By Awnali Mills
This week we offered a Zentangle Your Initial program for ages 5-11 at the library. Yes, I know, Zentangle may seem really complicated for kids, but it truly isn’t. SOME designs are way too complicated, but most are fairly easy, just time consuming. And, if kids like to doodle, this program suits them down to the ground.
I required registration for this program so that I could pre-print first and last initials for each child on cardstock. I made up alphabet pages in Publisher using WordArt with an outline in Arial Black (white letter, black outline). I also printed out a copy of Zentangle Basics (minus the first page) by Suzanne McNeill for kids to take home. Each child also got a Pilot Precise V5 RT pen to use (we got them cheaper through the library ordering system).
To start with, I had a Powerpoint of a few simple Zentangles followed by some complicated ones, and even a colored one. When I showed the complicated ones, I started breaking them down and showing that each section was really filled with something simple, like dots with circles around them, or zigzag lines. All together they look terrifyingly complicated, but the kids agreed that they could all make dots and draw circles and zigzags. I asked if anyone was scared or thought it was too complicated. They looked at me with skepticism, so we went right on.
Next I showed them that you start with the outline of a simple shape like a square (or their initial). I had a square on the screen, and my initial A drawn on a whiteboard. Next, I showed them how the square could be divided into different sections, and I drew one line inside my A and had them draw one line inside their initial. Then, I drew a second line and had them follow until we had drawn three lines across our initials, giving them at least 4 (or, in my case) 5 sections. Some of the younger ones kind of went off the rails at this point, because they drew lots of lines rather than follow directions. I really recommend reserving this program for older elementary.
Then, I showed how a pattern is used to fill a space. I had them choose one space and draw a largish dot. Then, draw a circle around the dot. Then, do it again. And, again. I demonstrated each step on my whiteboard. Then, I let them work for a few minutes following this pattern.
Oh! And VERY important. I told them that there are no mistakes in Zentangle. None. Zippo. You just work it into the pattern and don’t sweat it. There are no Zentangle police. No one will know that you didn’t mean to do that. Also kids asked me if they could make up their own patterns, and I encouraged them to do so. I said that I would show them a few patterns, there were more in the booklet, and even more (so much more!) online. BUT, they could always make up their own patterns because the Zentangles were all their own unique art pieces.
After a while, I introduced them to the zigzag pattern in another section. I told them that it didn’t matter if they didn’t finish—I didn’t expect them to. They could always take it home and finish it—the class was just to teach them how to do it, not to finish the project.
After working a few more minutes, I introduced them to the checkerboard pattern. After that, I introduced the more difficult scroll pattern (which is pretty easy once you see how it’s made). While I was working to demonstrate the pattern, I goofed. It was unintentional, and I could have erased it with my finger, but I didn’t. I showed the kids how I had goofed, and just adjusted the pattern around it. Yes, it was a little wonky, but who was to know that it wasn’t on purpose?
In between patterns I walked around and encouraged the children and admired their work. I loved that three boys sat at one table and were very engaged, chatting, comparing their patterns, and proudly showing me what they were doing. One of the boys came up to me afterwards and told me how much he had enjoyed the program.
Before the end of the program, I showed the children a much more complicated A that I had done. It’s actually the first one I did before realizing that I needed to simplify greatly for the kids. The kids (and parents!) were in awe, but I broke it down and showed them how simple the patterns were inside the whole. I encouraged them to go home and experiment with their own Zentangles and enjoy the process.
The adults in the room were every bit as excited about the process as the kids. They would shyly ask me questions as I came around the room, and even asked me if I had some extra initials for them so that they could do it, too. They asked me when the next class was going to be, and when there was going to be a class for adults. I was glad that I had required registration, because our registration was full and our room would not have accommodated all the interested parties who happened upon the program—I didn’t even have enough chairs for all the adults who decided to stay with their kids (this wasn’t required, and I was surprised at how many stayed). I’m sure it helped that I emailed everyone before the class to be sure that I had the child’s (and not the adult’s) initials from the registration process, which may have reminded people about the class.
Before attempting this class, be sure you know how to Zentangle. I kind of learned as I prepared, and it’s a much more time consuming process than I had expected. I have really enjoyed it, though, and think that framed Zentangled initials would be great gifts.
(Sorry my pictures aren’t that great. I think the lighting is weird in here.)