from this point is usually rapid”. (p. 59).

    As the child tried to repeat his experience again, he concentrate only on using the blue color for the whole class time, and in the next art class he went directly to the art materials to choose again the blue color. Why the child usually tend to repeat his same previous experience with lines or colors? The writer's explanation for the phenomenon is that when the child started his first experience with blue color and those lines, he enjoyed so much his experience and felt excited about it for the first time that he will want to repeat it. Next time when he used the same blue, actually he wasn't only enjoy using this color, this time he is proclaiming blue, celebrating blue. “In other words, from passive experience of blue he has gone over to active expression of blue…This is a very important stage in the child's development. This is the beginning of the process of absorbing experience and of restating it in terms of personal expression”. (p. 60).

    Speaking about the teacher's role in this situation, the writer suggested that there where two kinds of teachers will deal with situation. One of them is understandable to this stage and it's characteristics, and the other one who will feel worried about the child's way of repeating his same experiences gain and again as he/she will say: “I am so worried…he keeps painting blue all over the paper. He has painted thirty-six with blue all over. What does it mean?”. Here, this worried teacher was acted mistakenly, because she thought that this child doesn't gaining any new experience or he doesn't make any progress in his education. The writer pointed out regarding this point: “There is always the risk that teachers may be tempted to read far too much into children's painting. It is much safer to read too little than to read too much”. (p. 60).

    This doesn't means also that teacher should stay cool and careless about this situation for a long time without the child gaining no extra experience or be not that dare to enter new experiences. But he/she should keep ready in recognizing any new trends in the child's behave or on what he/she is doing, the sensitive teacher or parent should take account of any obvious changes, and to make objective link between his complete personality and in what he gained from his new experiences and the way he behave in art classroom. Instead of being worried about children who keep drawing the same way and using same colors, we should as questions about why they continue with a repetitive procedure. We should put in our minds as educators that children usually draw or paint what they are experience from their daily life.

    Later on, the writer discussed a very important issue that deals with children fantasy. I will of course review what he mentioned regarding this issue as it is the subject of this whole research idea. Jameson, suggested that imagination is a very important issue with young children that as educators and parents should recognize and take care of in our children. He said that imagination is vivid at this age, and children can easily create imaginative though about every thing in their life, in what they see, hear, watch or say.

    As he describing an experiment with some five years children of imaginative activity (creating a ship from cardboard box), he said that this imaginative activity for them was something more real than their involvement with actual world. He explained how and why children take refuge to fantasy when he said: “The child in fact lives partly in a world of make-believe and imagination, and partly in the real world. When imagination has the upper hand he is in a fantasy world. The young child appears to have the ability to stand back and see himself in this fantasy world...Events in the child's real life are turned by him into fantasy” (p. 73). The actual real life around children (their families, friends, toys, etc.), are all become flames to their fantasy and imagination. Some times I used to ask some kids at Saturday School about the meaning of their shapes or just simple lines, and they replied to me with full confidence: “This is my Mom”, or “This is my Dad”. As I looked to these shapes and symbols as adult, I couldn't see that image, many times I just saw very simple lines that cannot meant any thing to me, but I do believe though that this is Mom or Dad!

    The writer suggested regarding this issue, that usually children put in their paper what their minds suggested to them as an image (their mother, or father in this case). He said: ”There is a ‘feed-back’ from his own drawn image, through his eye to his imagination, which then becomes involved with this rapport between him and his work in progress on the paper.” (p. 74). Children are communicating with the world around them by these imaginative and fantasy images, these paintings and drawings open the doors for them to reach out and for us to look in. Symbols in children's drawings are the keys for us to recognize how they fantasize their real world around them, and that's why children's drawings will be analyzed through this research.

    Children usually, as they starting their physical sensation of scribbling, they tend to give glance look through their ‘scribbles’. As they doing this, they come up with finding the ‘symbol’ itself, then they trying to repeat that symbol again and again as they get excited about creating it. After that, children start to give these symbols more thought by searching about ‘meanings’ to these symbols, at this point children start fantasize these symbols by saying: “This is my Mom, or Dad”. Jameson commented: “From this moment his work will be much less art and much more language, because as soon as the symbol which he can make, manipulate and arrange reach the stage where he can identify with them, they become a major part of his fantasy imagining and play…His drawings provide the child with a quick simple outlet for stating his dreams, ideas and experiences in his world of school and home, teacher, family, friends and all that goes to make up his young life.” (p. 74).

    Jameson finished his argument by saying that it seems to the child everything is real, no matter whether it is factual or imaginary. It is well known as well between parents and teachers, that the reality of the child's growth and development through fantasy.

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