Guest Post by Cindy Ingram of The Art Curator for Kids
Powerful Mothering and many other blogs are filled with fun arts and crafts activities to bring the joy of art to your littles, but today I am going to focus on how to look at and talk about works of art throughout art history with your kids so they can make art a powerful part of their lives.
In preparation for this post, I brought this idea to some of my friends who also have young kids at home but don’t spend their lives immersed in art history as I do as a full-time art teacher and art education blogger. I asked them why they didn’t look at and talk about art with their young kids. We talked about the fear of our kids running amok in art museums, not knowing enough about art to get started, and barely getting by with the whole exhausting keeping-kids-alive task we are charged with day in and day out.
One of my friend’s answers really stood out to me. She said, “truthfully, I haven’t thought about it.” I think that really is one of the primary barriers parents have when looking at art with their kids. They just don’t think about it. Well, now by reading this, you are thinking about it! Read further to learn how to take the next step. Then, give it a shot and let me know in the comments how your art exploration went with your kids.
Why should I look at art with my kids when I can barely manage to take a shower?
This is a tough one. Yes, shower first, but I believe that art can be as integral to a child’s understanding of the world as reading. When you look at art frequently with your kids, it opens them up to different cultures and viewpoints. Art teaches a person about themselves and others. They become more empathetic. And, “research shows that not only does studying the arts improve skills in math and reading, but it also promotes creativity, social development, personality adjustment, and students’ feeling of self-worth” (Source: Lysa Heslov at Huffington Post and NASBE Study Group on the The Lost Curriculum).
Do I have to go to an art museum? If not, how do I show my kids the artworks?
I love art museums and find them to be valuable places for families, but you don’t have to go to a museum to enjoy looking at art. Museums may just be too much hassle until the kids are older.
I find the best way to look at art with kids is on the computer or on an iPad/tablet. The majority of my own conversations about art with my kids are around the computer screen when I am working on PowerPoints for my art lessons. They see a picture on my screen as they walk by, are drawn to it, make a comment, and we go from there!
You also can look at artworks in books. Check out art coffee table books or books about art made especially for kids from the library. I especially love the Can you find it? and Can you hear it? books from the Met Museum in NYC. Flip through and find something that catches your eye.
Which artworks should I choose?
The best answer for this is any artwork that you or your kids find interesting and fun to look at. It doesn’t really matter. Just like with music or books, just follow your family’s personal tastes. I also find that the best artworks to choose for the toddler and preschooler set are those with a strong narrative component.
To help you with this, I have compiled a collection of 20 great artworks that are perfect to use with toddlers and preschoolers on my blog. I also have my Curated Homeschool series with more collections of artworks to use at home which include some targeted looking questions you can use to start the discussion.
How do I talk about art with my kids? What should I say?
Follow the child’s lead. They know exactly what to say and how to do this. You can also think about what you do when you are looking at picture books with your kid. Let them point things out and describe the scene. Talk about what is interesting to you and to them. With little kids (or anyone really), you don’t need to get all technical with them or know all sorts of art vocabulary. Just enjoy it.
Try these questions are a great starting place for looking at art with your toddler or preschooler.
- What is happening in this picture?
- What do you notice?
- What do you like about this picture?
- What do you think [the figures in the artwork/the artist/etc.] are thinking/imagining?
- What do you think [the figures in the artwork/the artist/etc.] are feeling?
- What colors/shapes/lines/textures do you see?
- Can you pose/move like the figure in the artwork?
- What do you think will happen next in the story?
Thanks for reading, and I hope you try this out with your littles! Please let me know in the comments if you tried it out or pop over to my blog for more art history resources and posts.
Bio: Cindy is an art teacher and work at home mom of two daughters ages 2 and 5 in Dallas, TX. She muses about art, education, and kids at the Art Curator for Kids.