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Art Appreciation for Young Children

Posted by Cara Allen - Parenting

Every child is an artist.  The problem is how to remain an artist once we grow up.  - Pablo Picasso

I know what you're thinking!  Isn't Art Appreciation what freshman college students take?  Why should we be considering this for young children? 

Art can be fun!  There are two ways to enjoy art.  The most obvious is helping your child to express his creative side.  You need to give your child the supplies, the time, and the freedom to not worry about making a mess.  You also need to supply emotional support by not focusing on perfection, or even the recognizable (who cares if the elephant is a gray blob?) but on the process of making art.  Remember when looking at a picture your child made to have them identify it for you, rather than have you guess -  "What is that, honey, a potato?"  "No, daddy, that's you."  OOPS!

The other way to enjoy art is the more traditional art appreciation, and yes, young children can do this.  The basic elements of art are line, shape, color, and texture. 

You can talk about the lines you see in a picture - is it straight, curvy, a combination?  Have your child trace the lines with her finger.

Look for shapes in a picture - angular shapes like triangles (and what a great time to reinforce knowledge of shapes, which is part of kindergarten readiness!) or curvy shapes like circles.

Also talk about color - name the colors and notice how they look next to each other.  "Look how that blue blends into red and makes purple."  (Knowing colors is also part of school readiness - see where I am going with this?) 

Search for texture, and if allowed, feel for texture.  Talk about techniques to add texture.  "This artist put on thick paint for the wood and then used a knife to put in lines to make it look like bark." 

Most likely the above activities will start a conversation about art, but if you feel you need suggestions, here are some additional questions to ask:
  • Tell me what you see.
  • How does this work of art make you feel?
  • What do you think about this work of art?
  • What do you think is the story of this work of art?

As discussed above, appreciating art can help with school readiness skills of knowing shapes and colors.  Talking about art helps with language and can build confidence and social skills.  You also teach that there can be different points of view about the same thing, and that's a good thing!   You also may learn things about your child's unique way of looking at the world that surprises and delights you. 

Information for this article was derived from the Instructor's Guide for Art Appreciation 101 for Young Children, a curriculum of Better Kid Care developed by Penn State Extension.

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