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Encouraging visual arts from a young age

Jen Klein is a New England-based technical writer and mother of three. When she isn't asking her kids to stop bickering, "caramelizing" the dinner or actively ignoring the dust bunnies under the couch, she enjoys knitting, gardening, pho...

Raising an artist

If you consider yourself a creative or artistic person -- and even if you don’t -- you may be thinking about ways to encourage your child in the visual arts. Whether you hope your child becomes a practicing artist or just want to encourage arts expression as part of a complete education, you can start encouraging visual arts in your child at a very young age.

Teenager's drawing

Art is all around us. Even things we don't consider "art" were designed -- by artists. Crafts, such as furniture-making and quilt-making, are very much arts.

As such, encouraging visual arts as you raise your child isn't a difficult thing. You likely are doing it already! It take some awareness of art in everyday and an openness to talking about arts and participating in the arts. It's not hard to do at all.

Talk it up

Understanding and even just recognizing visual arts starts with talk. Point out artwork and what it's made of. Talk about the colors and the subject matter and how an artist may have worked on it.

When talking about art with your child -- even your very young child -- is a part of the regular ongoing conversation you have with your child, it will feel comfortable and familiar as your child's understanding expands.

Craft stashes & Mess zones

Have a well-stocked craft stash available for your kids and let your kids get messy with art and craft supplies. If that means stripping your toddler down to a diaper and having a bath ready, go for it. The visual stimulation of the colors, the texture of the paint or clay will make an impression on your child. And you'll both have a lot of fun.

As your child gets older make sure you keep a crafty area available for your kids with supplies that evolve according to their age. Allow for ways to get messy and really, really into their creations. And keep the camera handy.

arrange some classes

If your child's school doesn't have a strong arts program (and even if it does), you may want to arrange art classes in the community for your child. Whether your child likes simple drawing and would like some coaching or would really like to learn about using a pottery wheel, there are sure to be resources in your area that can help your child on the artistic path.

Artsy and crafty outings

Don't just encourage visual arts at home, make them a part of your outings. Go to pottery painting shops and to art museums. Find open studio dates for local artists collectives and peruse art supply shores just to see what's there. Include art walks as part of your vacations. Make creativity and leaning about different ways one can be creative a part of your life everyday.

Let them get obsessive

You might find that once your child finds one kind of artwork or subject matter he or she loves, that's all they want to do -- for weeks or months. And that's okay! Keep offering new stimulating material, but it's great to let your kids discover their own interests and find a project that inspires utter passion.

So if your child loves to draw horses, go with it -- don't simply tell them it would be good to draw some other animals now. Some people search all their lives for something that they feel passionate about. If this is your son or daughter, just think how lucky they are to have found something so inspiring -- no matter how long it lasts!

early drawing

The 14-year-old who drew the picture shown above right (the daughter of a SheKnows staffer) started out by drawing only isolated manga-inspired characters -- see an example from two years earlier below right. All of this girl's self-directed practice led her to refine and perfect her style, and to expand her work into placing the characters in a variety of situations.

Put work on display

When your child creates something, show it off. Put it on the fridge, sure -- but maybe consider a rotating gallery of your child's creations. A set of frames in standard sizes in a specific area of the house, such as the the wall near the kitchen table, the hallway to the bedrooms, or even in a bathroom, is a great way to keeo your favorite of your child's artwork on display for all (or most) to see. With positive reinforcement, your child will feel confident in their artistic exploration and continue to exercise that creative muscle.

Keep encouraging them!

The arts are a part of a well-rounded life. Encouraging your kids in the visual arts is not a hard thing to do. Whatever your reasons and whatever your goals, you're more likely to have a house overflowing with your kids artistic creations than not!


More art for you and your family

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