The most important thing for which we can prepare a child is the experience of freedom, at the right moment in life, through the understanding of one's own being.


Rudolf Steiner (1861-1925)

Teaching Practice
Drawing exercises, pencil grip, the whole human being, dexterity, observation skills
By: Joep Eikenboom, January 2016,

Sweepers, Feathers and Rainbows

Joep Eikenboom is a class teacher and teacher for educational support in the Netherlands. In this paper, he explains how important it is for teachers to perceive the human being as a whole and to pay attention to detail. Joep shows us here some drawing exercises which help children to hold the pen or pencil correctly. It is important that the exercises are not taken as recipes to be followed, but rather as places of departure. Teachers are encouraged to try the exercises and to observe the children very carefully, to then look back on the process and to plan the next steps accordingly.

„If people would only cultivate more power of observation of this kind, the terrible things would not develop in schools which one unfortunately so often sees today. One scarcely sees a child now who holds their pen or pencil correctly. Most children hold them wrongly, and this is because we do not know how to observe properly. This is a very difficult thing to do, and it is not easy in the Waldorf School either. One frequently enters a class where drastic changes are needed in the way the children hold their pencils or pens. You must never forget that the human being is a whole, and as such he must acquire dexterity in all directions. Therefore what the teacher needs is observation of life down to the tiniest details. And if you are especially desirous of having formulated axioms, then take this as the first principle of a real art of education. You must be able to observe life in all its manifestations“. (i)

Rudolf Steiner pointed at the importance of a proper pencil grip. Nowadays, almost 100 years later, we see more and more children having difficulty with movement and fine movement skills.

This series of Hand Movement Form Drawing Exercises is a recapitulation of the developmental process for the arm and hand in relation to drawing and writing. These exercises can be done in grades 1 through 3 or in individual lessons for any age. First, the motions are large, gross motor gestures of the whole arm from the shoulder joint while the non-dominant hand holds the paper. Next, the motions originate from the elbow while the upper arm rests relaxed next to the body. Then, the motions are mainly from the wrist and lastly, the fingers do the moving. The child always chooses the colours.

First Exercise:

SCRIBBLE EXERCISE, from Audrey McAllens „Extra Lesson” (ii)

Large paper can be taped to the desk or later held by the non-dominant hand. The child holds 2-3 stick crayons in a “primitive” Cross-Palmar grasp and scribbles unbroken swirls going counter-clockwise for the right-handed child (into gravity, like stirring a heavy dough), clockwise for the left-hander. Continue for up to several minutes. The feet are placed flat on the floor, the paper is centrally located on desk and the child sits well back on the chair, seated central at the desk. The whole arm swings across the paper.

Second Exercise:

THE SWEEPER: The same size large paper is held by the non-dominant hand as the dominant hand draws back-and-forth curved lines across the bottom right hand corner for right-handers, left for left-handers. The elbow can be placed in the corner of the paper on the dominant side or is held next to the body. The forearm stays in touch with the paper, it sweeps up-across and back down. Turn the paper so that each corner eventually ends up having a curved pattern across it.

Third Exercise:


A smaller piece of paper, form drawing size, is held by the non-dominant hand as before. Draw curved bands as in the first SWEEPER curves across each corner. Then add a wavy line above the curved lines, beginning bottom left, both for right and left-handers. The forearm stays still, resting on the paper while the hand moves from the wrist. Then draw a wavy line below the curved lines. The child may go over the wavy lines a few times.

Fourth Exercise:


Take the same size paper and hold it as in exercise three. Begin with SWEEPER curves as before, then, beginning on the left, draw counter-clockwise loops above the curve, followed by clockwise loops below the curve from left-to-right. The hand motions are from the wrist.

After practicing an exercise one can use the same paper for writing words or sentences.


Fifth Exercise:


Use the same size paper and draw the same SWEEPER curves as before. Slowly and carefully draw shaded lines from just above the curve to the curve from left-to-right, creating a feathered impression. Next, draw similar lines from the bottom of the curve downward, also left-to-right. Here the hand is quite still and the fingers create the motions.

Sixth Exercise:


Use smaller paper and coloured pencils. Have the children draw one or a few smaller rainbows moving from the wrist, with the arm resting on the desk. Please check the pencil grip and add extra exercises for finger movement if necessary.

The sequence of the exercises above can be repeated with coloured pencil, in smaller movement gestures, from the wrist.

Shaded Drawing technique:

In the early years of Waldorf education, the shaded drawing technique was used in the lower grades. Some colleagues say that this technique should only be used in higher grades, such as grades seven and eight. This could be a misunderstanding, it must not be regarded the same as the black and white shading technique.

From grade one onwards, we can teach the children to draw with ‘raindrops’, small diagonal strokes of colour coming down from right to left, not going up because rain only falls down. After some practice, first graders will be able to use the technique in a small drawing, to colour the green grass, blue sky. Others will immediately want to draw their whole picture with this. One should only use small pieces of paper (A6). The technique forces the kids to watch their hand movements and the result carefully. They cannot draw contours and colour those in. The “raindrop technique” makes it easier to draw satisfying images of animals, trees etc. The technique helps to exercise the flexibility of the wrist, when the full arm is resting on the table. The diagonal line from right to left strengthens objective perception through the sentient body. When a class comes back from restless, energetic playtime, 5 to 10 minutes working with this technique will bring peace and quiet.



(i) Steiner, R.: The Kingdom of Childhood, lecture 2, Torquay August 13th, 1924 (GA 311)

(ii) McAllen, A. (1995): The Extra Lesson. Rudolf Steiner College Press, Fair Oaks, CA, USA


Translations available in German, Spanish, Portuguese, Italian, Korean, Japanese, Hungarian, Swedish, Dutch

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