Mapping a Family

Dahlia came to the studio to draw a map. "I want to draw a map of my whole family." I wondered about her concept of 'map'. Would her map involve a place or be more like a picture of her family? Do maps have to involve a place, or is that just my assumption?

Here is a definition of map excerpted from
A representation, usually on a plane surface, of a region of the earth or heavens.
The correspondence of elements in one set to elements in the same set or another set.
To depict as if on a map: Grief was mapped on his face.
To explore or make a survey of (a region) for the  purpose of making a map.
To plan or delineate, especially in detail; arrange:  mapping out her future.
I think the pre-schoolers conception of map lies between these things. It can be any of them, but not always on a plane surface, and connections do not necessarily correspond one to one.

In Dahlia's image, her family is in their house (you can see the line crossed by a tiny 'door'), and her two sets of Grandparents are in their places in the world, one set in this country and one on another continent. There are lines ('roads') connecting each set of Grandparents to her family, but the Grandparents don't visit each other, so no line connects them. The circular shapes are airplanes that take Dahlia's family to see her Grandparents. She titled it "Map of my family that has roads and you can see where you live."

After this she decided to do a map made out of clay. "This is my house, and this is Luke's house." She chose a red feather and laid it between "this is the road between my house and Luke's house."

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  1. As grown ups, perhaps we become constrained by our narrow percetions and definitions of everyday things...such as a map. Here, Dahlia is showing us a representation of not only physical space, but familial relatioships (like a family tree) and methods of interaction (airplanes)--all in one map. I love learning from a 3 year old!

  2. It makes sense that to a three-year-old people and place are equivalent. I remember when I was little I thought California was the whole world, probably because it was my whole world. Kids make the best conceptual art ever!


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