An Early Start with Art

A variety of art supplies is essential (Photo Credit: Deathtothestockphoto.com)

A variety of art supplies is essential (Photo Credit: Deathtothestockphoto.com)

Allowing children to explore their world through artistic expression is rewarding for both the student and parent.

It may be news to you that as a homeschool parent, you don't need to ‘teach’ art, especially during early elementary years. Children need time and space to learn to express themselves artistically. This develops and exercises a child's brain and nurtures their development in many areas, so starting early is a good thing.

How can you give your child an early start in art?

The desire to create and explore comes naturally to children. Young children especially are learning to understand and interact with their world using their five senses. For example, they see:

  • colors
  • light and dark
  • size
  • shapes
  • spatial relationships
  • patterns
  • textures

By supplying the materials and time for children to explore freely  and use their senses, they will automatically begin to create representations of what they see and feel. They also learn to describe and interpret what they see by using different media, like crayons, markers, pencils, paints, papers, cloth, Play-doh, clay, and even Lincoln Logs, Legos and K’nex. They are excited to tell others about this physical display of their imaginations. 

"Mom, look what I did!"

Art also offers an opportunity for children to explore their perceptions and feelings through their creations. When children are sad, confused, or frightened, they may lack the verbal skills to explain their feelings, or the maturity to process it. However, they will often portray what is going on in their heads in their art work.

However, don't turn into Freud if your child draws something strange - let your child explain their creation to you, and give them a safe space to express themselves without worrying about 'getting in trouble'. No matter how politically incorrect it may be to say so, I'm saying it anyway because it is true - boys and girls will draw very different things. They are revealing their individuality with their art, so respect and encourage their unique vision.

Children can learn how others express their thoughts and feelings about the world by looking at the paintings, sculptures, carvings, and various arts and crafts, then describing what they see. Ask your kids open-ended questions about color, textures, patterns, and representations of people, animals, places, and things. Ask them how the picture makes them feel, and if the person who made it was happy, angry, or sad.

This is definitely not the time to assess or grade their work. There is no right or wrong in art. The interaction itself is the point. Their minds are working hard, and they don't need vocabulary lists or tests at this stage to prove they are learning. 

You may find an art curriculum helpful, but it isn’t necessary, and it might even be harmful if you are trying to force your creative child into a box of art lessons. Curricula has a way of making us feel like we have to:

  1. prove our child is learning with lessons and assessments
  2. follow the lesson plan regardless of how your child is progressing
  3. force your kids to do assignments they don't enjoy
  4. get our money's worth.
colored pencils education quote

Remember to use your teaching materials to serve your child's learning goals. No matter how insecure you feel about homeschooling, don't let textbooks take over and run your homeschool.

Your child will let you know if they want to pursue art as a hobby or vocation, and that will be your cue to find curricula or art lessons that will teach them the skills and concepts they need in order to progress further with their art.

But in the early years, keep the doors of creative freedom open.

Here's your Every Day Checklist for an early start in art:

  1. Provide a variety of materials and plenty of time for creative play.
  2. Guide your child in interpreting and describing what they see, feel, hear, smell, and taste.
  3. Ask open-ended questions about their creations.
  4. Remember not to 'grade' their work.
  5. Respect their individuality.
  6. Don't hinder your child's artistic expressions with the demands of curriculum.
  7. Freedom is key to encouraging creativity.

What are your secrets for encouraging art in your homeschool? Share in the comments below -

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