Representing the tridimensional world on a two-dimensional surface has been a challenge since the origins of artistic expression. No matter the volume or distance of an object it will be represented on the flat surface of a paper or canvas. From the paleolitic cave paintings to our days, artists have explored several techniques to represent depth in their paintings.

Artists are above all masters of observation, therefore they observed that objects farther away appear lighter when you look into the distance. This happens because the more away they are the more atmosphere there is to see through. So shadding is one of our brain depth cues to estimate how far away are the objects we look at.

This play invitation will allow children to compare relative positions and spatial relationships, explore depth, distance, color, light and dimension.

What Could Lead Us to This Play Invitation

  • Children have been exploring light and color;
  • Children are curious about observing and understanding their surroundings;
  • Children are excited about adding details to their drawings and paintings.

Materials Needed

• Paper
• Clipboards
• Sumi Ink
• Water
• Towels or paper to clean hands

Setting up this Play Invitation

  1. Prepare some clipboards with paper sheets.
  2. Dilute the Sumi ink with water and make sure it will be a light or middle grey.

    Tip: You can use black tempera paint but the Sumi Ink will dry faster. Alternatively, children can use grey and black markers.

How to Explore

  1. Take children outside and to a place where they can see things in the distance, such as a park or a street. Or you can place a table in front of a window and look outside.
  2. Offer each child a clipboard with paper.
  3. Invite children to draw what they see further away with the Sumi Ink diluted with water.
  4. Wait a couple of minutes so it dries.
  5. While you wait you can dialogue about what each one represented, what they see from where they stand, and what is closer and far away, to engage children in detailed observation.
  6. When the first layer of paint is dry they can paint what they see closer to them over the first painting, using the black Sumi Ink.
  7. Record children’s interpretations of their drawings, calling their attention to the different shades, how they feel about them, and if they can identify what is closer or further away in their friend’s paintings.

Optional Next Step: Children can add details to their paintings, like animals, plants, people, and buildings, reflecting on the size and positions they’ll have.

How to Nurture the Natural Unfolding of the Child’s Identity During This Play Invitation

  • Honor children’s right to have ample time and encouragement to observe the world. We can’t rush children’s observations or they will get only an impression of life. Children should have time to get involved and observe in detail what catches their attention. This is how they will develop focus and concentration.

The Academic Learning Opportunities

  • PHYSICAL: Explore the idea of distance and spatial relationships.
  • LANGUAGE: Use of descriptive language.
  • ART: This is an opportunity to experiment with a technique for representing depth, while developing observation, and exploring proportion, size, color, and tone.


  • Continue exploring depth and dimension by inviting children to draw on acetate sheets and layering them over each other.

Book Recommendation

A Pop-Up book that takes you on a walk through the woods.