Promoting Your Child’s Interest in Art
By Dr. Kenneth Shore
Art comes naturally to children. From the time children are old enough to hold a crayon, they are eager to make their mark as artists. (Unfortunately for many parents, those marks are often on the living room wall.) Their eagerness and enthusiasm for art usually continues as they enter school. Art education serves a variety of purposes. In addition to helping children develop artistic skills and the ability to focus, art instruction fosters an appreciation for the creative process. It also allows children to express their feelings. After Hurricane Andrew, art teachers in Florida asked schoolchildren to draw about their experiences as a way of conveying feelings that they could not do verbally. The overriding goal of elementary school art is to lay the foundation for a lifelong enjoyment of art.
If your child shows an interest in art, you can offer a variety of opportunities to pursue this interest in your home. She will not have the time limitations that she faces in school and may enjoy having a stretch of time to work on a project. Try to set aside an area for art in your home. Consider some of the following materials: paint, crayons, markers, colored pencils, scissors for children, construction paper, tissue paper, paste, glue, clay, and collage materials. Set up the area so your child can work independently and experiment, but also insist that she participate in cleaning up.
As your child gets older, she may take special pleasure in doing crafts projects (for example, weaving, jewelry, and pottery). Show interest in her work and ask her to talk about what she has done but rather than ask “What is it?,” say something like “How did you do this?” or “Tell me about your work.” Praise her efforts but curb your impulse to tell her how to do it better. Consider framing her best efforts and then find areas of the house beyond the refrigerator to display her art.
Exposing your child to various kinds of art is the key to enhancing her appreciation. Take your child to one of New York’s wonderful art museums but keep the visits short to avoid museum burnout. Elicit her thoughts but don’t tell her how she should be thinking or feeling. Keep in mind that art is not restricted to museums. It is all around us—on billboards, in commercials, on magazine covers, in the layout of a park, in the design of a building. Point out to your child aspects of art that might have eluded her, perhaps noting how the color, shape, or texture enhances the work. If you are involved in any aspect of art (for example, photography), invite your child to participate or at least observe while you explain what you’re doing.