Introducing Your Child to the Arts: Your Child and the Visual Arts (page 2)
"Every child is an artist. The problem is how to remain an artist once he grows up."
- Pablo Picasso, visual artist
When children explore their world, they rely most on the sense of sight. It is the visual world that gives children information about color, shape, and form, and provides an opportunity to revise ideas based upon visual data gathered from new experiences. The visual world also provides myriad opportunities for language development, as words are associated with visual images. Not only do children learn from visual experience, but they also respond to what they see, often recreating ideas through artistic expression when they color, paint, draw, or sculpt.
The visual arts can be defined as two distinct activities, art making and art appreciation. The first is about expressing ideas while the latter is more about responding to art. Both are important ways of learning and should be supported and valued by parents and teachers.
The joy of making art is apparent in almost every home across the country, illustrated by children’s paintings and drawings proudly displayed on kitchen bulletin boards and refrigerators. In early childhood programs, the art area is often a hub of excitement, providing opportunities for children to explore and express ideas through artistic creations.
Art appreciation begins with the simple yet common practice of reading to
young children. During story time, parents and teachers can help children
develop visual literacy—the ability to interpret the visual world—by
encouraging children to respond to illustrations that engage, enlighten,
and excite them.
By exploring and experiencing the visual world, children have the opportunity to:
- Gain insight from visual experience to construct meaning by observation, reflection, and application of ideas.
- Recognize similarities and differences in the world.
- Attach visual images to words and abstract ideas.
- Grasp relationships in their environment.
- Think creatively while developing skills in drawing, painting, sculpting, designing, and crafting.
- Communicate, represent, and record ideas and feelings related to personal experiences.
- Reinvent the world in their own terms through art expression.
- Develop physical skills as they learn to handle tools and materials associated with creating art.
- Recognize personal preferences related to individual works of art, an early skill in the development of aesthetic awareness and critical judgment.
Engaging Young Children in the Visual Arts
The visual arts reflect and interpret life. Artistic expressions can be found everywhere, from illustrations in children’s books to images on calendars to decorative artwork displayed in homes, schools, libraries, businesses, and parks. In the formal art world,museums and cultural institutions are environments where paintings, sculpture, and other works of art are cared for and shared with the general public. Early experiences with the visual arts foster important skills while providing a sense of joy and excitement that can last a lifetime.
Making Art with Young Children
Opportunities abound for engaging young children in making art. Visit any toy, craft, or art supply store to find child-friendly art materials such as crayons, markers, colored pencils, paints, modeling clay, and play-dough. Recycled materials found at home (scraps of cloth, old buttons, bottle caps) can be used for making collages.
- Create an “art corner” at home. Choose a place that allows your child to explore different media—paints, crayons, and clay—and lends itself to easy clean up. Draft “art making” rules with your child so that everyone knows the expectations. Younger children will probably need guidance for use and clean up of materials. Art materials should be safe and age-appropriate.
- Engage your child in the choice and selection of art materials. Vary the art opportunities by changing the materials every few weeks. One month the art corner can be a collage center with small containers of recycled materials. Transform the space to a sculptor’s studio at another time with modeling clay, play-dough, simple tools (Popsicle sticks or plastic knives), and an assortment of objects that can be used with the sculpting materials.
- Provide a place to exhibit artwork. A bulletin board or cork strip can be used for displaying art. A clothesline or drying rack with clothespins or clips can also serve as a place for children to exhibit completed projects. Some children will prefer to keep their art in a box or in a scrapbook for personal use rather thanexhibit for others.
- Plan an “art party” for your child’s next birthday. Your child may have some wonderful suggestions for art activities that will appeal to his or her friends.
For younger children, art is often more about the process of exploring materials than about creating an end product. Exploration should be valued for its contribution to self-expression and to learning. As children create art that is representational, some will freely talk about their creations while others will not. Some children feel more comfortable talking about the materials or colors used rather than about the ideas expressed in the artwork. Simply saying, “Would you like to tell me about your art?” gives a child the freedom to talk about the work from his own point of view. It is important to respect the child’s motives, preferences, and aims.
Reprinted with the permission of the National Endowment for the Arts.
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