Art For All Ages

“Every child is an artist.  The problem is how to remain an artist when he grows up”- Pablo Picasso

Just the other day, I received an email from a woman who had joined the PlayLearnParent Facebook Fan Page and was really excited about the January 27, 2011 post from the New York Times titled Mom, You’re One Tough Art Critic.   She was an Art Teacher and was glad that something art related was posted and wanted to let me know that she would like to see more!   Well, she is in luck- she inspired me to do a little more research on Art and Young Children.

I came across a three items that I wanted to share:

1. In 1998 the Arts Education Partnership and the Task Force on Children’s Learning and the Arts: Birth to Age Eight came out with a report called Young Children and the Arts: Making Creative Connections. This report focuses on the importance of early Arts Education and has guidelines for how to successfully implement a program.  For parents it also has a great chart that provides appropriate arts activities for children at every level of development (see page 6-13).

2.  Angela Eckhoff, an Assistant Professor of Early Childhood Education at Clemson University in South Carolina has published 2 articles about young children and art.

First, Eckhoff published an article in Early Childhood Education Journal in 2008 that examined how Art Teachers teach art to young children.  Eckhoff (2008) reports that Art teachers used 4 main strategies when teaching children age 4-5 about art: Questioning, Game Play, Storytelling, and Technical.  Based on her research each of these strategies were effective in teaching preschool aged children about art and are strategies that could be adopted and used by parents with their own children.

Eckhoff (2008) explained that Questioning was used by the teacher to help introduce the children to the artwork by discussing technical aspects like color, design, etc and contextual factors like  what the art was intended to look like.   Parents could use similar questioning techniques to help their children begin to think and discuss aspects of artwork they see.

Eckhoff (2008) explains that storytelling was used by the art teachers to further engage the students in understanding the art.  On page 468, Eckhoff uses the example of a teacher asking a young child to pretend that they were very, very tiny and that they could be in the painting and then asking the child to describe and tell a story about what it is like “living” in the painting.

Technical discussion may be a little bit more challenging for parents who do not have as much of a background in art, but it can still be done.  Eckhoff (2008) describes a teacher talking to preschoolers about how the paint was made to decorate a Rawhide Box in the 1930’s.  While this teacher had the expertise to know that the paintbrushes used to paint this box were sticks made from Yucca, parents can provide other technical information to their children.  Possibly a parent could discuss the orange paint and explain that you can make orange paint by mixing red and  yellow paint.

Finally, Eckhoff (2008) talks about gameplay and the ways in which teachers were creative in developing age appropriate games to engage their students in the art.  Eckhoff just recently published an article in Young Children– a magazine published by the National Association for the Education of Young Children providing teachers with more ideas of how to use games to help children explore Art.

Eckhoff’s article is titled Using Games to Explore Visual Art with Young Children and is in the January 2010 edition of Young Children which is free online. This is a great article, please read!

The article (on page 20) provides excellent games to play with young children to help them understand, appreciate, and enjoy art.  Here are a couple of great suggestions from that article:

1.  Color Spinner Wheel:  Bring a color spinner wheel (take one from a game at home or make out before you leave) to the museum with you.  Have the child pick out a picture that they like and the child spin the wheel to determine colors to search for in the piece of art.

2. Eye Spy: play the traditional eye spy game in a museum.  Have the child give “hints” based on the colors, size, texture, type of art, etc that they see in the room.

And some fun suggestions of my own:

3.  Bring a large notebook and crayons with you to the museum (some museums even have these available for young children to use) and have your child pick out their favorite piece of art and let them draw it. (This is good for kids who are preschool age and older and are good at staying on the paper when they color).

4.  Bring different colored index cards or post-its or even the color swatches they give you when you are painting a room.  Go around the museum and see if you can finding paintings with each of the different colors.  As you find them write the name of the painting and the date on the cards and one sentence describing the painting so you can talk about it again when you get home.


Eckhoff, A. (2008).  The Importance of Art Viewing Experiences in Early Childhood Visual Arts: The Exploration of a Master Art Teacher’s Strategies for Meaningful Early Art Experiences.   Early Childhood Education Journal, 35, 463-472. Link

Eckhoff, A. (January, 2010).  Using Games to Explore Visual Art with Young Children.  Young Children, pp. 18-22.  Link

The Task Force on Children’s Learning and the Arts: Birth to Age Eight & Sarah Goldhawk, Arts Education Partnership.  (1998).Eds Carol Bruce.  Young Children and the Arts: Making Creative Connections.  Retrieved from: on February 3, 2011.

Related Resources:

The Artful Parent

Creative Art Helps Children Develop Across Many Domains

Art Ideas for Small Children

Children’s Museum of the Arts

Parents Magazine Ten Best Art Museums for Kids Number 1 is the Art Institute of Chicago

National Gallery of Art


Filed under Infants, Preschoolers, Toddlers

2 responses to “Art For All Ages

  1. I love the eye spy idea and other games to make the museum more interactive! How about taking the piece of artwork that the child most identified with at the museum and finding the artist’s book at the library. Then have them recreate the art (paint, draw, collage, sculpt) from their own eyes!

  2. Kevin

    This is a great post for helping parents and children appreciate art.
    I’ve also checked out books from our library about specific artists and explained to my daughter what message they were expressing while showing them the art. My daughter liked seeing the actual art and understanding it.

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