Art Appreciation for Young Children
Getting Them to See
Your child will naturally be drawn to certain artists’ styles more than others, and starting with what already interests her is a great way to begin. Always gauge your child for attentiveness before pursuing questions; children who sense an inquisition may be put off. Use this as a guideline to help her (and you) “look” at fine art to encourage thought-provoking conversation.
- The Subject: What or who is the subject, and what is the subject doing, looking at, thinking, etc.?
- Compositions: Where are the different lines? Are they curving or straight? What colors do you see? Encourage your child, when viewing in person, to look at a work up close and then by standing back.
- Mood: Ask the child to describe the mood of the work. You can gauge these questions to the child’s age. How does it make you feel/think? Do you think the artist felt that way too?
As you and your child grow together in your study of fine art, you can quiz each other on styles, periods and artists. In addition, there are picture study games and activities that can further develop the novice art “appreciator.” An easy lesson plan includes going over a particular artist, discussing his style and then allowing the (willing) child to create something inspired by that artist. Another fun trick is to hide a picture from the child after he or she has had a reasonable amount of time to absorb it. Ask your child to describe it when it’s out of sight–this may encourage your child to really look at a painting on the next round.
While part of the beauty of discovering art with children is discovering personal tastes and preferences, some artists are generally more interesting to children and may be appropriate starting points for lessons. You can get a sense for your child’s style by sharing a History of Art style book or attending group exhibitions which generally display a museum’s personal collection. Many children enjoy portrait galleries that include portraits of children, and this can make an easily digested beginning. But before jumping in, consider what potentially upsetting or controversial issues or questions you’re willing to explore and expose your child to, and prescreen those books or shows.
While there is an endless list of artists who bedazzle young kids, consider these to start: a young train enthusiast might be enraptured by the work of Thomas Hart Benton, and a dog fancier might enjoy the contemporary work of George Rodriquee or the photographs of William Wegman. It would be difficult for any child to ignore an installation of Calder’s grand mobiles. Since most children love looking at other children, the works of Mary Cassatt are usually a hit. Your little nature lover will inevitably enjoy the works of Georgia O’Keefe, and dancers will be romanced by the Renoir’s ballet series.
By starting the process of building art appreciation and visual dictionaries now, you’ve begun a dialogue with your child that will continue to grow throughout your lifetimes.
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