Children and Art – Embracing the Picasso in Every Preschool Child

We all love to create…whether it be a masterpiece in the kitchen, a great journal article for the newspaper, a collage of scrapbooked photos or an architecturally designed skyscraper. Where is our desire to create fostered or quelled? Usually in our early childhood years. We have a responsibility to see the creative potential in every child and to provide an environment that will allow this to flourish. I would like to suggest some ways we can successfully do this in Early Learning environments.

Value Children’s Artwork
Imagine an art gallery with paintings, photos and sculptures in a muddled mess with little information, description or care taken to how art is displayed. It just wouldn’t happen because artists would soon stop providing artwork for that gallery. If we want children to continue to explore the artist inside them, we need to value their creations.

We can value children’s artwork by writing about what they have drawn, painted, or sculpted – a description or a story that the child tells. Simple considerations such as providing good quality paper / materials; using neat handwriting when writing on their artwork; and asking questions about specific parts of their artwork shows children that what they have done or are doing is important. How we display children’s work reflects what we think of it and adding colourful cardboard frames or mounting pictures (with the child’s permission) is actually treating the artwork like a masterpiece. When a child’s work is valued, they are much more likely to continue creating.

Focus On The Creation, Not The Process
“Wow” you say, “I thought we were meant to focus on the process, not the product”? What I am suggesting is different. Provide activities where the child can focus on the art of creating and arranging, and not on having to master the skills of cutting, gluing, or even holding a brush. For example, provide large black pieces of cardboard and colourful items such as feathers, flowers or pop sticks. Allow the child to arrange the items in any pattern they desire. Talk to them about what they are doing. A photo can be taken of the end result so that a ‘product’ or memory is kept, but the focus is on the arranging and the pattern making.

Provide Variety
We are all familiar with providing variety in materials and variety in the environment (indoors / outdoors/ bright colours / peaceful surrounding). Have you considered providing a variety of perspectives? Children do not need to be sitting at a table or standing at an easel to paint or draw. They can be lying on their backs looking at the sky and drawing on a clipboard. They can be painting while lying on their side on comfy cushions. Don’t limit children to easels and tables.

Use Music To Enhance Creativity
Music is a powerful tool for helping creativity to flourish. We can be transported to other worlds through music. Use a variety of loud, brash music; jazz; classical; and music from other cultures. It is interesting to compare children’s paintings when different music is playing and how this affects their art.

Foster A Creative Mind In All Areas Of The Program
Provide activities which encourage imagination and invention such as the dramatic arts and outdoor play. Children can even be imaginative in meal times by being encouraged to pretend they are having ‘tea with the queen’ or eating bush tucker. Play language games that encourage children to invent new words and make up rhymes. Children need to be given freedom to ‘think outside the square’.

Allow Time For Children To Create
Don’t allow programs to dictate how long a child can be creative for. Encourage children to take a project approach and give them places to leave their art to come back to at another time. Free flowing meal times allows children some freedom to continue in an artwork that has captured their attention.

Be Creative With Children
Allow time to sit with children and be an artist yourself. Model experimentation with colours and patterns, textures and form. Be with children in the moment and have fun being creative!

Challenge Children’s Perspectives
It is common for children to draw similar pictures or make the same dough sculpture over and over again. This is a learning tool children use, but there is nothing wrong with challenging them to look at things differently from time to time. For example, many 5 year old children draw a blue line at the top of their page for sky and a green line at the bottom for grass. Take them out into nature and discuss how the sky and ground form…introduce them to “the horizon” and see where this takes them in their next drawing.

Reflect on what you as an adult enjoy when you are being creative. Is it lots of time or space? Is it new and exciting materials? Is it other people to talk to while you create? Is it solitude and quiet? Consider how your program can embrace the artist which lies in each child and encourage the next generation of Picassos.

Cassandra is dedicated and experienced childcare professional and writes for Onsite Early Childhood Training. You can visit our website for more information on children and art and childcare staff training