I recall a conversion I had with a student in a landscape painting class...
Me: See that bush as a shape. Create that shape. When defining that shrub as a form, don't try to mix every imaginable green. Simplify the gradations into a few shades. You'll have a more convincing-looking shrub.When he did that, he was so pleasantly surprised, he looked at me like a just told him a good fortune that came true.
Learning to draw and paint isn't so much about acquiring a skill, but acquiring new ways of seeing. Alter your perception and it's like seeing things for the first time. Kids see the world this way, but somehow we work it out of them. I think they call it "formal education." I'm hoping my boys can hold on to it for as long as possible.
Back to the play mat. I'm taking it apart and adding some more blocks to make a big blanket for Monkey. It's in honor of his soon-to-be transition to a big boy bed. Let's hope I finish it before his high school graduation. This was a great mat, but the white fleece is pilling and for some reason, that drives me crazy. The various shapes are from left to right: circle - ladybug with folded ribbons for feet, star, rectangle - truck, oval - crab, square - cheese, triangle - sailboat.