Of course, as a school occupational therapist, I will start my blog based on “Mat Man” or my version of it. Mat Man is a concept developed by Handwriting Without Tears. It is an excellent way to teach the skills required to draw a person, which includes learning the concepts of body parts/ awareness. I love the concepts of Handwriting Without Tears, as it seems child friendly for all types of children. Click here to see their page for various resources The basic concept of Mat Man is that you build a person to a song. By understanding the construction perceptual skills and body awareness needed to draw a person it will help your child draw a better person.
As a school OT, that travels around with a small toy box on a cart, I found that Mat Man was just too large for my toy box. HWT Mat Man uses their blue mat, big curve, big line, and little line wooden pieces. This makes for a large design. Therefore, Mat Boy was “born” on 9/22/2010. He was perfect, as he fit into a small Ziploc bag and the kids loved him. I use the little curve and little line wooden pieces in this version. However, the children seemed to miss the opportunity to make a girl. Therefore, Mat Girl was born on 8/19/2011. With this blog entry she is turning 6, so the blog post is named in her honor. Off to kindergarten she goes! They both were perfect, as their smaller size made them easier to work with in various settings (over a therapy ball, on a gym swing, with a large group of kids) Of course, the creative OT had to have fun with some extra details. I made them hair, earrings for the girl, and clothes. My favorite detail are the glasses. I found that when I pulled out this detail, for the child that wears glasses, the child would light up with joy.
When the children first learn about Mat Man/ Boy/ Girl, I always pair it with the HWT Mat Man Song. Which is on their CD; Get Set for School: Sing Along CD However, I do not always have CD player with me and HWT does not offer it, yet, as an iTune song so I often use this YouTube site Mrs. Smith sings Mat Man I hope Mrs. Smith does not mind me sharing but she has helped me out a lot as a traveling OT. I also hope one day HWT might see this and offer us the CD or the Mat Man song in iTunes but until that day.
When teaching Mat Man I always just teach the basic Mat Man/ Boy/ Girl first, as the song teaches. If this seems too much, as it can be for my lower level students, I just teach the face part. Once they seem to understand how to build a person and can build a person without the song or cues from me, then I add the fun details like clothes and glasses. As you can see the glasses are just a pipe cleaner shaped into glasses. After building a person I always have them draw a person within that treatment session. You will be amazed at how much using these manipulatives will help a child’s ability to draw a person.
Mat Girl’s earrings
I also pair this activity with other body awareness perceptual or fine motor tasks. This may include basic puzzles with a person on it, build a monster, play dough build a bear, crafts, and other things but I will go into that in more details on another post.
As a school OT, I often use drawing a person to assess some of a child’s basic skills at the beginning of the school year. I will ask them to draw themselves, write their name, &/ write a basic sentence about themselves. If they are starting 4k, I am hopeful that a student can draw a somewhat recognizable person and may be able to print some letters in their name. If they are starting kindergarten I hope a student can draw a basic person, write some parts/ letters of their name, and if they are doing awesome then letters for parts of a somewhat recognizable sentence. If a kindergarten student can not do what I hope for the starting 4k student, then a teacher may want to watch them closely and provide them with extra nurture in this area. I would consider this child “at risk” in the area of drawing, writing, and visual motor integration. As an OT, I often use this basic assessment to help me see where a student falls on the chronological skill level Goodenough Draw A Person test It is easy enough for others to use as a resource.
I find that the ability to draw a person is the base to a lot of drawing and handwriting skills. If a child is struggling in this area, I find that working on the Mat Man concepts are a critical part to help them develop this skill. Also remember to include other types of body awareness, naming body parts, and fine motor tasks to support this development.
This blog is in its beginning stage so please pardon errors and pictures. As I get better, I hope this shall all improve. However, it is time for me to start blogging and trying to help others have a resource to use. This school year seems to be the perfect year to start. So please join me on this adventure as my Mat Girl Goes to School!